The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 16, 2013

Small group of surfers ride waves in Chattahoochee


It didn't take O'Ravitz long to figure out he could do that, as well.

"I did it all summer," he said.

And with the help of a wet suit, O'Ravitz and his friends are surfing into the winter months.

The river is different than surfing in an ocean, O'Ravitz said.

"The main difference is in the ocean you are riding a swell that has traveled potentially thousands of miles," O'Ravitz said. "That energy has been moving through the water for a long time. You are trying to hop on that wave and move with it. In the river, you are surfing a fixed wave and the water is coming at you."

There are three primary factors critical to ocean surfing -- size of the swell, wind direction and tide.

"In the river, the wind doesn't matter because the water is moving so fast," O'Ravitz said. "You have high and low tide in essence based on how much water is being release from the dam."

It's a little like surfing on a treadmill. And it is a big workout, O'Ravitz said.

"It's more of a workout than kayaking," he said. "There is a lot of swimming. It is also a core and cardio workout. When you get flushed out of the wave, you have to swim back upstream, so that is more of a core and shoulder workout."

A few months ago, O'Ravitz went surfing at Panama City Beach, Fla.

"My fitness level was awesome," he said. "I wasn't tired. The reason for that was the river surfing."

Mack, who came in from Oregon to sample the Chattahoochee wave, compared it to one in Missoula, Mont. He predicts a surfing community will develop in Columbus.

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