Kayak race a big hit in Jackson County - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Kayak race a big hit in Jackson County


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS  (WLOX) - Saturday's "Battle on the Bayou" kayak and canoe race in Jackson County was a big hit. In just it's second year, the number of participants was nearly double last year's turnout.

And they came to the coast from as far away as California and Wisconsin. A total of 190 boats left the starting point at Gulf Hills Resort, with participants paddling nearly 10 miles along Fort Bayou to the finish line at "The Shed." 

Colorful kayaks covered the waters of Fort Bayou behind Gulf Hills Resort. Racers warmed up and jockeyed for position before the cannon sounded to start the second "Battle on the Bayou."

"Oh, this is great. The weather is great; the group is great. There's tons of folks. This is just growing and exploding," said Chris Wagner.

"First paddle stroke is to the left, okay?" a helper instructed, before helping launch a racer.

The Yalobusha kayak club from North Mississippi makes time for a quick team picture.

"Okay, good deal. Thanks," the told the volunteer photographer.

They brought seven team members to participate in the bayou battle. As it is here on the coast, kayaking is catching on up north.

"Well, I think it's catching on everywhere. The group of us all bought our kayaks and started within the last year. And we can't get enough of it. We go just about every weekend when the weather permits. And continue to do it this summer," said Wagner.

"Even in our small town, it's a whole bunch of folks who have shown a lot of interest. A lot of people that want to go with us. We're loaning out our extra boats every chance we get," added Craig Hill.

With anxious participants prepared to paddle, the cannon shot signaled the start. Two heats of racers will paddled some 10 miles up the bayou to a finish line at "The Shed."

"Just one of those timeless things. Just getting out in the water, relaxing, seeing nature. Enjoying the sun and all that stuff," said racer Adam McDonald, from California.

Just minutes after the start, the first racers glide through the water beneath the Ft. Bayou Bridge on Washington Avenue.

Family and friends offer their encouragement from the docks and fishing piers. While some paddlers are quite competitive, for most participants it's a chance to relax and enjoy.

"Just getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors. We see pelicans and all sorts of wildlife. The group is real fun. We're just not that competitive. So, this is kind of a day to finish, not to race," said a smiling Tina Wagner.

The overall winner of the "Battle on the Bayou" was Elmore Holmes from Memphis. He finished the nine and a half mile course in just one hour, twenty-one minutes.

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