Whatcom County perfect for sport that marries surfing, kayaking

Kerstin Nash paddleboards with her labrador retriever Cava in 2013 at Marine Park in Bellingham..
Kerstin Nash paddleboards with her labrador retriever Cava in 2013 at Marine Park in Bellingham.. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP’ing as it’s known in the Pacific Northwest, is a combination of surfing and kayaking without requiring the athleticism to do either.

In fact, its the fastest growing water sport in the world due to its accessibility and how easy it is to get started. It’s also a full-body workout that improves core strength, cardio, balance and flexibility all without much effort.

“It doesn’t take a lot of athletic ability,” D.J. Johnson of Kite Paddle Surf in Bellingham said. “Beginners will find their feet and ankles sore though. It challenges you just enough.”

The only equipment needed to paddleboard is a board, paddle and a life jacket, which is required by law. During lessons at Kite Paddle Surf, a leash is tethered to a beginners’ ankle so that the board doesn’t float away while learning.

However, Johnson said the most difficulty a newbie usually has is the transition from kneeling on the board to standing up.

“Most people can safely kneel on the board fairly quickly,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable in the water but once they orient themselves they find out it’s a very fun sport.”


For more serious boarders, Kite Paddle Surf offers individual boards with prices ranging from $700 to $1600 and paddles from $95 to $370.

They also have complete packages of a board, paddle and a bag for $800. The bag is used for storage and transport since road debris and too much sun can wear the board down.

Best locations

Calm water is best for new paddleboarders so Lake Padden is a good place to start. Laramie State Park and Lake Whatcom are also prime paddleboarding locations because they are protected from the wind.

Johnson said on nice days when the water by the harbor is “like glass” that rental interest increases. More experienced boarders, or downwinders, go out during strong storms and ride waves created by winds from the south, according to Johnson.