Hello Seattle! It has been years since I have been to the Pacific Northwest and I was really looking forward to our trip out for the Northwest Paddling Festival. This is apparently the largest even of its kind in the PNW. This was my first time out for the event, so I will have to take their word for it. What I do know is that it’s a great event that is FREE to the public (minus the fee you pay to actually visit the park, $10.00 for the day) and you have the opportunity to try out a ton of brands/styles of paddles and watercraft, from canoes and kayaks to SUP’s, to these wild looking Cruiser Crafts.
We arrived in Washington on a Wednesday afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to set up and get ready for the festival on Thursday. Luke had a meeting early Thursday morning, so I took the opportunity to go for a run and explore the area near our hotel in Kent, Washington. The Green River Trail was about three miles away, so I made my way there for some scenic views. If you are not familiar with this area, it is pretty industrial/commercial and the way to the river was lacking in scenic vistas. Regardless, I enjoy exploring new areas.
Our next stop of the day was Lake Sammamish, located just east of Seattle, for the event set up. Coming from Tuck Fest, I was expecting a solid five or six hours of work involved in getting set up, but less than three hours later, we were finished. It’s amazing what I can get accomplished when my little people are not hanging off of me. We finished the day off with some good food, yummy beer and great company, with our friend Jim, at the Issaquah Brew House. They have a huge variety of Rogue beer, which is brewed just south of the border in Oregon. Have I told you how much I love good micro brews and craft beer? This seemed to be THE place to be for post set up gatherings. Our friend Jim, a local to the Seattle area and sales rep for a variety of water and snow sports seemed to know most of the other patrons. I love the small and tight knit communities of outdoor enthusiasts.
Friday morning we awoke to heavy winds. Oh yeah, we had just set up TWO tents the day before. It wasn’t looking good. There were seconds of silence followed by a number of choice words as we pulled into the parking lot to check on our booth space. Both of our tents were broken and battered! We were not the only ones, either. There were a number of tents that had blown over that night and a few paddleboards and a tent floating in the lake. I was sent out for supplies and Luke set to work with our friend Ben and a few neighborly vendors. By the time I got back there, they had used their MacGyver tricks (remember that show?) to repair one of the tents into working order. Well done, fellas!
After the excitement of the morning, the rest of the day was pretty mellow. We met a lot of people and got quite a few of them on our paddleboard simulator. This was Luke’s own invention and allows people get a feel and learn the basics of balancing on a board, without the risk of getting wet. The board is balanced on top of the simulator and is a lot of fun to play around on. It is more difficult than standing on a board on the water, but that makes it an even better training tool. Friday evening, Thule sponsored a dinner for vendors and volunteers. It’s nice to have a chance to sit down and chat with those people who work beside you all weekend in neighboring booths, but we are all too busy to chat. There was a warm, cozy fire burning and ice cold beer. After a day of rain and cold wind, it was a perfect treat.
Saturday brought the sun shine and a lot more people. It was so awesome to see so many people trying out all the different watercraft. There were demos going on all day and also a couple of races, a two miler and a six miler. I decided to race in the six mile race. I ended up winning first in my class, which was a total surprise to me because I felt pretty horrible and didn’t paddle well. Racing is one of those things that I have to really work at…ummm…obviously, doesn’t everyone? I am referring to the physical aspect of it, but more to the mental. I get super pre race jitters, like Elvis leg jitters. It’s not pretty. I’m still super new to this whole racing and competition scene, so maybe it will get better? After the race, I got back to work and spent the rest of the day at the booth talking to everyone that stopped by. All the sponsors, vendors, ad everyone that attended despite the rain helped make the weekend a success. I met many new, wonderful people and I am definitely looking forward to heading back next year.