Believe it or not, the Tour du Teche has only been around for a decade. And now the organizers are ready to celebrate the success of the annual series of canoe races.
When the Tour du Teche was first conceived, Tave Lamperez was still living in Illinois, but has always kept his strong ties to his Teche Area home. As an avid paddler and former vice-president of the United States Canoe Association, he was well versed in what a contest like Tour du Teche entailed and was able to advise Ray Pellerin, Ken Grissom and other volunteers who got the competition off the ground.
Now that one race has become a series of staged races running from Port Barre all the way to Morgan City.
Lamperez, a New Iberia native, is back on the Bayou Teche in his home town, with a rack of canoes and a dock allowing him access to paddle any time he feels like it as he prepares for this year’s race, which will be held from Oct. 4 through 6.
The Daily Iberian managed to catch up with Lamperez as he gets the ball rolling for this year’s tour.
Did you expect to be doing this 10 years down the road?
We really did. We actually expected this to be bigger.
What has changed from the first race to now?
The first year was a non-stop race. It was the biggest turnout we ever had, but 50 percent didn’t finish. The downside to that is that people paddled their brains out and didn’t get to enjoy what Louisiana offers. So Tour du Teche II through X this year are staged races. You do enough that you can finish before dark, get a good night’s sleep and do it again the next day.
People know the course and they will cheer from their backyards. Some people throw parties and are yelling for us, encouraging the paddlers. People are always offering drinks and barbecue as we pass by. It’s amazing, the hospitality of our local Cajuns.
Did the changes help the completion rate?
It was exactly the opposite! We had even less finishing. Having to wake up the next morning and continue is hard. I believe the stage race is harder on the body. But now we have all these little races going on at the same time. You can paddle half of the first day, or half of the second day. Or half of the second half of the second day or the third day from Franklin to Berwick. Paddlers can choose the appropriate stage for their skill and level of dedication.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Getting volunteers is one small challenge, but the people who do volunteer always deliver. We’d really like to see more participants from different areas. We’ve had people here from five, six, seven states, but we want to have more.
For participants, the biggest challenge is to practice. You can’t do it cold. You want to get several 10-mile practices in before the race, so it is important to get people started in the summer. This is the time to start. If you get people training now, in August and September, they won’t hurt for days when they finish.
How can people get involved?
The first step is to start paddling on Bayou Teche. We do practices every Wednesday night starting around 5:30 to 6:30 from my house in New Iberia, right on the bayou. People can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 630-605-0671 if they are interested. Or if they need general information, they can go to the Tour du Teche website at tourduteche.com.