Aquatic Invasive Species Boat Inspections – Open House

The Aquatic Invasive Species boat inspection “Open House” at the Sudden Valley Marina will be held on Saturday, April 15th, from 9 am to 3 pm.  This is a GREAT opportunity for kayakers, canoeists, and other boaters to bring their watercraft to a central location for the inspection and to get your 2017 sticker.

Remember that if you plan on using your craft on Lakes Whatcom and Samish, you MUST have a valid sticker affixed to your boat; and this applies to motor boats, kayaks, and canoes.  You will need to take the on-line class and successfully pass the short test BEFORE you bring your boat to be inspected.

For additional information, go to  For kayakers, the $10 fee is waived by passing the test and can be applied to multiple kayaks.

Credit the Bellingham/Whatcom County Aquatic Invasive Species Program

Credit the Bellingham/Whatcom County Aquatic Invasive Species Program

Prepare for the Upcoming Season – Winter 2017 Newsletter

Yes, it’s definitely winter! Only the most hardy (or, perhaps, crazy) paddlers venture out this time of year, but it’s not too early to begin planning for a new paddling season. Inspecting your boat(s) and gear with an eye on any repairs, enhancements, or replacements and then getting the necessary supplies to “get ‘er done” are good winter tasks.


Speaking of such matters, if you plan on paddling on Lakes Whatcom or Samish, it’s time to get your Aquatic Invasive Species sticker renewed. You’ll need to pass the short on-line test, get your certificate, and make arrangements to have your boat inspected and 2017 sticker issued before you put your kayak on those lakes. Go to:   for all the information and links to the course and test.  Remember that some of our classes and Fun Paddles take place on Lake Whatcom!  Don’t wait until the last minute to get this done!


Our calendar for the first several months of classes and paddle events will be posted on the website in mid-March, so look for it then. We’ll continue to be offering a “set” schedule of various classes, along with plenty of openings for private lessons and custom schedules, should our calendar not meet your needs. No price increase is anticipated.

Now for some updates:

Ted had his shoulder surgery on Dec. 5th and was in a sling for 8 weeks. The surgery was a bit more extensive than anticipated but went well. In case you’ve ever wondered, the first month or so of recovery IS quite painful and generally uncomfortable. His torn tendon in the rotator cuff was the result of several prior injuries that caused wear and tear, and the tendon finally gave up the ghost at the end of September.  He’s now out of the sling and into physical therapy, with an excellent prognosis. He’s hoping to do some light paddling by the end of March and be ready for more extensive kayaking by May.

Kelly is in the midst of a very heavy class load and clinicals for her Physical Therapy Asst. program, and she is continuing to do very well. She’s looking forward to having some time to resume paddling, rolling, and teaching, once we get underway.


After a quick review of Craig’s List ads for boats and gear, there isn’t a wide selection of kayaks for those wanting to upgrade or add, or for friends you may have seduced into wanting to go paddling with you; but there are a few. There were, however, a good number of listings for accessories, including carts for rolling your boat from the car to the beach. If you’ve been thinking of getting one, this might be a good time.


Finally, we’ve heard of a Ski-to-Sea, recreational division, team looking for a kayaker. If interested, contact Liz Vennos at or 360-303-6665.




Buying a Sea Kayak – Pros & Cons of Plastic Boats

buying a sea kayak

Plastic Sea Kayak Storage

Buying a sea kayak can seem like a complicated process.  We often are asked about the differences in the materials used to build sea kayaks, and many people are drawn to plastic boats because of their comparatively low price and reputation for not needing much care. While the first consideration is true, a “put away and forget” attitude toward a plastic kayak may result in future unhappiness!

So, let’s talk briefly about what a “plastic” kayak is. They’re made of polyethylene plastic, heat molded by various processes so that the hull and deck form a single unit that only requires cutting out the hatch and cockpit openings and attaching the outfitting (seat, deck and carry lines, bungee cords, etc.). By contrast, composite boats made of fiberglass and other materials, have the deck and hull made separately, then joined together. The composite materials are more expensive and require much more labor to construct. Consequently, the resulting boats are more expensive.

The advantages of plastic kayaks are durability, particularly if dropped on a hard surface or from impact while paddling; and as mentioned before, this construction results in the lowest prices for both brand new and used boats. There are limits to the “no care” concept, however, as you’ll see below.

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Sea Kayaking the Summer Solstice – Moon Jellies, Seals, and More

Sea Kayaking Hale Passage

Sea Kayaking Hale Passage and Lummi Island’s West Side

Summer has arrived! To celebrate, we had a Summer Solstice Paddle on Monday evening the 20th. Departing from Gooseberry Point and paddling all the way to the entrance of Legoe Bay, on Lummi Island’s west side, we had smooth waters through Hale Passage and just a little wind chop on the way back. The sunset was gorgeous and the full moon rising as we were loading up at the end of the paddle was the perfect cap to a great evening.

We saw some lion’s mane jellyfish, lots of moon jellies, eagles, kingfishers, harbor seals (one of which was seen chowing down on a fish dinner), and a congregation of river otters. The otters, 7 or 8 of them, scampered off a tiny patch of sand and swam ahead of us for several hundred years, “spy hopping” and grunting at our presence.

Our next Fun Paddle is this coming Sunday, the 26th; but we have others on the calendar and might even have some “last minute” ones added. Come join us!  Click here to register.  To view Fun Paddles scheduled in July and August, check out our calendar.

Remember: if you own your boats and gear, there’s no charge; and it’s only $40 per person if we supply you with everything you need. Just register and make your payment on the website.

Roll a Sea Kayak – Why Learning to Roll is Worthwhile

Why do People Want to Learn to Roll a Sea Kayak?

Recently, a student asked me, “Why do people want to learn to roll a sea kayak?” It was a question that surprised me, and made me think. To me, the answer to that question always seemed self evident. However, this question underscored the fact that different paddlers learn to roll for different reasons, and not all of those reasons necessarily match my own. If you’ve ever wondered why you might want to learn to roll, read the reasons I’ve listed below.

Butterfly Roll

Kelly Practicing Her Off-Side Butterfly Roll

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Spring is Here!

A note from Ted:

As I write this blog entry, it’s mid-March.  The weather has been volatile, to say the least, with hurricane force winds, blasting rain and intermittent sunny days — all in the last week!  One day will be in the 60s and the next morning down in the 30s.  Yay for Spring in the PNW!

However, all that means is that prime sea kayaking season is just around the corner, and that makes me think about scraping off the rust (figuratively speaking).  Two principal topics immediately come to mind.

First:  all those little boat and gear maintenance tasks that had been promised to be addressed over the winter are now a bit more urgently awaiting attention.  It’s time to inspect deck lines, hatch covers, rudder components, any leaky bulkheads, and so on.  Better to fix them NOW, before a problem shows up on the water!

Second:  while paddling strokes and maneuvering techniques “should” come back with some on-water time, some coaching can really help.  Perhaps more important are recovery and rescue skills, as those are easily eroded without regular practice; and they’re so vital to your personal safety while paddling!

So, consider booking one of our Rescue Practice & Refresher sessions to revisit and practice those skills.  SSKS is also happy to put together a longer session that goes over basic strokes, maneuvers, and the rescues if you desire.  Just contact us for scheduling and a price quote.

Happy Paddling in 2016!

Women in Sea Kayaking – 6 Reasons to Take the Plunge and Learn to Paddle

sea kayaking for women

Kelly Paddling on New Year’s Day

In the second grade, my PE teacher told me I didn’t have to try to do a pull up or push up in class.  “It’s ok,” he said, “girls can’t do that.  They’re not strong enough.”  Needless to say, I’ve spent a good part of my life since then proving I can “hang with the boys.” Guys are strong and athletic, and I’m in no way discrediting their achievements.  Rather, I want to address all the women out there who have thought “I can’t do that,” or even “I’m not strong enough.”

Shortly after entering the sport of sea kayaking, I learned that not only can women paddle, they can be kickass paddlers.  Some of the most talented, accomplished paddlers I’ve met have been women – including one who’s solo paddled Alaska’s Inside Passage from Anacortes, WA to Juneau, AK.  Learning to sea kayak has been one of the most amazing and empowering  experiences of my life, and teaching sea kayaking has only made it better.

There are few things better than watching a self-doubting student grow.  I’ve had students who, on the first day of class, told me “I’m too heavy to paddle, really.  I probably won’t fit in the boat, and besides, I’m scared of the water.”  Some of those women have become so strong in their paddling skills that they learned to enjoy whooping it up while surfing waves in Deception Pass.  In other classes, I’ve worked with students who were so afraid to do their first wet exit from a boat, they cried.  After a couple of days, they were teaching their husbands how to do a proper wet exit and self rescue!

So, in the interest of supporting all women out there who are interested in entering the “intimidating” sport of sea kayaking, I’ve written a list for you to dispel what may be your reasons for not jumping in (pun intended) and giving it a shot: Continue reading

Clothing for Paddling in Cold Water: What We Wear to Stay Warm

Paddling in cold water conditions presents all sorts of safety (and comfort) challenges. We are often asked “What do you wear to stay warm?” – especially when paddling in chilly conditions. While there is some variation in what we wear, depending on the type of paddling/teaching we are doing, we will cover the basics, today – those tried and true layers we turn to on regular basis. We’ve listed below the layers we each wear under and over our drysuits when paddling in cooler or colder conditions. We’ve also listed what we wear with our wetsuits. Keep in mind, our base line temperatures are very different. Ted is fairly warm blooded, and Kelly is ALWAYS cold.

We don’t receive any sort of commission from recommending gear or clothing. We just want our students to be safe and have fun out there! If you have questions about a specific piece of gear, we’d be happy to answer them for you. Continue reading