Explorer Scouts move water during the start of the Advanced Aluminum class in the 2014 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Arkansas. This year the race, which is one of the longest running scouting events, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photog by Kevin Pieper

Explorer Scouts move water during the start of the Advanced Aluminum class in the 2014 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Arkansas. This year the race, which is one of the longest running scouting events, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photo by Kevin Pieper


Photo by Kevin Pieper

As a teenager Gustave “Tave” Lamperez joined a local Boy Scout Explorer post to learn American Native dancing.

“I wasn’t known for my athletic prowess,” Lamperez says. “I was a study guy, a little nerd. But I really loved dancing.”

So when the post switched its focus to canoeing, Lamperez was suspect. After lobbying by the post leader, the 15-year-old acquiesced and was soon paddling the bayous of south Louisiana.

That year, 1975, Post 517 of New Iberia, La., with Lamperez in tow, traveled to the Boy Scouts of America’s White River Canoe Race in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas to test its newfound direction.

Gustave "Tave' Lamperez, of New Iberia, La., competed in the White River Canoe Race from 1975-1980. He went on to become Vice President of the United States Canoe Association and still paddles upwards of 1,200 miles each year. Photo courtesy Gustave Lamperez

Gustave “Tave’ Lamperez, of New Iberia, La., competed in the White River Canoe Race from 1975-1980. He went on to become Vice President of the United States Canoe Association and still paddles upwards of 1,200 miles each year. Photo courtesy Gustave Lamperez

Lamperez and teammates finished 5th in the 120-mile, three-day stage race. For the next five years Post 517 climbed the standings, ultimately winning the race in the open aluminum class in 1980.

The White River Canoe Race has been attracting scouts from around the nation since its inaugural race in 1966. This year the race is celebrating its 50th anniversary and its siren song still draws Explorer and Venture scouts from far and wide, many of whom take the experience, like Lamperez, into adulthood.

 Venture Scouts and Explorer Scouts prepare for the start of the Beginner Aluminum class in the 2014 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Cotter, Arkansas. This year the race, which begins Thursday, July 28, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photo by Kevin Pieper

Venture Scouts and Explorer Scouts prepare for the start of the Beginner Aluminum class in the 2014 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Cotter, Arkansas. Photo by Kevin Pieper

After those early paddling adventures, Lamperez, now 56, went on to become Vice President of the United States Canoe Association, where he helped develop canoe instruction programs. He competed and won, with 19 other paddlers, the USA Dragon Boat Championship in 1987, earning a trip to Hong Kong to compete in the International Dragon Boat championships. In 1989 he won the International Canoe Federation long boat class at the USCA level. And in 2010 he won his class in the inaugural Tour du Teche, a 135-mile nonstop race covering the length of Bayou Teche in Louisiana. He paddles 1,200 miles each year.

“Without a doubt the (White River) canoe race led to a lifelong passion for paddling,” Lamperez says.

Gustave "Tave' Lamperez, bow seat, of New Iberia, La., paddles with partner Stephen Lynn of Russellville, Ark., in the 2003 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Arkansas. The two participated in the race as Boy Scouts in the 1970s and have been coming back to the race to help and compete in the Old Timer's division for decades. This year the race, which is one of the longest running scouting events, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Photo by Kevin Pieper

Gustave “Tave’ Lamperez, bow seat, paddles with partner Stephen Lynn of Russellville, Ark., in the 2003 edition of the Boy Scouts of America White River Canoe Race in Arkansas. The two participated in the race as Boy Scouts in the 1970s and have been coming back to the race to help and compete in the Old Timer’s division for decades. Photo by Kevin Pieper

That ardency has brought Lamperez back to the race every year since 2001. He helps run the event and often competes in the Old Timer’s division — paddlers who competed as scouts and now come back to race as adults.

“It’s purely selfish,” Lamperez says of his continued association with the race. “If I can help these young kids to love paddling and they get hooked, we’ll have another generation of paddlers and have another 50 years of the race.”


About the White River Canoe Race

This year the White River Canoe Race is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. It’s one of the longest running scouting events in the nation.

The race begins Thursday, July 28, in the shadow of the Bull Shoals Dam in northern Arkansas, deep in the Ozark Mountains. Over the next three days paddlers make their way through the crystal clear waters of the White, past towering limestone bluffs to Batesville, Ark., where the Ozark Mountains give way to farmland in the central plateau of Arkansas.

Scouts from Venture and Explorer posts compete in several divisions ¬– Beginner Aluminum, Novice Aluminum, Advanced Aluminum, Cruising Divisions and Old-Timers Divisions. Girls compete on coed teams and girls-only teams often compete against boys.

Info: http://www.scoutrace.com

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