Anyone who manages to get to their feet on a stand-up paddleboard usually feels a sense of accomplishment somewhat out of proportion to the mere act of not falling down.
Now consider standing up and racing other paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists. And doing so in 46-degree water on a 50-degree day in a soggy spring mist while dodging private boats, buoys, waves and other paddlers’ wakes.
About 115 competitors made it look easy and fun on Saturday during the first of the two-day Gig Harbor Paddlers Cup & Expo.
“I needed to use more leg power,” said Trisha Martinson, 12, who raced in a training kayak because she’s been paddling for just about a month. “I got pretty tired. “Toward the end, all I could think about was how much farther I had to go.”
Martinson was cold, tired, barefoot, wet and still standing in the rain.
What does she like about paddling?
“I think I like everything about it,” she said.
The event is in its third year and drew paddlers from as far as Canada, Oregon and Idaho, lead organizer Louise Tieman said. She and a handful of other volunteers put the event together. The entry fee is between $15 and $30, and the goal is to raise the profile of paddling.
“Gig Harbor has grown from being a fishing village to a waterfront recreational area,” Tieman said. “We’re becoming part of the waterfront history.”
The Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team was featured heavily in the event. It had about 40 members and has won two consecutive national championships.
“We should have an Olympian or two in Rio in 2016,” said Alan Anderson, the team’s head coach.
Dozens of spectators lined the dock off Skansie Brothers Park to cheer on the paddlers as they glided along the course.
“This is a nice way to shop for a stand-up paddleboard,” one woman observed, noting the wide variety the racers used.
“You’ll have to shop for muscles to go with it,” her friend responded.
The Gig Harbor team practices six days a week, Tieman said. Her son, Haydon, strained his shoulder recently and has been out of the water and in physical therapy for five weeks.
On Saturday, as he cruised in after he finished a race, Tieman checked in.
“How’s your shoulder?” she asked.
“I need a nap,” her son replied.
His mother pressed. “I want to know: Pain, or no pain?”
Haydon, 16, smiled and paddled away.