Locals Participate In Tour Du Teche Paddle Race In Louisiana

NEW IBERIA, LA (AP) — The cool and overcast weather was just about perfect for some of the paddlers participating this weekend in some portion of the Tour du Teche race on the Bayou Teche.

         Wayne LaBauve, a New Iberia native living in Pearl River, cruised into the New Iberia City Park boat ramp late Saturday morning, wrapping up the 24-mile Hot Sauce leg riding solo in his lightweight canoe christened "Black Pearl."

         "The Bayou (Teche) was really pretty today, with all of the shade," LaBauve said. "It was nice and cool this morning."

         LaBauve, 51, said he normally does the Tour du Teche paddle races in a tandem canoe, but his regular partner was unable to participate this year. He said he's spent this year training to do it alone.

         "I'm not as good company as my partner, but it was all right," he quipped. "Just got to stay motivated, I guess is the biggest thing. There's not someone there to push you."

         The full Tour du Teche, going 135 miles from Port Barre to Berwick throughout three days, is the main event for the eponymous organization, but there are numerous smaller races composed of legs of the full race, such as the Hot Sauce race. The Black Bear race, going 35 miles from New Iberia to Franklin, kicked off at 11 a.m. Saturday and served as the first step for rookie paddlers Joshua Rojas, 16, and his aunt, Kim Cook, 31, who both live on the Chitimacha Tribal Reservation.

         "I like to get involved in community things," Cook said. "We went and practiced a few times and got a good look at the beautiful scenery. It's like taking a mini-vacation."

         Rojas said he hoped to make a hobby out of paddling and wanted to get ready to try out the full 135-mile race next year.

         "I ain't going to try," he said. "I'm going to do it."

         Jimmy Guidry, of Lafayette, led the pack in the Hot Sauce race this year, although there was one key difference: he was solo this year.

         "It's very lonely," Guidry said with a chuckle. "I like the tandem. You have to sync with a partner and you have a lot more help. I've been training all year to get ready to do it by myself.

         "I'm 65 now," he said. "When I turn 70, I'll do the whole thing."

         Guidry, having watched LaBauve finish second Saturday, illustrated the oft-cited camaraderie in paddling by first helping LaBauve bring his canoe out of the water and then introducing himself. As LaBauve strapped his canoe onto his truck, he mentioned getting ready to celebrate later in the day.

         Guidry, having stepped away, returned to the conversation with a cold Heinekein in hand, already starting to celebrate. LaBauve looked up and offered Guidry something better.

         "How about a little home brew?" he asked.

         – by AP/ Reporter Zane Hill with The Daily Iberian

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