Deception Pass Dash wet, windy

A small but energetic gathering of spectators, 78 kayaks of various sizes with up to three-person crews, chase boats as a safety precaution along with a jet ski, and even a seal stopped by to see what all the excitement was about.

All were on hand Sunday morning as the second-annual Deception Pass Dash kayak race kicked off at 9:45 a.m.

The weather in a word was raw featuring mixed rain and snow along with a stiff wind as the paddlers made their way through the treacherous waters beneath the Deception Pass bridge, but that only added to the excitement and the challenge.

That’s what kayaking in the Pacific Northwest in early December is all about.

The inclement weather may have been the reason for 27 kayakers opting not to enter the race.

Organized by Seattle Raft and Kayak, the five-mile event beginning and ending at Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park, was founded in 2006 as an opportunity for any kayaker with decent open-water paddling skills to challenge themselves in the tidal currents of Deception Pass.

And a challenge it was on Sunday.

Race winner Don Kiesling, a co-founder of the event along with Will Robbens, said the course was a difficult one this time, but still was a lot of fun.

“The current picked up earlier than we anticipated it would so we were really fighting the current out there,” he said. “In addition,

all the way down through the pass, there was a headwind we had to contend with.”

Kiesling, a veteran competitor who won last year’s race and is also the 2007 Wavechaser Surfski champion, finished the 2007 Deception Pass Dash in a time of 53 minutes and 23 seconds in his Epic V10L kayak.

Finishing fourth overall and first on the outrigger class was Alan Goto from Kirkland.

“I’m originally from Honolulu, but I’m now living in Kirkland,” he said, so it stood to reason his watercraft was a Hurricane, manufactured in Hawaii.

Propelled by a single paddle like a canoe with the outrigger on the kayak’s right side, the vessel and paddler were definitely tested by the current and wind during the race.

“It was fun and it’s sort of easy to win with something nobody else does,” Goto said with a smile.

Finishing in eighth place and first in the women’s division in a time of 63:19 was Tracy Landboe from Seattle.

Spectators came from all over to stand on the bluffs on the north side of the bridge to watch the kayaks go by while others remained at the launch site on Bowman Bay.

Among the group on the bluffs was Carolyn Barton from Kalispell, Mont., and her granddaughter, Zoe, from Bellingham.

“We’re just up visiting in Bellingham and came out to watch my husband, Lanny, race,” Carolyn Barton said.

Zoe Barton was excited to watch her grandfather, and her cheers of “Go Grandpa,” could be heard echoing between the bluffs underneath the bridge as he paused a moment to wave before paddling by.

Another spectator was Linda Sanford from Anacortes who said she paddles with a lot of the people in the race.

“I have a wrist injury right now but we can get that corrected and then I’ll be back in the boat,” she said.

Following the race, Seattle Raft and Kayak hosted a barbecue for race participants, volunteers and guests at Bowman Bay and despite the inclement weather and a

campfire necessary to keep warm, everyone agreed they would be back next year.

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