Azalea Drive Park
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Windsurfing and Kiteboarding on Azalea Drive Park
by Randy Falkenberg
Yes, you can sail the Hooch, despite all appearances to the contrary. On first look it appears far too narrow to be worth the effort, and much too windshadowed. I drove by this place for nearly 2 decades before actually giving it a try. However, there are a few things that make this a spot worth trying and depending on where you live, it could be a semi-regular sailing spot.
Current and Wind
It’s the only sailing site in the Atlanta area where there is a current. The current strength varies from day to day, but the presence of the current means that on a westerly, one can sail at extreme angles upwind. This allows for much longer runs than one might expect and makes it far more interesting. The water is almost always very flat, making sailing pretty easy. It might well be a pretty good place to practice for beginners. There will be plenty of opportunities to those tacks and jibes.
There is a lot of windshadow, and some days the wind will be fairly useless, while others it fills the width of the river fairly well. It seems to work on most westerly directions from sw-w-nw, as the wind kind of funnels up the river. It does seem that on some days certain areas are more wind favored than others. I’ve never tried an easterly, though it might work as well. In the case the current and wind would flow the same direction which might make it tricky to stay upwind. The wind is quite gusty – lulls can be very deep and gusts actually pretty strong. This is not a trivially easy spot to sail, and the wind around the shorelines can be tricky. All the better for practice. Oh and the water is very cold – even in July. It comes from the lowest depths of Lake Lanier and is always the coldest water around.
Probably about anything will work, except boards that need long fins. The water level varies from day to day, and scraping the bottom is a distinct possibility. For that reason I normally run short, curvy fins. I’ve found pretty good success with longboards of various sizes. A centerboard is nice since you can put it down and point upwind like a pro-racer. Its also a nice warning if you are getting into shallow water. I find that with needing to tack and jibe a lot, really big sails aren’t worth the extra effort, but perhaps that’s just me.
Can you plane? People ask me this a lot. Yes – there can be enough to plane (and I have the videos to prove it) though in a way that’s kind of missing the point. This is a spot to get out and hit the water when the forecast is iffy and you live nearby, and have some fun.
On weekends parking is a problem. The parking lots fill up quickly and there’s little that can be done about it. On weekdays, its generally easy to find parking. I like to launch from the Shoot the Hooch parking lot, but that fills up on weekdays with their customers as well. The western most parking lot (there are 4 of them) is a bad spot to launch from because the shore area is some strange concrete covered in a fabric like material that is slippery and hard to get down without breaking something. Rigging: There are some grassy spots for rigging if the park is not too crowded.
There are a few. I’ve seen logs floating down the river as well as numerous innertubes, rafts, SUP’s, kayaks and canoes, all potentially piloted by drivers of unknown sobriety. Then there are the serious rowers in needle shaped boats who move rapidly while facing opposite their direction of travel. The river is certainly no more crowded than the lake on any given day, but keep your eyes open. As noted above, the water level varies and can even vary a lot in few hours, so running aground is a potential issue. Finally, if the wind is flaky enough one could sail upwind (against the current) then end up in a deep, long lull and have problems making it back to launch, though it has never happened to me.
Sailing the Chatttahoochee (Video)
Recommended Wind Directions
Reminder: While east winds do flow relatively unobstructed, they are in the same direction as the current which may make staying upwind problematic or worse.
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Maps in this Wiki
- Alabama Map
- Allatoona Lake
- Florida East Central Map
- Florida Panhandle East Map
- Florida Panhandle West Map
- Florida South Map
- Florida West Central Map
- Georgia Map
- Lake Lanier Map
- Lake Lanier Underwater Contour Maps
- Southeast Map
- TBC Map of North Carolina