Kayak dash a windy one

Competitors battled Bowman Bay’s choppy waters and a stiff wind Sunday morning, trying to get orgainzed prior to the start of the Third Annual Deception Pass Kayak Dash.  - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Competitors battled Bowman Bay’s choppy waters and a stiff wind Sunday morning, trying to get orgainzed prior to the start of the Third Annual Deception Pass Kayak Dash.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

For open-water adventurers in small boats, Sunday morning was nearly ideal for the Third Annual Deception Pass Kayak Dash.

The dash is quickly becoming a highlight event of the winter paddling scene. Response from the recreational paddling community, as well as from serious competitive paddlers, is strong and every year the event draws racers from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

More than 150 hearty souls were in this year’s event, navigating kayaks ranging from single traditional to modern fiberglass models, doubles and triples, along with single and double outrigger models. One competitor even had a kayak that didn’t need to be paddled. The craft was leg-powered, just like a bicycle or a paddle-wheel boat.

Sponsored by the Outdoor Adventure Center that is based at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island, the dash began and ended at Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park.

In between, competitors passed under the Deception Pass Bridge and then to Strawberry Island. After rounding the island, paddlers ventured west through Canoe Pass and back under the bridge to Deception Island where they circumnavigated the island before returning to Bowman Bay.

In addition to battling the swirling waters and small whirlpools often found around the pass, this year paddlers also had to contend with sometimes stiff 15-to-20-knot winds that upended several kayaks in Bowman Bay before the 10 a.m. start of the race.

As always, rescue boats from the United States Coast Guard and the Island County Sheriff’s Office were on hand in case of a mishap, but there were no reported incidents of paddlers getting dumped into the chilly waters while completing the five-mile journey.

Warren Williamson said he one of the open water “veterans” and has competed in the event every year.

The Stanwood resident is also a traditionalist and his boat of choice was an Aleutian kayak.

“This is an original kayak from the Aleutian people in Alaska,” he said. “They have been using similar types of kayaks for about 5,000 years.”

Williamson said he has owned the kayak for about three years and it was originally covered with seal skins, and has no nails or screws in it.

“The frame is held together with wood pegs and lashings,” he said. “I replaced the seal skins with nylon because it is a little more durable and easier to repair.”

The kayak is called a Baidaka, which is a Russian word meaning “small boat.”

Jordan Malloch from Seattle said he has competed in kayak races before, but this year would be the first time he had his Kaka Ellia single-seat outrigger in an event.

“The water is pretty rough today, but it should be a fun time,” he said.

The start and the first leg of the dash ended up being the easy parts of the event.

Paddlers were able to catch the tail end of the flood tide heading into Deception Pass and the beginning of the ebb on the return without having to deal with significant opposing current.

However, on the return leg, paddlers did have to battle the stiff on-shore wind as they returned to the finish line at Bowman Bay. At least it wasn’t raining.

Kayakers are an adventuresome group of people and the majority of them said they were already looking forward to next year’s dash.

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