Paddlers race around Gig Harbor in annual event to highlight water sport

Tacoma News TribuneApril 5, 2014 

Anyone who manages to get to her feet on a stand-up paddleboard usually feels a sense of accomplishment somewhat out of proportion to the mere act of not falling down.

Now consider not just standing up, but racing: Racing other paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists. Racing in 46-degree water on a 50-degree day in a soggy spring mist while dodging private boats, buoys, waves and other paddlers’ wakes.

On Saturday, about 115 competitors made it look not just easy, but fun, during the Gig Harbor Paddlers Cup & Expo.

It’s not easy. It is really fun.

“I needed to use more leg power. I got pretty tired,” said Trisha Martinson, 12, who raced in a training kayak because she’s been paddling for just about a month. “Toward the end, all I could think about was how much farther I had to go."

She was cold, tired, barefoot, wet and still standing in the rain. What does she like about paddling? “I think I like everything about it,” she said.

The event is in its third year and drew paddlers from as far as Canada, Oregon and Idaho, said lead organizer Louise Tieman. She and a handful of other dedicated volunteers put the event together. The entry fee is nominal — between $15 and $30 — because the goal is to raise the profile of paddling.

“Gig Harbor has grown from being a fishing village to a waterfront recreational area,” she said. “We’re becoming part of the waterfront history.”

The Gig Harbor Kayak and Canoe Racing Team features heavily in the event, which continues on Sunday. The team has about 40 members and has won two consecutive national championships.

“We should have an Olympian or two in Rio in 2016,” said Alan Anderson, the team’s head coach.

Dozens of spectators lined the dock off Skansie Park to cheer on the paddlers as they glided along the course.

“This is a nice way to shop for a stand-up paddleboard,” one woman observed, noting the wide variety used by the racers.

“You’ll have to shop for muscles to go with it,” her friend responded.

The Gig Harbor team practices six days a week, Tieman said. The paddlers work incredibly hard. Her son, Haydon, strained his shoulder recently and has been out of the water and in physical therapy for five weeks. On Saturday, as he cruised in after finishing a race, Tieman checked in.

“How’s your shoulder?” she asked.

“I need a nap,” her son replied. 

His mother pressed. “I want to know: Pain, or no pain?”

Haydon, 16, smiled and paddled away.

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