By SERINE PAGE
Kayakers and water-craft enthusiasts of all skill levels will paddle up the Kitsap Peninsula during the sixth annual Paddle Kitsap on Aug. 10-11. And they want you to join them.
This year’s route is new and goes from Silverdale to Poulsbo along the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail. The trail used to be 35 miles and extended from Poulsbo to Port Gamble. This year’s trip is shorter — 20 miles — but takes two full days with an overnight stay at Illahee State Park in East Bremerton.
“We’re excited because we’ve changed the route a bit for this year,” said Forrest Wells, manager of www.kayakproshop.com and Olympics Outdoors Center. “We’ve made it shorter for folks who may have not done this paddle before.”
The paddle begins at Dyes Inlet and ends in Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay.
According to the Paddle Kitsap website, paddlers of all ages are welcome: “Paddle Kitsap is for all levels of paddlers. You do not have to be an expert to paddle this course. It is fully supported so you can paddle a little or all of it depending on your ability and how you are feeling. Most of the course does not leave the shoreline and the open water crossings are short in duration. What is for sure is that there will be excellent scenery, glimpses of wildlife, and great friendships.”
In 2009, the event was voted the “Best Paddling Event of the Year” by Johnson Outdoors. The cost of the event is $189 for adults and $125 for youth for the full two days. For the one-day option, the cost is $99 for adults and $65 for youth. The price does not include kayak rental or sales tax, but does include food and shuttles to and from launch sites.
The event is open to any human-powered watercraft, including standup paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. Prior experience is not needed.
Participants can paddle with the group or on their own. It is recommended that participants bring their own tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag, according to Olympic Outdoors Center. Family members may also bring a camper to the site for the overnight stay.
“This trip is so fun my family and friends come from Utah, Idaho and Seattle to join me,” Olympic Outdoor Center program director Spring Courtright wrote. “My mother, who is a 66-year-old local, also joins every Paddle Kitsap trip.”
Safety boaters will be out on the water to assist paddlers.
“One of the rewarding parts about the event in the past has been helping people accomplish a goal they set out to check off their list,” Wells said. “For me, it’s just about helping folks make that next step from recreational paddler to more of an enthusiast.”
Participants should be mindful that the event is not a race and is meant to be relaxing, Wells said. To keep things in order, an experienced paddle guide will take the lead and one will trail the group. Floaters will also be available in the middle of the group to assist those with questions.
“We’re not out to set any records for how fast we complete the event,” Wells said. “It’s just about enjoying the environment and getting out and enjoying the people you’re paddling with.”
Participants can expect to spend between four and six hours on the water each day, Wells said. There will be breaks before and after lunch. Participants can choose to end their trip any time there is a break.
For those who aren’t regular paddlers, it might take some time to get used to sitting in the kayaking position, so Wells recommends spending time before the event sitting in the watercraft.
“It’s always good to spend some time in the boat just getting your body used to it,” he said.
The number of participants generally varies year to year, depending on the weather. Wells said the group number has reached more than 100 people when the weather is good. At press time, the weather was expected to be mid-to-high 70s and partly cloudy.
“Once everybody’s out on the water, the energy’s always real positive,” he said. “We’re all kinda traveling like a big pod of orcas.”
Partial proceeds from the event will be donated to the North Kitsap Trails Association, which preserves and protects water access in North Kitsap. The association created the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail, a designated 238-mile water trail along the Hood Canal and Puget Sound. The trail has 90 public access points, according to Olympic Outdoors Center.
Additionally, the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail has been added as a segment of the Cascadia Marine Trail, which is a National Scenic Trail.
According to the Washington Water Trails Association, paddling-related activities contribute almost $1.7 million to the Kitsap County economy yearly. Paddle Kitsap offers waivers for those who cannot afford the full price of the event. Go to www.paddlekitsap.com.
— Seraine Page is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter, a Sound Publishing newspaper. Contact her at email@example.com.