Paddle boarding event draws welcome visitors to False River

The newly formed False River Paddle Club kicked off its first event Saturday as more than 40 people rowed stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and canoes from one end of False River to the other in the inaugural “Oxbow Paddle 13.1.”

The rowers put their crafts into the water at Bergeron’s on the Bayou campground and convenience store, paddled two miles down the scenic bayou to get into the 13 mile-long oxbow lake, then went two more miles to Bueche’s Bar and Grill for lunch and cold beverages.

The plan was for those who could endure the hot sun and strenuous workout, to continue on up the lake to visit The Landing, Jim’s, and Satterfield’s restaurant, located on the lake’s other side at New Roads, sometime in the late afternoon.

“It is a good way to raise awareness of the sport of stand-up paddle boarding,” said organizer Aimee Morris, “and to have some fun.”

Prior to the inaugural launch, New Roads Mayor Robert A. Myer popped a bottle of champagne and thanked the group for their activity.

“Anytime you bring new people into the community it’s a great thing,” Myer said. “They are bringing opportunities to the businesses here and that’s what our administration is about — creating economic development — and having some fun.”

The Bergerons, Donald and Donna, longtime owners of the campground and store, said they were happy to host the launch and look forward to seeing the activity grow, perhaps into something similar to the annual Fourth of July boat parade.

“I love it,” Donna Bergeron said. “We like tourists.”

“I think its great — it’s good for the community,” added Donald Bergeron. “I’m glad to see these young people doing something like this rather than being in gangs or doing drugs.”

If it does grow, or perhaps turns into a charity-kind of event, Bergeron said he will join with other local businesses for sponsorships.

Many of the paddle boards were 12 to 14 feet long, at least two feet wide, and had soft textured tops to ease balance. Most were made by YOLO Board Company, meaning, “You Only Live Once,” said Lacey Witte, who works at Muddy Water Paddle Co. in Baton Rouge.

Prices range from $585 for basic recreational boards to $2,000 for streamlined racing boards.

“It’s just getting your legs used to being on the water so once you’re out there for a few minutes you kinda feel comfortable,” Witte said.

As the paddlers slowly worked their way along the lake’s edge, Joe Skiles of Baton Rouge and his family, wife Liz, Katie, 12 and son James, 7, took a break from water skiing and tubing behind their speedboat.

“It’s nice to know they are having an event like this,” Liz Skiles said. Katie said she’d paddled a board before; “it’s awesome!” James said he liked the kayaks.

Jonathan Kroll drove over from Marksville and had his board rigged up with a cooler, stadium seat and even a radio to listen to football games during the day. “This is an awesome day,” Kroll said during lunch break at Bouche’s. “False River is the perfect place for this.”

Cameron Fry and Kristen Wimberger drove up from New Orleans for this event and were riding in a clear, aluminum-framed boat they weren’t sure if it was a kayak or canoe. “We picked it up in Florida just for this occasion,” Cameron Fry said.

Mark Milam, a paddle-boarder from Lafayette, said the first leg took about an hour and in spite of the blazing sun, he was happy to be on the water. “It is nice and smooth,” he said.

Jacob Ruiz, owner of Bueche’s Bar and Grill, along with his wife Melissa, said they were glad to participate in the event.

“I love it — with the river (visitor traffic) dying out this will give us another shot in the arm,” Ruiz said. “If we get enough participation next time we’ll set up outside and get some bands and stuff. We’ll have an end of the summer blast.”