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Lilburn local paddles the waters to success

Special Photo Lilburn resident Glen Smith took on Georgia River Networkis 2012 Challenge of paddling at least 12 of Georgiais rivers in 2012.

Special Photo Lilburn resident Glen Smith took on Georgia River Networkis 2012 Challenge of paddling at least 12 of Georgiais rivers in 2012.

More than 60 people began and many failed, but Lilburn resident Glen Smith was one of the few that can say they completed the Georgia River Network's 2012 challenge.

Smith was one of only 15 to complete the annual challenge. The goal was to paddle 12 of Georgia's rivers in 2012, but he easily beat that number, paddling 19 rivers including the Ellijay, the Oconee and the only water trail in Gwinnett County -- the Chattahoochee.

Smith began paddling two and a half years ago when he was looking for an outdoor activity to fill his time.

"I was just looking online for something that I could do outside and paddling was just something I lucked into finding," he said.

After beginning his paddling career he received an email from the Georgia River Network about the 2012 challenge and decided to give it a shot. The events are held to promote the growing collection of 30 water trails.

Smith has a large array of paddling experiences, and only has positive things to say about the pursuit.

"I have never had a bad experience paddling. I've tipped out of my boat, paddled through rain and storms, I've even had ice on my boat the whole trip, but I've always enjoyed myself," he said.

He is involved with two paddling groups, the Atlanta Area Paddlers as well as a group devoted to the clean up of waterways. In total, Smith went on more than 50 paddling trips last year.

Executive Director of the Georgia River Network, April Ingle is thrilled with Smith's enthusiasm for the sport and hopes it rubs off on others.

"People like Glen who do a lot of paddling are an inspiration for people who don't do as much paddling. He is a role model for them and shows them ways to enjoy and explore the outdoors and the Georgia waterways," Ingle said.

This was the first year he participated in the challenge, but said it won't be his last.

The next challenge posed by the Georgia River Network is to take 13 people paddling in 2013. The goal is to get people who would not likely go paddling on their own to explore the water trails. A water trail is similar to a hiking trail on water and is considered beneficial to a community because it provides recreation, economic development, greenspace and more.

So how does Smith plan on getting 13 unlikely paddlers to go out on the river with him? He said he will just be himself.

"I plan on just asking people I know if they would like to go paddling with me. I think that if I explain how much I enjoy it then they will see my enthusiasm and be willing to give it a shot."