Ski to Sea

Competitors in this leg are the only Ski to Sea athletes that get to ring the bell

Aeromech kayaker Sean Rice approaches the beach at Fairhaven Marine Park after completing the kayak leg of the 2015 Ski to Sea.
Aeromech kayaker Sean Rice approaches the beach at Fairhaven Marine Park after completing the kayak leg of the 2015 Ski to Sea. For The Bellingham Herald


Year leg added to the race: 1990 (first added as an option to sailing for two years before it became the only option until 2005, when outrigger canoe was added).

Where: Bellingham Bay from Squalicum Harbor to Marine Park.

Course length: About five miles.

Approximate time to complete: 40 minutes for top finishers, around an hour for everybody else. The average time in 2017 was 1 hour, 5 minutes, 45 seconds and the the first finisher completed the leg at 1:29 p.m.

Course description: On a normal race day, the finish line is only a zigzag across Bellingham Bay, but afternoon winds may force the race committee to shorten or cancel the leg for safety reasons. The course is set to go from Squalicum Harbor to the outfall buoy, then back to marker 1 at the log boom. It then heads southwest close to Boulevard Park around four other markers, before competitors beach their kayaks at Marine Park, run up the beach and ring the bell.

Pre-race meeting: 11:45 a.m. at Zuanich Point Park.

2020 KA map (2)

Recommended departure time from Bellingham: 10:45 a.m.

Timing chip: The kayaker will receive the chip from the cyclocross biker, swipe the chip to record the finish time of the cyclocross leg, kayak across Bellingham Bay, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the kayak leg and ring the bell. The kayaker is responsible for swiping the chip twice (once at the start and once at the finish of the leg). The kayaker should also return the timing chip to a Ski to Sea volunteer at the finish line. Failure to return the chip could result in the team being charged to replace it.


The race may be seen from Zuanich Point Park, the Bellwether development, Bellingham Cruise Terminal, Boulevard Park or Marine Park. To avoid the parking crunch around Fairhaven, arrive early or ride a bike. Whatcom Transportation Authority is offering extra buses on Route 14, allowing people to park at Western Washington University’s Lot C. Buses will run every 15 minutes.

Best place to watch the leg: Is there a better place than near the finish line in Fairhaven? Watch competitors finish and reunite with their teams and take in the awards celebration before heading to the beer garden.

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Brandon Nelson, left, of team Beavers Tree Service is joined by his teammate Michael Lee as he crosses the finish line in first place at 2016 Ski to Seaat Marine Park in Bellingham. Evan Abell


▪ Racers can take kayaks to the park on Saturday, May 28, and Boy Scouts will watch them overnight.

▪ By this time of day you won’t be dealing with changing weather, so clothing choices should be easier. Remember it is likely to be breezy on Bellingham Bay, and there could be splashes from waves.

▪ Any water that kayakers bring should be easy to access without using your hands; CamelBaks, or something similar, would be ideal.

▪ Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn at all times during the leg.

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Kayaker Heather Nelson takes off in the kayak leg of the 2016 Ski to Sea Race at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

2017 top finishers

Men: Austin Kieffer (Boomer's Drive-In) 38:44

Women: Sally Wallick (Jack's Bicycle Center) 44:38

Key numbers

2 p.m.: Time afternoon winds tend to kick up on Bellingham Bay.

16: Straight years the Boundary Bay Brewery Women’s Team claimed the Competitive Women’s Division title, though the Whatcom County Women Division’s Kulshan Cycles had the fastest time by a women’s team in 2016. The Whatcom County Women’s Division’s Brandon Nelson Partners also had the fastest time by an all-women’s team in 2017, though Jack’s Bicycle Center replaced Boundary Bay as the top Competitive Women’s Division team.

5:58:54: The overall winning time turned in by defending champion Boomer’s Drive-In in 2017.