Dig Baton Rouge

Paddle Up!

By Tommy Romanach

Once a week, BREC’s Liberty Lagoon is transformed from Water Park to teaching ground, educating Baton Rouge natives to the intrepid world of kayaking.

Paddle Up is BREC’s summer program that teaches residents across the Capital City how to kayak. Classes run from beginner to advanced, and interest in the program has been steadily rising.

“For most people, this is something they’ve never done,” said Liberty Lagoon Aquatics Manager Kristen Tin. “It’s perfect for families, we see parents bring their kids out here. It’s perfect for everyone, honestly.”

The goal of Paddle Up is simple: teaching people how to kayak in a more controlled environment until they eventually take on more outdoor settings. Liberty Lagoon is an ideal place for beginner classes, with a central location for BR residents and a machine to create a current in the lazy river.

“It’s perfect for families. We see parents bring their kids out here. It’s perfect for everyone, honestly.”
– Kristin Tin, Liberty Lagoon Aquatics Manager 

Lifeguard Jackie Clayton has been working in the Paddle Up events for three months now, teaching all levels of the program. Clayton said he prefers the intermediate classes the most, when he gets to assist in the more advanced kayaking techniques with his class members.

Clayton considers himself an avid kayaker and is saving up money to buy his own kayak outside of work.

“Kayaking is for people who want to get out on the water but don’t prefer a boat, or a powered boat,” Clayton said. “This and a boat with a motor on it are two different things, and I honestly think this one is more fun.”

Tin has also seen a spark in the senior population for the events, and participants like Jody Kolb are not ashamed to be in that category. She calls her group of friends “The Elder Armada” as they routinely kayak recreationally, including a trip to Bayou Teche in the near future.

Group member Angelica Ramirez says has only started kayaking consistently under Kolb’s recent recommendation, but the activity has been so exciting she’s bought her own kayak and embraced the exercise.

The group came to the Paddle Up 1 event last weekend, in hopes of influencing their friend Faye Cooper, who is completely new to the sport. After taking the class, Cooper expressed interest in making it a routine and joining Kolb’s “Armada.”

“I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it,” Cooper said. “It was a little difficult once they turned the current on, but it was just great. Can’t wait to do it again!”

On June 8, Liberty Lagoon paired with the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, assisting 12 students in kayaking and helping them overcome any fear of falling out of a boat.

Tin ran a trial run for all the lifeguards the week before, insisting that waking up early would come with some benefits. By the end of the event, she was surprised to see the lifeguards having the most fun of everyone.

“At the end of it, I was saying, ‘See, it’s not so bad to come early,’ and they were asking me when we could do it again,” Tin said. “They got so much more out of it than they expected. The kids had a great time, but it was an eye-opening experience for the lifeguards too.”

Another goal in the Paddle Up events is providing awareness for other BREC events. On Saturday, Tin sold a family tickets to the BREC movie in the park event later in the month.

BREC offers two beginner classes every Saturday morning at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. throughout the summer at Liberty Lagoon, with each class consisting of ten people at $10 a person. More advanced classes take place at the University Lakes, and eventually rivers like the Comite and the Amite.

For more information on Paddle Up 1, visit LibertyLagoon.com




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