Louisiana, known as the Sportsman’s Paradise, is not necessarily known for watersports action outside of swamp boats and pirogues. New Orleans has a longer history of trying to contain or manipulate its surrounding water than of utilizing it for outdoor activities. Who can blame the residents and tourists though? It is the fearless few who have previously ventured out past the shorelines and into the bayou, lakes, and rivers.
Even the city can make it harder to appreciate our natural surroundings. In the last century there were boathouses and races, but now all crafts were recently removed from Bayou St. John.
The number of water enthusiasts is growing though. More and more “everyday adventurers” are headed towards the variety of waterways that are ideal for exploring for leisure and extreme sports. We will explore these now based on the craft.
Needless to say, these things are here to stay. There are so many boards that any experience level can hop on one. Nola Paddleboards operates a small business at the mouth of the marina on Lake Pontchartrain. The lake, ever the temptress like New Orleans, can be placid and idyllic for a moonlight paddle, or tumultuous enough to have three foot waves. Jeff Lakey, who founded the store can rent/sell boards or operate group paddles. He runs group paddles on the lake as well as their Bayou St. John launchpoint on Moss St. at the end of the Canal streetcar line. Jeff runs the Nola Paddleboard Club to bring together a community of fun, active, and eco-friendly members. He is also bringing back his Big Easy Paddle Race in 2016.
Muddy Water Paddle Company, located in Baton Rouge, is building the SUP community north of the lake. Although schedules change a typical week has paddle groups or demo days at the LSU Lakes, 5:30-7. Muddy Water also puts on the longest SUP/kayak race in Louisiana with their Big River Regional on August 29th. I’ve met a lot of the guys/girls associated with Muddy Water and can attest that anyone will have fun paddling with these guys.
Bayou Paddlesports is going strong in its fifth year of operation out on Bayou St. John. This is the perfect place for any leisure and beginners SUPers/kayakers. Locals and tourists can come and rent kayaks and SUP boards for two-hour paddles in this Mid-city, outdoor enthusiast area. Stack that with a root beer and po-boy from Parkway and you’ve got yourself a nice little afternoon nap underneath a tree.
Bayou Paddlesports also provides SUP yoga, Paddlefit classes, races, and night paddles. “The reality is that many locals have never had an opportunity to experience the benefits of having so much water to explore. Now, tourists and locals can get a variety of inexpensive introductions to the world of paddling,” states Rhonda Ardoin, owner.
If a slower pace and a libation incorporation is more your speed don’t forget about all the wildlife out here. Fishing is a mainstay here in Louisiana with an abundant choice of species to go after. Of course, you can take powerboats to your honey holes, but sometimes the best way to get out in nature is to paddle yourself around. Fly or spin caster, red fish or grouper, getting out has never been easier. Just ask the guys at Pack ‘N Paddle for the gear and read Bayou ‘Yakin for where to go.
Another extreme, yet often looked over, sport is kiteboarding and wakeboarding. I personally have not done either so I asked Chris Stuckey, a NOLA entreprenuer and founder of The Kiteboarder Crossing, a local fundraising competition. An avid kiteboarding and wakeboarding enthusiast, Stuckey spends his free time out on the water. His go to spot to practice? Cajun X Cables in Lafayette.
Here anyone can come and wakeboard, waterski, kneeboard, or wakeskates without a boat. An overhead running cable pulls a rider (or up to 7 spaced out at a time) in a full circle. Like many others businesses on the list Cajun X Cables opened due to a fractured community. After opening in 2013 they now host sponsored/pro riders as well as a lot of beginners who can rent out all necessary equipment. Stay up to date on their Facebook page as they have an annual UL collegiate tournament as well as other small events.
The communities for water action have grown immensely in the past few years. Hopefully, with enough interest Louisiana can expand on traditions and create new interactions with the water around us.