Posted by Ken Campbell May 2, 2009 1 Comment 889 views

It’s hard to put a trip into a nutshell, to compress all the exertion, the stress, the joy and the freedom of an expedition into words and paragraphs. Even the most evocative turns of phrase can’t blow salt spray in your eyes, or put the chill your toes like the real thing. When the trip is split up into segments, it gets even more difficult.

It was a wonderful experience. To travel from the head of Hood Canal all the way around the top of the Kitsap Peninsula, then back down through southern Puget Sound to the little town of Allyn, a mere 4 land-miles from the start. I am a better paddleboarder now than I was at the beginning, though it’s still apparent that I have more to learn. I am happy with the way that the board performed (a Laird 12’1″ Tuflite fiberglass), and considering the extra weight that I carried, it did very well indeed. I would like to tour on a longer board next time – there are a couple of 14-footers that I have my eye on.

Because the cargo is so exposed to wind and wave, it’s critical that the drybags are dependable. The one word I have to say about drybags is Ortlieb. I tried bags made by other manufacturers, Seattle Sports and WX Tex, but nothing worked as well at keeping the water out as the bags from Ortlieb. They cost more, but that’s because they’re worth more.

Werner paddles are still the best thing since pants pockets. I used the Spanker and the Advantage… love them both.

Pieces of prized Arc’teryx shell clothing were essential items during this wet, winter trip. I used the Alpha LT jacket and the Theta LT pants, and I never worried about whether they would keep me dry.

Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks are the way to go for keeping notes in the outdoors. A “must-carry” item on every trip, and a local Tacoma company. The Hot Shot stove was once again the best cooking option for size, weight and trouble-free operation. I’ve used it almost every trip since Newfoundland in 2000 and it’s never let me down.

There’s more to say, I’m sure, but I think the most interesting and exciting thing I learned during the course of the Puget Sound Challenge has to do with the environment itself, the sea, and how it is possible to literally immerse yourself in your surroundings. It’s interesting to me, because in all my years of kayaking I’ve never been as relaxed in big water as I was on the SUP. I was a cork, sometimes standing and riding the swells, other times seated, gripping the rails to stay aboard. Never worrying about falling in because I was already in, I was already as much a part of the water as of the air. And it’s exciting because, if I already know this much, think of how much more there is to come. I will be back out there soon.

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