Invasion of the kayaks!
There will be a handful of canoes and a pirogue or two, also, but the kayak, the modern version of the Eskimo skin-on-frame boat, is the craft of choice for most recreational paddlers today. You’ll see them in every color of the rainbow as Tour du Teche IV flows through St. Martin Parish Friday and Saturday en route to Berwick on the banks of the Atchafalaya.
There are 80 boats registered in six different races that run concurrently on different stretches of Bayou Teche. The main race, Tour du Teche, goes all the way from Port Barre, starting on a stretch of Bayou Courtableau in St. Landry Parish, 135 miles to Berwick’s iconic red lighthouse across the river from Morgan City, in St. Mary Parish.
Some of the racers are world-class athletes, like Houstonian Brad Pennington, fresh from representing the United States in the Marathon World Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark, and his partner, Joost Seegers from Washington state. A good many of them are folks from around Louisiana who are relatively new to kayaking.
A good example of this crowd is St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier, who lives on Bayou Teche and took up kayaking for the exercise and the peace and quiet the sport affords. Joost and Brad, first-overall and first-in class last year, will be paddling the whole 135 miles in search of prize money. Guy is paddling the 24-mile Sauce Chaude (Hot Sauce) race, St. Martinville to New Iberia on Saturday, for fun and perhaps a trophy.
The races begin each day at 7 a.m. for Voyageurs (the recreational paddlers) and 9 a.m. for Racers. Friday’s start is at Port Barre, with finish lines at Breaux Bridge (Ecrevisse or Crawfish race) and St. Martinville; Saturday’s start is St. Martinville, with finishes in New Iberia (Sauce Chaude) and Franklin; Sunday’s run is from Franklin to Berwick.
On Friday, the racers should be passing through Arnaudville between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Breaux Bridge 12:30-5:45 p.m., and St. Martinville 1-9:20 p.m.
This week’s special section includes a list of the teams and where they hail from along with their boat numbers which will be affixed to the bow of their craft so you can identify them as they paddle by.
Spectators cheering on the paddlers from bridges and back yards have made Tour du Teche a standout among paddling marathons around the country.
The communities who host the race each year have gone all out to make the paddlers and their coureurs des bois, or bank runners, feel welcome in South Louisiana.
In St. Martinville on Friday eventing, there will be a street dance at the festival grounds, which is the first day’s stop for Tour du Teche and the finish line for the 49-mile Acadien race. Lil Wayne & Same Ol’ 2 Step and Nik L Beer are playing.
The general public is welcome. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children 12 and under. Of course La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns will be at the festival grounds Saturday, with entertainment by Jr. Flores and the Bayou Boys, Kevin Naquin, Side Show, and Wayne Toups.