This Saturday, the third annual Paddle Blast will once again be held at Laurel River Lake and hosted by Explore Kentucky Initiative, in partnership with City of London Tourism and the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission.

The event will a 10-mile race, 5-mile race, 1-mile youth sprint race, 1.5-mile “fun race” and a volleyball tournament. Each of the events can be registered for online at www.explorekentucky.us/lovelylaurelriverlakepaddleblast (all participants should arrive at 7 a.m. for registration and must bring either their own kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle).

“Laurel River Lake is a special waterway because it’s so clean and crystal clear, and it’s also surrounded by one of the most visited, biggest public-land areas in our region, which is Daniel Boone National Forest,” said Gerry James, the founder of Explore Kentucky Initiative. “That’s what makes it special is the water quality, the resources around it and London, Laurel County and Corbin provide so many different opportunities for people.”

James founded his organization to get people to explore the various areas of Kentucky in an attempt to heighten eco-tourism and economic development in the area. He said that London is ripe for travelers to visit Laurel River Lake and Daniel Boone National Forest before then going on to see other parts of the region.

Since 2017, Explore Kentucky Initiative has hosted over 3,000 total participants in its events. For Saturday, participants located in Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia have registered to come to the event, according to the London and Laurel County Tourism Facebook page.

Kelly Burton, the co-executive director of the Laurel County Tourist Commission, said Laurel River Lake and the spillway make for a great location due to the beach area. It’s common for paddle-boarding and kayaking events to start from an individual boat dock, so the beach makes it easier for more participants to start at the same and safely return.

The youth races are what James is most excited about this year, hoping to put them at the forefront of the event just as much as any adult contestant.

The 1-mile sprint youth races costs $20 per racer and have separate age groups from ages 5 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and 14 to 17. There will be a pre-race meeting at 11 a.m. with the races beginning at 11:15.

James said there have only been about around eight kids who have registered so far for the races, but he is hoping for around 30 participants in the youth races. There will also be chances to win prizes for the youth contestants.

The 10-mile race costs $65 and has a pre-race meeting at 7:45 a.m., with the race beginning at 8 a.m. and a cut-off time at 11 a.m. A meal will be provided for participants in the race, according to the organization’s website.

The 5-mile race costs $60 and has a pre-race meeting at 7:45 a.m., with the race beginning at 8:15 and a cut-off time at 11 a.m. A small meal will be provided for these contestants, according to the organization’s website.

The 1.5-mile “fun race” costs $15 and have a 9 a.m. pre-race meeting with the race beginning at 9:15 and a cut-off time at 11. A meal will be provided for participants in the race, according to the organization’s website.

The volleyball tournament, which is a new event this year, will cost $150 for a team of 6 to compete (equal to $25 per person). Awards will be given out to top teams.

The awards ceremony after all of the events are completed will be held at noon.

Custom shirts made out of recycled bottles will be given to participants in the 10-mile race, 5-mile race, 1.5-mile “fun race” and the volleyball tournament.

Additional information about the third annual Paddle Blast at Laurel River Lake can be found at www.explorekentucky.us/lovelylaurelriverlakepaddleblast.

ccoyle@sentinel-echo.com

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