Tips for SUPs at the Deception Pass Dash

A few years ago, the organizers of the Deception Pass Dash weren't sure if SUPs could compete in the race. So some of the strongest local racers such as Beau Whitehead came out for a test run.  In that first year, the SUPs came in last during the race.  As SUP has progressed both as a sport and in board design, racers have been coming in over the finish line next to sea kayaks and even OC-1's.

Tips on Succeeding at the Dash on a SUP:

- Know the water.  Paddle there often, not just for the race.  It's not your usual place. Learning how eddies work to your advantage will give you a edge on other paddlers.  Eddy current goes upstream, take advantage!  Know how to ferry across current? How's your rough water skills? Paddling back out, use the main flow of current for speed, stay away from edges and eddies.

- Beware of the Starting Line.  150+ racers of all types of craft makes serious whitewater.

- Know the course and paddle it a few times before the race in same or similar conditions.  Doing this will teach you which route to take if you don't make it upstream before the ebb starts.  You'll learn where the kelp beds are, where the beneficial eddies are, etc.

- Bring the appropriate gear.  Unlimited boards are probably the best craft as you're paddling against 17' sea kayaks, 18' OC's, and 21' surf ski's. Longer is faster.  But you also want stability. Your narrow downwind board will be frustrating when boils lift you up and eddy lines try to flip you.

Kelp. In previous years SUPs have complained of getting caught in kelp.  Two things - don't go into a kelp bed, and if you do make sure you have a weed or rubber fin. If you get stuck, step on the nose of your board and paddle out forward.

Wind. The SE wind is common at the pass.  It follows Saratoga Passage and funnels like a wind tunnel through the pass. If you are going towards Strawberry from Deception Island, have good tactics for paddling upwind.  Once the ebb kicks in, the SE will speed up the flow of the outgoing (ebb) current. Drafting is a good idea here. Check regs to see if you can draft other watercraft.

- Dress right.  Every year I see sea kayakers in full combat coastal paddling gear.  This isn't a coastal tour but a race where after your first 1/4 mile you're huffing and puffing and are getting pretty hot.  My friend Bob Smith finished the race 3 years ago on a SUP shirtless. It was 35F.  But he was cooking.  Not saying go shirtless but think of it as a race not a tour.

- Safety gear. SUPs love to minimalist especially on flat water races.  This isn't flat water even if it's a calm day. The dynamic waters of the Pass will pull and tug you around, be ready to fall in and get back back on immediately.  Wear a leash to stay attached.  A vest style pfd will keep you from sinking down too far thus speeding your recovery back on the board.

Need More Info? I'm available for on-water consulting sessions this week.

Here's a map of the race course I made for a student.  The Route suggestions are for main and alternative routes for going under the bridge.  Main route will be A, but B & C may be required if the ebb kicks in early or the SE wind is a problem.  E = Eddies (white lined areas).

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