Issaquah hosts third annual Northwest Paddling Festival

April 23, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

For a single day in May, Lake Sammamish will become the elite destination for the region’s paddle-sports enthusiasts when it hosts the third annual Northwest Paddling Festival.

Experienced kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders will descend on Issaquah to celebrate all-things paddle sports, with a daylong festival May 11.

The event will feature paddling industry vendors, product demonstrations, kayak tours, stand-up paddleboarding lessons and a 6-mile paddle-craft race.

Certified guides and experts will be on hand to introduce novices to the world of paddle sports through 45-minute kayak tours or a 30-minute stand-up paddleboarding class.

“What we’re trying to do is make an experience for new paddlers coming in,” said Paul Riek, one of the festival’s co-founders.

Cautious attendees who want to try stand-up paddleboarding, but are hesitant to get out on the water, will appreciate the dry-land paddleboard simulators that will offer the feel of the real thing, Riek said.

“Everyone wants to try it, but the biggest fear is no one wants to end up in the water in front of a 1,000 people,” he said. “It gives people the opportunity to learn to stand-up paddle without the risk of getting wet, and once they’re comfortable with that, we can put them in the water.”

Access to the festival and vendors is free, though there is a $10 daily parking fee for the state park. Guided tours and paddle-sports demonstrations are available for a $5 registration fee that covers the cost of insurance, Riek said.

The festival also includes the Northwest Paddling Challenge, a 6-mile race for kayakers and paddleboarders beginning at 10:30 a.m. A shorter 2-mile race takes place at 12:30 p.m.

Paddle sports are quite popular in the Pacific Northwest, with stand-up paddleboarding, in particular, gaining notoriety within the past eight years, Riek said.

“As far as paddle sports, well kayaking, this is kind of the kayaking epicenter of the world. This is actually where the industry was created,” he said. “And, stand-up paddleboarding has just been growing exponentially.”

Last year’s event attracted about 2,500 spectators, a number the festival organizers hope to improve on, though attendance is largely based on the day’s weather.


If you go

Northwest Paddling Festival

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 11
  • Lake Sammamish State Park
  • 2000 N.W. Sammamish State Park
  • Participants are encouraged to register for the race on the website. Racers who register before May 1 will receive a commemorative T-shirt.
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