WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — The 7th Annual River Rat Paddle Challenge kicked off at the Ouachita River on Saturday, September 30th. Over 150 kayakers and canoers of all skill levels came together for a good cause.

“The Ouachita is a beautiful river,” one participant, Chilly Billy Howell said. There wasn’t a lot of current this year, but it’s always a blast and so well and professionally run.”

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase this river, the city and the paddlers,” added another participant, Mark Robinson.

But the paddle challenge is not just about speed. Former Race Director Scott Moore says all proceeds will benefit the Horse Assisted Therapy Services of North Louisiana.

“Solely for the purpose of raising funds for the Horse Assisted Therapy Services, which is a non-profit organization. We utilize horses for therapy for mostly children who are challenged in this event. We will raise over $10,000.

The 7.7 mile adventure also welcomed paddle enthusiasts from out of state. Chilly Billy Howell is one of them.

“It’s my 4th year doing the River Rat Paddle Challenge. It’s a wonderful race. We love Monroe. We live in the Mississippi Delta. We are in the tourism business, so we love coming down here.”

“I’m from Dallas, Texas, actually,” another participant, Scott Risk, said. So, we come out here to do this, and this time is two times in a row. We will make it a tradition.”

The race started at the Bayou D’arbonne Public Boat Ramp and finished at Lazarre Park.

“This area, I think, it’s the paddling capital of the state. Yes, there is water all around New Orleans, but where can you paddle? There is nothing like this in the state,” explained Moore.

“I love it. I look forward to it all year long,” one participant, Tommy Williams said.
And to make the challenge even more fun, paddle enthusiasts were encouraged to wear their favorite customs.

“I’m calling myself Darth Theater,” Risk said. “So, this is Grogu, and he is riding the gator, and he is making a second appearance,” Risk said.

There are a bunch of us. We are all characters from Mario Kart,” one participant, Josh Bonner said. “Anytime you can get together with a bunch of friends, have fun for a good cause, it’s a win win for everybody.”

Norman Williams of Monroe is one of the 190 competitors to take the win with a record of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 53 seconds.

“I’ve been paddling for the last five years in these top races, and I enjoy it very much. It’s a perfect venue to bring the community together and to raise the money for Horse Assisted Therapy Services of North Louisiana.”

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