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Kayak interest grows at State Games and elsewhere in Mississippi

By Staff
Kayaking Hannah Riley, front, of Quitman, leads the way against Carlene Barkley and Diane Quick, right, of Meridian. Riley placed first in the kayaking event of the 2003 State Games of Mississippi. The annual sporting competition concludes today. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
June 29, 2003
Kayaking isn't always about thrills, spills and splashes through white water rapids.
A growing number of kayakers are taking to still waters like those of Bonita Lakes, where State Games athletes raced Saturday in a three-mile endurance competition and a 500-meter sprint competition.
Meridian pharmacist Terry Wiese came in first in the endurance race with a time of 23.86 minutes. As he cruised to the finish line, his wife, Karla, yelled for him to "Push it!"
Keith Benoist of Natchez, organizer of the annual Great Mississippi River Kayak/Canoe Race, was a close second. He finished with a time of 23.88 minutes.
Wiese said he has kayaked for more than 20 years.
For him the competition doesn't matter as much as the camaraderie. The more he does it, he said, the more stories he has to tell.
Dogs, cats and other wildlife
Others link kayaking to nature. Benoist, who has paddled for 10 years, said many kayakers are environmentalists who love to kayak to enjoy the wildlife around them.
A writer and photographer, Benoist said he is trying to promote paddle sports in Mississippi. He said there may be some detractors who complain about the loud colors of kayaks clashing with nature, but otherwise he said it is an environmental-friendly sport adding that most kayak manufacturers use recycled plastics to make their product.
Benoist came to State Games not only to compete, but to recruit kayakers for the Great Mississippi River Kayak/Canoe Race scheduled for Oct. 11.
The 45-mile race launches at Grand Gulf Port and goes to Natchez Under-The-Hill. As was done last year, proceeds from the race benefit the Humane Society of Adams County.
For more information on the Mississippi River race, call Benoist at (601) 445-8843.
For exercise and water
Beverly Henson of Meridian was the commissioner of this year's State Games kayak races. She has been a competitor for several years.
Henson also is trying to promote kayaking and canoeing in the area. She has 15 kayaks of her own that she eagerly shares with those who want to try it. She said about half of the competitors Saturday were from Meridian or nearby; their ages ranged from about 70 down to 11.
John Thompson, 16, of Meridian was one of the competitors Saturday. He was cheered on by his mother, Zona Thompson. It was John's first time to race.
He said he started kayaking after his big sister got married, moved to California, and left her kayak behind. He said he and some friends took the kayak out to Bonita Lakes a few times and he also got the hang of it by paddling around in a pond near his home.

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