Seattle is surrounded by water. But if you’ve never held a paddle or looked at a tide chart, the idea of getting out in a kayak, canoe or SUP (stand-up paddleboard) can be overwhelming.
We turned to Linda Hanlon, executive director of the Washington Water Trails Association, for some beginner tips. The WWTA is the group behind the Cascadia Marine Trail, a network of 66 campsites and 160 day-use sites around Western Washington.
Q: If I’m a total newbie, how can I learn how to paddle in Seattle?
Hanlon: Spending time on area waterways is something nearly everyone can do. WWTA’s website has a list of paddling clubs, and you can search “rental kayak (or SUP) + town near you,” and you’ll find companies that can help you get out there.
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Q: What gear and safety knowledge do I need before venturing out on my own? Is a dry suit required?
Hanlon: Safety gear starts with a PFD (personal flotation device) and may include a paddle float and pump. The state parks website has a more extensive list of gear and other considerations.
I would always advise dry suits with cold water … (but) it really depends on where you are, and knowing the conditions. When you’re new, you want to stay close to shore. You have to clearly understand weather, tides and currents. You don’t have to be able to roll your boat, but you should stay with your boat. That’s the way people will find you.
Q: What’s your favorite local paddling destination?
Hanlon: I enjoy Lake Union because it is an active and working lakeshore. You get a waterline view of houseboat living, dry dock ship repair, the underworkings of the drawbridges, and boat-up access to a number of restaurants. Several kayak/SUP rental locations are on the lake, including Northwest Outdoor Center, Aqua Verde Paddling, Moss Bay, Urban Surf and popSUP. [Editor’s note: Other outfitters in the city include the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center, UW Waterfront Activities Center and the Greenlake Boathouse.]