Gateway: Living

Inaugural SUP in the Harbor event unites community, brings awareness for funding for schools

Some of the 103 stand-up paddlers ready to follow the Dragon Boat on a mile-long loop along the waterfront starting at Jersich Dock.
Some of the 103 stand-up paddlers ready to follow the Dragon Boat on a mile-long loop along the waterfront starting at Jersich Dock. Special to the Gateway

Saturday started grungy, chilly, and not overly inviting for the very first SUP in the Harbor event at Skansie Brothers Park. Then it became sunny, warm, almost no breeze, and not a chance of rain as kids, parents and community members rallied for the first annual stand-up paddleboard event hosted by Stand Up for Peninsula Schools.

“We wanted SUP in the Harbor to be a community-wide celebration of our schools,” explained Deborah Krishnadasan, event chair. “We soon realized the abbreviation of our committee name, SUP, also was the abbreviation for stand-up paddleboarding. With all the waters of our area, we thought a stand-up paddleboard event for all ages and skills would be a perfect combination.”

The highlight of the day was a world record attempt at the longest stand-up paddleboard parade. The current record is 390 paddleboarders, set in the UK in 2016. The parade was led by Gig Harbor’s Dragon Boat team of 20 paddlers, leading 103 stand-up paddlers on a mile-long loop along the waterfront starting at Jersich Dock.

Purdy Elementary third-grader Sydney Elton said, “There were so many people on paddleboards. I can’t believe how big it was. It was amazing!”

Krishnadasan’s son, Alec, exclaimed, “The paddleboard parade was an amazing idea and I like how the Dragon Boat led the parade.”

Peninsula School District Superintendent Rob Manahan and Jim Borgen were emcees for the event. Ms. West Sound 2017, Gig Harbor High School graduate Anikka Abbott, opened the day with a beautiful performance of the national anthem. Along with water fun, attendees enjoyed craft booths, live music by National Music Society’s Dixie Duster’s Dixieland Band, Harbor Ridge Middle School students, and solo performances by Ainsley Costello and Peninsula High School student Ava Adams.

GHHS senior and SUP committee member Keir Adamson thought the event met its goal of creating a community celebration for our schools.

“Today was a good opportunity for the community to come together,” he said. “There were all sorts of people, parents, kids and other community members showing their love for Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula. They showed they are here for our schools.”

SUP is a nonprofit organization promoting local funding for Peninsula schools and helps communicate the funding impacts on students, schools and community.

“Our goal is to communicate to our community the great things that are going on in our schools and how we can work together to ensure our schools are a reflection of our great community,” committee member Paige Schulte said.

PHS sophomore Maverick Esser felt it was “good to see a bonding of our community.” To PHS freshman Audrey Krishnadasan, “It was a really fun day and I’m so glad lots of people came out to support our schools.”

In their remarks, Manahan and Borgen explained that the PSD graduation rate continues to rise year after year. Gig Harbor High School is ranked in the top 6 percent of Washington state high schools and the district is ranked in the top 14 percent of state school districts on the State Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Borgen noted while there are great things going in our schools, there are needs. Of PSD schools, 12 of the 15, including additions and modernizations, will be more than 30 years old by 2025. PSD also has limited classroom space thanks to increased enrollment and the district’s need to comply with the state’s enhanced funding requirement of lower class sizes for kindergarten through third grade. By 2020, the state is requiring the average K-3 class size of 17, down from PSD’s current average of 20. Limited space thus requires the district to displace specialist classroom space such as science.

Currently, five of the eight elementary schools offer science on mobile carts.

That aside, Purdy kindergartener Cash Keefe, “liked playing with all my friends and getting my face painted,” and pre-kindergartener Chelsea Schulte “liked standing up on the paddleboard.”

The event included paddleboard relay races in which paddlers teamed up in twos, paddled from Skansie Netshed to the end of Jersich Dock, then raced back to the Netshed finish line. Grand winners were Joe Bursar and Ian Mackie (2 minutes, 16 seconds); Gold winners, Tery Boeholt and Ann Boeholt (2:30), Silver winners, Jennifer Butler and Jeannine Mackie (2:35) and Bronze winners, Gilliand Esser and Kel Sonnen (2:37). Winners received medals and gift cards donated by El Pueblito Restaurant, Harbor General Store, Java and Clay and Target.

For Harbor Ridge Middle School eighth-grader Kylan Sonnen, “It was a good community project. Everyone did have a fun time. I enjoyed the setups and booths. Overall, it was a great time and a good way to support our schools.”

“It was great being able to help our schools,” PHS senior Burke Griffin said. “Not only helping me and my peers for the next few years, but also knowing that it will benefit future PSD students even more. I loved being able to support a school district that has helped me and given me opportunities in the classroom and on the football field, and I know there are only better things to come.”

To learn more about the huge number of people, businesses and organizations making this event possible, visit I wish I had space to list and thank them all for their generosity.

“While we fell short of the world record, we were pleased with the turnout and energy and are hopeful we’ll break it next year,” Krishnadasan said.

And I’ll be there to cheer you on!

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at