What’s it like to run Cut Bait?
To answer that question, I found myself in a big yellow raft bobbing down the Chattahoochee River in Columbus last week.
We’d shoved off with 17 other rafts. Our guide, Lucas Brown, had told us to wedge our feet tightly in the raft, paddle when he said to and work in unison.
“No drunk spiders,” he said, explaining that’s what a raft with six flailing paddlers looks like.
All was well - peaceful, even - as we drifted past boulders and sandbars, bounced over some waves near the old downtown mills and turned into a quiet channel where herons hang out.
Then we heard the roar. Just below a downtown bridge, the river turned into a maelstrom of steel-gray water and white foam.
“Forward three!” Brown yelled as we slid over a liquid hump the size of a Volkswagen.
“FORWARD THREE!” he yelled as waves looked us in the eyes. Sometimes I paddled water. Sometimes air.
The raft shuddered almost to a stop on a huge crest. Then, with Brown urging us on, we made it through to flatwater.
Thing is, that was just the first run - down the tamer side of the river.
We looked over Cut Bait from an island, then got on a bus and headed back to the start for the main event.
This time, our smaller group of six rafts made a beeline downriver, bouncing through bigger drops and bigger waves.
“FORWARD THREE!” Brown yelled every few seconds.
The first raft made it through Cut Bait. We were next. Suddenly we hit a mountain of water, then another, and another. The raft bent. Gravity went haywire. Churning foam lashed us.
Then, just as suddenly, it was over and we were still upright. We looked back. The next four rafts capsized, so we paddled back and forth picking up swimmers.
Brown, I later learned, was now 12-for-12 running Cut Bait with customers - the only undefeated guide.
Me, I think I might settle for 1-for-1.