(Photo courtesy Paul Riek)
In addition to Saturday’s Morgan Junction Community Festival, there’s another festival in West Seattle this weekend, and it’s a first-time event. Maybe you’ve seen the banner hanging over the entrance to Jack Block Park (a public park on Port of Seattle land off Harbor Avenue SW) – it went up a few days ago, and it’s your invitation to the Northwest Paddling Festival this Saturday and Sunday (June 25-26).
The festival is not just for the hardcore kayaker/stand-up paddleboarder. If you’ve been thinking about trying the sport – or if you prefer to be a spectator – it’s for you too. An Olympic-medalist kayaker will even be on hand. The marine-life protectors of Seal Sitters will too.
And it will kick off with a historic moment: The beach at Jack Block Park is being reopened to the public, in a ceremony on the festival’s eve.
We spoke Monday afternoon with two of the organizers, Paul Riek from Sea Kayaker Magazine and Rob Stowell from West Seattle’s Mountain to Sound Outfitters, to get more details on what you’ll see if you go:
If you go for no other reason but to enjoy a West Seattle festival in an area where you have never been to one before – this is it. There will be things to do and see on water and on land – on the newly opened beach at Jack Block Park, and along the walkways. (Here’s a map of the festival grounds.)
Paul says, “A lot of the major players in the sea kayaking industry” will be there, from near and far – more than 30 exhibitors are listed on the official website. Some are located as close by as West Seattle (Easy Rider Kayaks‘ owners live here and have their plant in Southcenter) – and then, he says, there’s a manufacturer all the way from Estonia! (Yes, as in Eastern Europe.)
Believe it or not, it’s the only “on the water” event of its kind, so far as Paul knows.
The festival has been in the works for two years. Why Jack Block Park instead of, say, Alki? Paul is blunt: “The port is commerce-friendly” and city requirements for this kind of event wouldn’t have been as “friendly.”
If you are not particularly interested in trying kayaking or paddleboarding, what’s there to do? we ask. You can be a spectator, too, we are assured – with on-water demonstrations, different types of rolls and self-rescuing, plus a 4-mile race on Saturday – here’s more on that. (But for beach access and seminars, you need to buy tickets – they’re available online. The list of scheduled presenters is here.)
Food will be available – a barbecue stand, for one, and also West Seattle Produce will be on hand. And no matter what, you won’t go thirsty – Seattle-based Outdoor Research is sponsoring a FREE coffee bar 7 am-noon, and then in the afternoon, Hansen Soda is offering free samples from the same spot.
Even for the not-free aspects of the festival, Rob says, “it’s an incredibly inexpensive way to get introduced to the sport, to take classes … You can take a basic class for… less than taking a tour … Try out the boats, get expert opinions, I really encourage those who are just getting into it,” to come on down. (Here’s information on the instruction that will be offered.)
All ages, families, retirees … they insist everybody can give it a try. “Doesn’t matter if you are out of shape, if you can get down there and walk around,” you’re ready.
But it’s fun to see experts, too. Like that Olympic medalist, Greg Barton – two golds and two bronzes.
P.S. A bit of trivia – we wondered “why Seattle?” as a paddling hotbed, aside from the obvious “lots of water.” Paul explains that the sea-kayaking industry has serious roots here, drawing unemployed Boeing engineers back in the “will the last person to leave, please turn out the lights?” days; they in turn innovated, and formed their own companies.