Deception Pass Challenge

The Deception Pass Challenge – December 3, 2022

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. We will have two courses available as a backup for adverse conditions.

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.

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

The 2022 race will be limited to vetted 50 racers. 

Regarding the 2021 Race:

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 then returned 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. Traditionally, the race always has 5-6 in the water due to rough water, all always assisted by official event safety craft.

We didn’t have ‘dozens of kayaks’ as reported by news sources. USCG and Skagit Bay Search and Rescue boats were already on scene as part of the race plus 8 highly skilled safety paddlers in strategic locations along the course.  The only minor injury was a rower during her rescue by a safety boat.  All racers were back on shore within 20 minutes after cancelation. It was sunny and calm 1.5 hours after the cancellation.

Our 2019 race had no unusual weather conditions and went off without a hitch. Cancelled a week prior in 2020 for a Covid surge, racers showed up and did the race unofficially, also without any issues.  

Please Read the 48 Degrees North Magazine article on the race by Mark Aberle

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


2022 Courses – Approx 6.15 miles:

Course 1 – The traditional route from Bowman Bay.  Works for SE, NE, N, S winds under 15 knots

Course 2 – Start from Cornet Bay going east to Skagit and Hope Islands on the ebb.  Good for all wind under 15 knots. (Spring Race course)

In case of an unpredicted weather event, or winds 20+ kts the course can be kept inside Cornet or Bowman Bays in a buoy course, or we’ll cancel. 

The traditional route from Bowman Bay:

  • 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
  • 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 2019 /  Ivan Storck 2019 / 2008 Storm Race Footage

Who Should Attend:

  • Advanced paddlers only must have experience paddling in the tidal rapids and rough water at Deception Pass. No beginners or those without DP experience.  
  • Must have a 100% reliable self or re-mount and know how to swim
  • This is not your first open water race and not the first time in your craft in rough water.
  • Open to all experienced human powered paddling craft – Ocean rowers, 14′ SUP, sea kayak, surf ski, outrigger, prone.
  • Kayak minimum size: 14′. Kayaks must have water tight bulkheads and a roll. SUP minimum size: 14′. Rowers much be competent in open water and waves.
  • Must be able to finish course in under 2.5 hours.


On-Water Requirements:

  • USCG Approved Life jackets with whistle required to be worn for all craft except prone paddle boards.
  • Required leashes for SUP and all craft except rowers.
  • Hi-Vis colors to be visible to our safety crews.
  • Required waterproofed and tethered VHF radio.  We’ll be on channel 69. Tethered ICOM and Standard Horizon 6 watts work well.
  • Dress for immersion. Water is 47F



  • Attend our Deception Pass pre-race on-water training courses for all craft held throughout the year.  Private classes available.
  • View our Deception Pass Online Course detailing each part of the race course
  • Attend our Zoom safety meeting 7:30pm


Upon Arrival at the Race Start:

  • On-site gear and clothing safety check for every racer
  • Pre-race in-person Safety Meeting


Covid Requirements

  • We follow current State and regional guidance

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





Race Registration:

You will be required to fill out a participant questionnaire about your paddling or rowing experience in Deception Pass

Race Date: December 3, 2022

Race Heats Start: 11:15AM (slower craft) / 11:30 (faster craft)

**CLICK HERE TO REGISTER** –  Goes Live September -Oct 2022

View Our 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 on-water Deception Pass 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.



The Course (Red Line):





Our other 2022 Races:


Other 2022 Races:

Sound Rowers

Seattle Outrigger Club


Gorge Downwind Champs / Vortex Paddle Series

Ballard Elks Paddling Club – Summer Monday Night Fundraiser Series

Urban Surf Summer Series


2021 DP Challenge Testimonial:

The importance of a good race organizer was on full display yesterday in the infamously moody Deception Pass. Just minutes before the first wave of racers left the beach, it was so flat and windless I considered using my tiny flat water rudder over my weed rudder. By the time my wave started, the wind and waves had already picked up a lot and I made it just over a mile (which took forever) before the race was shut down. 10 foot waves had already formed out there and bounced off the cliff faces in various directions. As I battled my way out towards the island we were supposed to go around for the first turn, I passed paddler after paddler from the first wave that needed rescue from the safety boats. Thanks to the race organizers, there was no shortage of boats out there to help them.

In the end, there were at least 2 coast guard cutters, a police boat, a bunch of zodiac boats, a jet ski, and multiple kayak safety paddlers. A coast guard chopper even made an appearance to be sure everyone made it back. Word is 5-6 paddlers were picked up and brought back to shore. Probably more were assisted. There were a lot of people that were too inexperienced to be out there in the first place.

But everyone was safe because Rob Casey and crew were prepared. A bunch of us hardy paddlers were loving the big stuff to play in and hated having to turn around, but cutting the race short was the right call considering the large number of struggling racers present. Well done Salmon Bay Paddle 👏👏👏 This wasn’t an easy race to even attempt but you rocked it and we thank you for that.  – Matt Kearney

“I wanted to thank you once again for putting on such a great race and including Giant Fish as one of your sponsors. Yeah mother nature probably won this year but we are very lucky to have such a committed paddling community. Your efforts as an organizer did not go unnoticed and it is because of your through planning that every paddler made it back safe and sound.” – Scott Darling, Giant Fish



As they say after the storm there is always sunshine, and we got that!

2020 Course
2020 Course
2019 Race Start
2019 Race Start

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