A total of about 100 kayaks and canoes were expected to pull into Franklin Saturday night with paddlers competing from around the country in the Tour du Teche.
There were a number of paddlers from Texas, with the first four boats in Saturday claiming the Lone Star state as home.
“There’s a plethora of paddling Texans,” Alfred Lamperez, of New Iberia, said.
Lamperez was standing along the banks of Bayou Teche to cheer on his brother who was paddling.
“They’ve done a good job getting the word out,” he said.
But Nicole Patin, Tour du Teche executive director, said, although the group is planning a big marketing campaign next year, word so far has got out on its own.
“It’s been promoting itself,” Patin said.
Jeremiah Jackson, 27, from Webster, Texas, said there are a lot of competitive paddlers in Texas, so the race lends itself to an influx.
He said he saw information on Tour du Teche on a canoe and kayak racing forum at:
He said the site highlights races throughout the region.
Saturday night, Tour du Teche was still featured on the site’s homepage.
Jackson, who was in the fourth boat Saturday night, said the prize money was the biggest attraction for him.
Patin said a total of $20,000 was up for grabs as prize money.
Of that total, 12 percent goes into the bourré pot for record breakers, 4 percent goes to each first place paddler, 2 percent goes to each second place paddler and 1 percent goes to each third place paddler.
And the bourré pot could be cleaned.
“All the records are set to be broken,” Patin said.
As the first kayak came around the bend into Franklin, Patin and other onlookers commented on the efficiency of the paddlers’ strokes.
Patin said the two were averaging about 90 strokes a minute.
“That’s insane,” she said.
Joost Zeegers, 48, of Bellingham, Wash., and Brad Pennington, 45, of Houston, were in that kayak.
Pennington said until they had to start working against a tidal current, they were averaging eight miles an hour then their speed dropped to six miles an hour.
“That’ll mess you up,” he said.
But alligators? No, those aren’t a problem.
“We ran over a ’gator,” Pennington said. “And then we saw two more.”
Pennington and his partner only met the night before the race, but the two longtime paddlers were finding their rhythm.
“We’ve got great chemistry,” he said.
“You have to have an intuitive sense on how to work together.”
Zeegers said he filled in for Pennington’s partner who couldn’t participate at the last minute.
“I didn’t have enough of an excuse to say no,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. Although, I’m not sure if I was so glad a half hour ago.”
“I didn’t have enough of an excuse to say no. I’m glad I did it. Although, I’m not sure if I was so glad a half hour ago.”
On top of the current paddlers had to fight, Zeegers said the heat was a bit much for a “Washington boy.”
Luckily, the people were making up for that.
“Everybody has been really friendly,” he said. “I haven’t met an unfriendly person, yet.”
As of Saturday night, paddlers had completed 108 miles of the Tour. They’ll paddle 27 more today to Berwick for the culmination of the race.