North American SUP Destination: Seattle, Washington
When I asked a few Seattle paddlers what they liked about living here, most commented that, yeah, they appreciate the rivers, lakes, surf and downwind runs—but they love the strong community most.
"For me the best thing is truly feeling like the stoke is for everyone," says Troy Nebecker, founder of Monster & Sea, a SUP-inspired clothing brand that donates a percentage of it's proceeds to cancer research each year. "From 27 people showing up in January for a downwind run from a single Facebook post—to year-round races where everyone is all smiles."
Local paddler Boe Zinter agrees.
"The weeknight races are some of the best I've heard about," Zinter says. "While other regions have bigger races, we have so many good afternoon gatherings (all year)."
In the summer there are races Monday through Thursday evenings supported by various local businesses. Despite rain and freezing temperatures, racers come out, rain or shine: "The Puget Sound is a place where you can hone your skill as a waterman all year," says Kaliko Kahoonei.
Despite the PNW's reputation for grey weather, it rarely snows in Seattle. Epic downwinders in winter and spring with winds up to 45 knots on both the Puget Sound and Lake Washington can bring out two dozen paddlers to a single location.
"It's not Hawaii but it beats the midwest and northeast for winter training," Ian McKerlich says.
Over a decade ago a few of us noticed large surf-able waves in Seattle from freighters and tugboats. A fast freighter matched with the right tides in the right location equals waist- to chest-high waves peeling for an hour, with rides longer than two minutes.
These tug waves are usually followed by a pub crawl, where we enjoy the many craft beers Seattle is known for. And celebrate in our tight-knit paddling community.
—Rob Casey writes about, photographs and participates in Seattle's SUP scene.
This article originally ran in our Summer 2014 Issue as part of the "Paddle Town Battle" feature.
But what makes a good place to live and paddle? Is it access to the water? Is it a nice place to live? Is it the people? We debated. There were so many questions to answer that we formed categories: proximity to types of paddling (ocean surfing, whitewater, flatwater, downwind, river surfing), community (races, shops, people), off-the-water amenities (breweries, eateries, yoga studios) and influence (what role this place has played in the sport). Then you spoke loudly and proudly. You told us why your town or city was the best place to be a standup paddler. In the end, the people of Puerto Rico rallied around beautiful and diverse Rincón to put it at the top of the bracket. We let the locals tell you why their town made our Top 10.