Dip your toes into these paddling events

By Hilary Meyerson

Photo at right: Bridge over paddled water — SUP Yoga. Photo courtesy of Surf Ballard.

Summer is almost here and the water is calling. The Northwest boasts unparalleled opportunities for gliding over water. With H2O in almost every direction, it’s time to start exploring those blue sections of the map.

Elliott Bay paddlers enjoying the late afternoon sun on downtown Seattle. Photo courtesy of Rob Casey.

Never slid into a kayak or climbed up on a stand up paddleboard (SUP)? No worries. There are lots of places to get started. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best paddling events around, for everyone from those just dipping their toes in for the first time to those seeking a challenging whitewater race.

See below for where to rent a board or kayak—and start navigating the waters!

2012 Paddling Events

July 1: DeFuca Downwind, Freshwater Bay to Port Angeles, Wash., 13-mile race. The course starts at Freshwater Bay County Park, west of Port Angeles and crosses nine gorgeous open miles, with Washington’s Olympic Mountains as a backdrop. Racers on surfskis and SUPs, in kayaks and outrigger canoes ride the tailwind all the way to Ediz Hook at the mouth of Port Angeles Harbor.

July 4: Fourth of July Fireworks Paddle, Renton, Wash. Meet at the Renton Boathouse and guides will lead your paddle excursion to Coulon Park for a front row seat to watch the fireworks. USCG PFDs and navigation light (available for purchase at the boathouse) required.

July 7: Elk River Challenge, Westport, Wash., from the Elk River Bridge into the estuary, and return. Start and finish at Brady’s Oyster Co. at the west end of the Elk River Bridge.

The Outdoors NW team finishing the paddling leg of the competition at "Unleash the Beast." Photo by Carolyn Price

Aug 4–5: Paddle Kitsap, Port Gamble to Poulsbo, Wash. Paddle the Pearls of North Kitsap communities and help establish the North Kitsap Water Trail. This spectacular two-day, 35-mile fully supported paddle will be the highlight of your paddling year. Whether it’s in a kayak, canoe, rowing, or other human-powered craft you can’t help but enjoy the spectacular natural beauty during this event.

August 12: Kitsap Adventures Peninsula Relay Challenge, Kingston, Wash. Relay teams of two or three will compete, though with prior approval by the Race Director, some individuals may complete all three legs. Unlike any other race in Washington state, this course combines stand-up paddle boarding in Puget Sound, a combination beach/trail run and an epic mountain bike ride through the newly re-groomed trails of Kingston and the surrounding areas.

Aug 13–17: Paddle Oregon, Harrisburg to Newburg, Ore. Supported paddle, with catered meals, great wine/beer selection, nightly entertainment and speakers provided for five days and 107 miles on the Upper Willamette River Waterway. Registration includes all meals, gear shuttle, safety support, camping accommodations, and entertainment. A portion goes to support Willamette Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization that works to protect the Willamette River’s water quality and habitat.

Aug 18–19: Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge (CGPC), Hood River, Ore. A festival celebrating the sport of stand-up paddling in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, the Paddle Challenge will feature a Distance Downwind Race, Course Race, Team Relay Race and a recreational, non-competitive Paddle for the Park—a fundraiser for the new Hood River Waterfront Park. SUP manufacturers, free SUP lessons and demos, live music and more.

Aug 25–26: Tacoma Maritime Fest, Tacoma, Wash. Festival includes the Great Place Paddle Race, a family-friendly event for all ages and abilities. The event’s 10K course runs along Tacoma’s historic Thea Foss and Ruston waterways and is open to SUP, kayakers, and other paddlers.

Aug 25: The Great Cross Sound Race, Seattle, Wash. The major event of the Sound Rowers Open Water Rowing and Paddling Club. The race begins at Alki Beach in West Seattle, heads out west to Blakely Rock off Bainbridge Island, rounds a buoy and heads back toward Alki Point.

Oct. 6–7: Hobuck Hoedown, Hobuck Beach, Wash. A two-day surf paddling festival, with competition in 10 paddling events between Hobuck Beach and Neah Bay, Wash. Don’t miss the salmon dinner at the end. Ruby Creek Boathouse also hosts the Deception Pass Dash in December.

Oct 12–14: Whitewater Symposium, White Salmon, Wash. The Whitewater Symposium is a three-day annual event promoting whitewater paddlesports by bringing together a diverse cross section of industry and program advocates.

Oct. 19–21: Lumpy Waters Symposium, Pacific City, Ore. Three days of kayak instruction aimed at the advanced beginner, early intermediate and advanced level paddler.

Oct. 20: Greenland Week Kayak Festival, Issaquah, Wash. Join the Kayak Academy for a week of traditional Greenland-style kayaking lessons, demonstrations, competitions and social activities during the annual Greenland Week Kayak Festival. The Lake Sammamish race (a Sound Rowers event) will be part of the Festival. Spectators are welcome, and the demos are open to the public. Note: Washington State Parks Discover Pass or $10/car day use fee required to enter the park.

SUP and Kayaks Rentals

Want to get involved? Here’s a directory of Northwest-based companies offering rentals.

Heading for the Emerald City from Alki. Photo courtesy of Rob Casey.


Kokopelli Kayak,

Bainbridge Island:

Exotic Aquatics,

Back of Beyond Explorations,


Cascade Canoe and Kayak,


Bellingham Bay Community Boating Center,


Tumalo Creek,



Kitsap/Olympic Peninsulas:

Olympic Outdoor Center,

Kingston Adventures,

Port Angeles:


Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe,

Portland Kayak Company,


Cascade Canoe and Kayak,

Ridgefield, Wash.:

Ridgefield Kayak, LLC,

San Juan Islands:

Crystal Seas Kayaking,


Alki Kayak Tours,

Northwest Paddle Surfers (various parks, Seattle and Kirkland),

Agua Verde,

Moss Bay Rowing Club,

Northwest Outdoor Center,

Mountains to Sound Outfitters,

Greenlake Boat House,

Urban Surf,

Washington Surf Academy,

Surf Ballard,

St. Helens:

Scappoose Bay Kayaking,


Foss Harbor Marina,

~Compiled by Hilary Meyerson

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