Hundreds travel down the bayou for 47th annual Regatta
Buffalo Bayou’s brown water filled with splashes of color Saturday as hundreds of kayakers and canoers launched neon, tie-dye boats on a 15-mile journey through the heart of Houston.
Many say are regulars at the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, now in its 47th year, for the view as they journey down the bayou and through Eleanor Tinsley Park.
“It really is one of the most unique events in our city,” said Thomas Fish, chair emeritus of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership. “It allows us to see Houston in a way that most people never get to see it.”
Paddlers could choose to compete in a timed race or a leisurely paddle. Participants, who must be 15 to enter, were given the option to rent boats or bring their own. Life jackets were required.
While the Regatta is primarily filled with locals, some travel from afar to participate.
“It’s Texas’ largest canoe and kayak race, it’s grown so much it’s actually one of the top five largest in the nation, which is exciting,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership spokeswoman Trudy Smith said.
While some paddlers take the event seriously, training often and focusing on their time, others are there just to have fun and be around other paddlers. Like the time-honored Texas tradition of floating in the Frio River in hot summer months, paddlers say you need only beer and music to enjoy the ride.
“In the boat we have life jackets, a cooler full of beer, you’re going to need a wet-bag (a waterproof bag), and music,” said competitor Brendan Cloney, 25.
The average time it takes non-competitive paddlers to finish is three hours, said Smith. The fastest racers can finish the course in about half the time.
Avid paddler Joel Truitt, 35, who competed in the Regatta for his fifth time, touted how open and friendly Houston’s paddling community is.
“It’s competitive, but after the race you can talk to somebody and find out what they did, what helped, what worked,” said Truitt, who finished 14 minutes after the fastest time. “We don’t have access to hiking trails like California or Oregon or wherever, but we have this waterway, which has water in it year round and you get the coolest view of downtown you could possibly get.”
The race ended at the historic Allen’s Landing in downtown, where participants received free lunch, entertainment and beer from St. Arnold’s brewery with the fastest time being just under an hour and 40 minutes.
“What I love most about this is when you’re in the Bayou you see a different side of Houston,” said paddler Bethany Launey, 27, who has participated in the Regatta three times. “It feels like it’s not the city, but then you get to the end and you see Buffalo Bayou Park and it’s just a cool experience.”