Kayak leg can be deceiving

(Last of three parts)

As paddles go, a five-mile jaunt on Bellingham Bay doesn’t sound difficult.

But racers who have paddled those miles in the last leg of the 82.5-mile relay that is Ski to Sea say it can be — thanks to the choppy waters and the high winds that can whip across the bay.

Which is why any preparation in the remaining four weeks before the May 27 race should include getting to know your boat, says Dawn Groves, a 51-year-old Bellingham kayaker who has done the leg twice.

“Conditions change rapidly out there on the bay,” Groves says.

And that can be daunting for people who borrow kayaks, or rent them, and haven’t taken the time to become familiar with the boats, or the course, prior to the race.

How else to prepare?

“There’s no preparing for paddling except paddling,” Groves says, recommending kayak workouts of a couple of times a week, an hour at a time.

Other places to paddle include Lake Padden and Lake Whatcom.

If you want to challenge yourself, go the weekly informal Wednesday races at 6 p.m. at Lake Whatcom. Meet at the boat launch at Bloedel Donovan Park.

Insiders say: Any water you bring for yourself, you should be able to get to without using your hands; CamelBaks, or something similar, would be ideal. Groves learned that her first year of racing, when the conditions were “really rough.” She couldn’t stop paddling to reach for the water bottle she had attached to her kayak’s deck for fear of toppling.