Living Democracy

Competition provides fun day on Pea River

As the sun started to peek through the clouds, I was rushing over to the boat shop driving Betsy, one of the Pea River Outdoors vans that happen to be my companion for the final few weeks that I have left in Elba, to do a final prep before the big event.

The first ever kayak and canoe competition in Pea River’s history was being held on this day, July 24. The idea for the event, which was the 2021 Living Democracy project in the city, stemmed from my first experience kayaking on the Pea River. The event was aimed at highlighting and promoting Pea River Outdoors as an entity of the nonprofit, Restoration 154, with the goal of providing participants a fun filled day on the river.

White, yellow, and blue balloons were taped along the wooden rails and served as an accessory to the Pea River Outdoors signage. Kayak and Canoe Rental signs were situated along the entrance of the shop with Jamaican Reggae music by Ziggy Marley loudly setting the mood. Justin Maddox was grilling hot dog sausages to compliment the chips, beverages and popsicles made from strawberry, honey, and basil that were on sale for the event.

Before we knew it, the first group signed up for the competition arrived and was ready to go. I shuttled them to the river, helped them get in and started the timer. By the time I returned, another group had arrived eager to hit the water. The four remaining groups arrived next.

On the day of the competition, a total of 32 people arrived with 28 actively trying to be the Pea River Outdoor Champion for both sections of the competition. It was a diverse group as we had native Elbians, people from as near as Samson and Enterprise and from far away as Kentucky, Florida, and Las Vegas

Each participant received a free “Rockin’ the River” t-shirt. It was as competitive as it could be. Even the participating children present were eager to win, though they would have to depend heavily on their parents.

After much paddling, steering, grimacing and perseverance through roughly 9.4 miles of winding river, the competitors finally returned. The Pea River was approximately 4.5 feet in depth on the day of the competition.

The event concluded with the award ceremony and issuing of medals to the winners. Joe Prior, a one-man canoe competitor, was the Pea River Outdoors Champion for the canoe division. He returned in 1 hour and 54 minutes and was awarded the gold medal.

The Easdale family was awarded silver medals for their second-place finish in the canoe division, with a time of 2 hours and 50 minutes.  During the race, this family managed to safely rescue a dog that was stranded along the river.

Jerry Pitts returned in a blistering 1 hour and 36 minutes to sweep the Pea River Outdoors title in the Kayak division. His time was also the fastest of the day by any competitor of all vessel types. In second place was another member of the Easdale family who returned in 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete that section.

It is my hope that this event transforms into something spectacular hosted annually as it was truly an amazing day at Pea River Outdoors. Of course, it would not have been a success without the help of numerous individuals. I would like to express my heartiest gratitude to Justin and Anna Maddox, Rae Walker, Jim and Laurie Chapman, Philip and Brewer Box and Beverly McCall.

Our efforts today confirm Restoration 154’s vision of bringing people together through projects that will have a significant and positive impact on the community.  

By Oquendo Bernard
Last Updated: July 27, 2021