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.
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.
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.
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.
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