‘Battle or Paddle’ on river
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Oct 2, 2013, 12:27
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A pair of four-legged participants in the Battle or Paddle sit in a kayak Saturday.
The Appomattox River provided a battleground on Saturday morning for paddlers as they raced through a 10-mile course from Pocahontas Island in Petersburg to the marina in Hopewell.
Friends of the Lower Appomattox River, FOLAR, hosted the sixth annual “Battle or Paddle,” on Saturday. Paddlers could also choose to navigate the course at a more leisurely pace. They came from all over the Tri-Cites and beyond to spend the morning on the river, such as Mary Beth Mohan and her husband, Bob. This “Battle or Paddle” was their first and both were ready to get in the water, as they stood on the shore by the river in Petersburg.
Their enjoyment for kayaking came during a trip to Georgia when they discovered a kayak with pedals. As avid cyclists, they decided to get one and now spend more time in the water.
“You’re using your legs to pedal instead of your arms to paddle,” Mary Beth said of their kayak. “I do a lot of triathlons and he does the hiking and this is another way to discover Virginia and we love it.”
Mary Beth, who was participating as a paddler, not a battler, had to remind herself to not be too competitive, something her husband also reminded her of before they got into the water, to just enjoy the day. She laughed as she said she would do her best.
Mary Beth Mohan and her husband, Bob, get their boat in the river and get ready to go, with help from a volunteer.
“It just feels good because everybody has the same interests ... these people like and respect the Earth that’s been given to us,” Mary Beth said.
Richard Taylor, past chairman of FOLAR, said that is the exact concept of the organization, to bring more people out to discover what the river has to offer. Six years ago, when developing the concept of “Battle or Paddle,” Taylor said the group was mostly supported through volunteer efforts and donations from businesses and community supporters.
“We did this for fundraising and to introduce more people to the lower Appomattox River so that we could accomplish our mission of trying to encourage the wise use and the protection of the lower Appomattox,” Taylor said. “We’re not trying to discourage people from doing it. We want them to do it wisely and to help manage the river and protect it and keep it clean.”
Though nothing was official, Taylor said the funds from the event are possibly going towards FOLAR’s continued development of a 15-acre park in Dinwiddie County, Ferndale Riverside Park. He said the park will have hiking and biking trails.
The love for the river was also present with Lorin Sodell, who works for Rolls Royce in Prince George. He said for the past 10 years he has been a paddler and that morning was just another chance for him to take to the river.
“I enjoy paddling anywhere and you don’t need much of an excuse to get out on a beautiful river like this and connect with people and connect with the outdoors,” Sodell said. “It’s a great event. It’s great that there’s an organization that sponsors something like this and takes the care for a river that cuts through such a historic area. It’s great.”
The paddlers, followed by the battlers, took their boats down to the shore, and the race began, as those participating made their way down the river. Wayne Walton, chairman of FOLAR, was at the Hopewell Marina, standing on the dock, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first battler.
“It’s a great day,” Walton said. “This is probably the best weather I’ve seen for it too, I think. Everything’s coming together for a really good event.”
Though FOLAR does other events along the river, such as clean-ups and trail clearing, Walton said the “Battle or Paddle” is the signature event of the organization.
“This is one time that really involves doing something on the river that people can recreate and have fun,” Walton said. He said this year’s event was the biggest yet, as close to 50 people registered to participate.
With the wind picking up and the tide growing stronger, Jim Gould, of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, made his way to the shore as the winner of the “Battle or Paddle.” He came out of his kayak, all smiles, as his fiancée, Emily Karr, greeted him with a big hug and kiss.
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Jim Gould makes his way into the Hopewell Marina as the winner of sixth annual Battle or Paddle on Saturday.
“This is my fourth Battle or Paddle event,” said Gould, who has been a paddler for six years. “It was difficult. The wind was in your face the entire time. When I was paddling so hard I just looked into the trees and looked at the colors and not even looked ahead.”
Gould came back to Hopewell to win the event on the river on which he discovered his love for paddling. He said as a child, he and his friend would get in a boat and row along the river and taking in all the wildlife.
“It’s fun to come back here from the Outer Banks and come back to Hopewell and give it my all and win,” Gould said.