After four decades of organizing teams for Ski to Sea, finding sponsors and racing on water legs, David Scherrer can relax and just compete with Susan Bennerstrom.
Well, “just compete” isn’t quite accurate. The man-and-wife canoe team is eager to race well enough to help Hard CorePhysio repeat as champion in the Whatcom County Mixed Division.
“It’s a great group of people,” said David, who joined the CorePhysio-sponsored team last year along with Susan and were delighted to emerge as part of a championship effort. “They’re a lot of fun.”
Since the modern race began in spring 1973, very few people can claim more Ski to Sea experience than Scherrer, an outdoors lover who moved to Whatcom County in the fall of that year to study environmental photography at Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment.
“A close friend, Alex Alexander, led me to compete with him in my first Ski to Sea race, in 1975 or 1976, for the Western Library team,” he said. “Since then, I’ve missed competing in only two or three races.”
Scherrer, who turns 67 on May 16, did the canoe leg on the Nooksack River for many years until switching to the kayak leg in the 1990s after taking up surf-ski kayaking.
The affable photographer – who has a deep love of the water – has helped his teams win well over a dozen titles in various divisions.
Along the way, he has enjoyed participating with and/or rooting for sons Ben, 37, and Peter, 35, on other teams while daughter Katy – a former Sehome High tennis standout who turns 30 on May 22 – cheered them all on.
Before meeting Scherrer 15 years ago, Bennerstrom had competed for several years in canoe on her Aunt Janie’s family team. She is a well-known local painter.
“Susan has been my canoeing partner since the 2005 race,” Scherrer said.
Scherrer has taken his love of surf-skiing to the highest possible level in both Masters (50 and older) and Golden Masters (60 and older) competition.
In 2003, at age 52, he won the overall Masters national surf-ski title while competing on San Francisco Bay in an intense race that takes competitors into sometimes tough seas beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. He has since finished first or second several times in Golden Masters and has made numerous surf-ski friends, since, as he notes, “Bellingham has the highest population of surf-skiers in the country.”
That is why you can see so many of them during weekends on Bellingham Bay. They are the ones in surf-ski kayaks –rowing shells that do not have oars but rather use paddles and foot-pedals for steering.
Scherrer cherishes many memories of good results in Ski to Sea. One of his highlights occurred when he and son Ben helped the Binyon Vision Center team take the Whatcom County Open Division title away from perennial power Beavers Tree Service.
As a cyclist, Ben – who ran his first Boston Marathon last month – was talented enough to participate in the Olympic Training program in Colorado Springs around the turn of the century.
Scherrer also credits his brother, Bellingham’s Ted Scherrer, for his part in stoking David's enthusiasm for competitive canoeing after he began to compete every year in Ski to Sea.