Paddlers planning for next Bayou Teche race

LAFAYETTE — It only seems natural that paddling, kayaking and canoeing is on the rise in south Louisiana, given the abundance of water.

Those paddlers are expected to be out in force this fall for the fifth annual Tour du Teche, a 135-mile trek down the Bayou Teche from Port Barre to Berwick.

“We started with 60 boats and a board of three people,” Tour du Teche Executive Director Nicole Patin said. “We are up to 100 boats and a board of five.”

Registration is open for the race, which is set for Oct. 3 through Oct. 5.

“This has become an event,” Patin said. “The local area has really embraced this. People will really come out to cheer on the boats. They will have parties and just create a festive atmosphere. I think that is part of the reason this has gotten so big: Our local culture is reflected in it.”

She said visitors the race attracts, and the excitement surrounding the event, have been an economic boon for communities along the bayou while creating greater public awareness of Bayou Teche and its importance.

The Tour du Teche is actually two main races. There is a professional race that offers cash prizes and a voyager race that is open to anyone who wants to participate.

The races are in stages, meaning participants will go to a certain point on the course each day, then pick up from that point the next day, with the best cumulative time used to determine the winner.

The event also includes shorter day races carved out of the 135-mile route for paddlers not interested in a multiday excursion.

The Tour du Teche is the largest local paddling event, but the sport in general has been on the rise here in recent years, said Tim Varnam, president of the Lafayette Paddle Club.

Varnam said he enjoys the serenity of kayaking.

“It is nice to be out there with the oak trees and the birds,” Varnam said. “It was either motorcycling or kayaking, and I picked kayaking.”

For information, visit www.tourduteche.com or call (337) 394-6232.

The Lafayette Paddle Club can be reached at lafayettepaddleclub@gmail.com.