Deception Pass Challenge

Deception Pass Challenge – Dec 11, 2021

Race Re-cap – Definitely a Challenge:

This was a challenge indeed! With a good forecast for the day between storms it started out glassy and sunny.  As the first heat started it began to get windy. More so by the second heat.  We got hit by a sudden wind squall. We cancelled the race soon thereafter.  Despite poorly reported news by the USGS of ‘Mass Rescues of Dozens of Kayaks’ all were assisted (helped but back to shore on their own) and a small handful of 5-6 racers were brought back to shore by USCG or SBAR boats within 25 minutes of the cancellation notice. 

We didn’t have dozens of kayaks. No injuries. USCG and SBAR boats were already on scene as part of the race safety net we established months before.  It was sunny and calm 1.5 hours after the cancellation.

But this experience did change the event and our other races going forward. If I were to run this race again, it would be smaller, all paddlers tightly vetted with only highly experienced paddlers welcome. 12 years of this race happened with 200 racers in amazingly flat conditions, minus one year (2008).  They got lucky. 

My DP Race Requirements Going Forward:

  • Must have extensive DP and open water experience. Must have proven experience in waves, wind and tidal rapids. No exceptions.
  • You must have race experience
  • On-site gear and clothing safety check.
  • As always – Vest PFD for all participants except prone paddlers.  Leashes for all craft.
  • As always – All racers should be on a tethered VHF radio, channel 69. Phones don’t work in the Pass.
  • Dress for winter paddling.  Often a balance for racers as they get hot. But in DP, it runs colder. 4/3mm or thicker full wetsuit and/or dry suit, booties, gloves, hood.
  • Attend our Zoom safety meeting and/or on-site masked/distanced safety meeting. We hadn’t been holding on-site meetings following Covid guidance.

Thanks all our Sponsors (List below)!

Thanks to the Skagit Bay Search and Rescue and USCG for supporting this event! And thanks to our 6 safety kayakers and Andrew our safety jet skier from Portland.

As promised we donated 10% of proceeds to SBSAR

Donate to SBSAR they’re a volunteer org supporting local paddling races.


The Deception Pass Challenge is an epic winter paddling and rowing race through the tidal rapids of Deception Pass!  Race in tidal current around three wilderness islands, under the Deception Pass Bridge twice, through turbulent tidal rapids and over possible standing waves with epic views of the Olympic Peninsula, Lopez Island and distant Victoria BC if weather permits.

In 2006, working at Seattle Raft and Kayak, Don Kiesling while came up with the crazy idea of a winter paddling race through the tidal rapids of Deception Pass. Assisted by fellow SRK staffer Will Robens and owner Bill Walker, the Deception Pass Dash was founded!  Outdoor Adventure Center ran the race for a few years thereafter.  Current director Rob Casey of Salmon Bay Paddle was a kayak guide for SRK in 2005 taking over the race in 2019. Now in it’s 15 year, the race is as fun as ever!

A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Skagit Search and Rescue who will be providing us with 2 boats to watch over racers!

This year we’re going back to the original course starting in Bowman Bay!  Beat the ebb at the ‘Crux’ at Pass Island or get stuck on the other side.  Round Pass Island twice for a chance to win an extra prize!

Read about the race in the Whidbey Times (Nov 2022)

Start Info:

Race heats start at approx 9-9:15am, 10-20min before slack @ 9:24am.  Start of slack varies per conditions which will be determined on race day.

Get Race updates on our FB Event Page and our weekly newsletter (sign-up at bottom of page)

The Course – Approx 6.15 miles:

  • Counter clockwise around Deception Island – Watch for kelp and rocks
  • Through main Pass to beat the ebb at the ‘Crux’ on the SE corner of Pass Island
  • Round Pass Island twice for an extra prize!
  • CC around Strawberry Island – Watch for kelp and rocks
  • Through Canoe Pass
  • Clockwise around Deception Island
  • Back to Bowman Bay finishing adjacent to dock.

Prizes + Awards:


Race Photos:

Jasmine Speaks /  Ivan Storck / 2008 Storm Race Footage


Hotel Discount:

The Marina Inn – Anacortes – 10% off – Contact the hotel and mention the race name



Registration ends: Friday 12/10/21 at 8pm;  ((Zoom safety meeting 8pm))

Salmon Bay Paddle Alumni (students) get 25% off.  Contact me for the discount code.  


Race Registration:


View my Online DP Paddler’s Training Guide for Race Course Updates and step by step tips and guidance for each part of the race plus tidal rapids training.

Get live training here all year in Deception Pass. 

Click here for our “DP Travel Guide” – For Directions to Deception Pass and Local tips for food and things to do.

Who Should Attend

  • Advanced paddlers who are familiar paddling in tidal rapids at Deception Pass. Know how to self rescue and swim.
  • Open to all human powered paddling craft – Row, SUP, kayak, surf ski, outrigger, prone, peddle.
  • Kayak minimum size: 13′. Kayaks must have water tight bulkheads. SUP minimum size: 12′-6″
  • Must be able to finish course in 3.5 hours.

On-Water Requirements

  • USCG Approved Life jackets with whistle required to be worn for all craft except prone paddle boards. Also ‘waist leashes’ for SUPs.
  • Wear Hi-Vis colors to be visible to our safety crews.
  • Recommend bringing a waterproofed and tethered VHF radio.  We’ll be on channel 69.  ICOM and Standard Horizon 6 watt are good.
  • Recommend dressing for immersion. Certainly a catch-22 in balancing race paddling heat control with an occasional dip!

Covid Requirements

  • Masks will be required to be worn in the parking lot and shore areas and by safety crew on-water when in close contact with participants
  • All our staff are vaccinated.
  • Please follow our onsite guidelines to stay distanced on shore and when entering the water.
  • Do not attend if you’re feeling sick and/or have a temp. No refund permitted if so.


Terms and Conditions – Regardless of circumstances:

  • Refunds cannot be issued – Your cancelled fee will be donated to Skagit Search and Rescue
  • Tickets cannot be transferred without confirming with DP registration. Transfers ok until 12/10/21.
  • In the event the race is cancelled due to extreme weather or other unforeseeable event outside of our control, we cannot offer refunds.
  • Tickets cannot be deferred to next year.
  • $500 no-refundable protest filing fee


The Course (Red Line):





Click here for our “DP Travel Guide” – For Directions to Deception Pass and Local tips for food/beer and things to do.

View my Online DP Paddler’s Training Guide


  • Jan 16, Elks Crossing Benevolent Benefit
  • Feb 12 – Seattle Ship Canal race
  • May 15 – Hammer the Inlet, 15m race in tidal current on Hammersley Inlet
  • July 25 – Bremerton 2 Bridges Tidal Race


Sound Rowers

Seattle Outrigger Club


Gorge Downwind Champs / Vortex Paddle Series

Ballard Elks Paddling Club – Summer Monday Night Fundraiser Series

Urban Surf Summer Series

2020 Course
2020 Course
2019 Race Start
2019 Race Start

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