Paddle On! Stories from SEVENTY48

Paddle On! Stories from SEVENTY48

Paddle On! Stories from SEVENTY48 1226 816 Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission

The 2019 SEVENTY48. In case you missed all the hoopla, here’s a recap: You (or someone of equal insanity) takes a human-powered (only) watercraft of your choice—canoe, kayak, paddleboard, outrigger, rowboat, etc.—and go from Tacoma to Port Townsend.

It’s about 70 miles and you’ve got 48 hours to get it done. You cannot pre-plan any external support (your buddy can’t follow alongside you in her Bayliner) and you start and finish with whatever you brought.

The fastest of the fast have cracked it in under 10 hours (two teams set those marks in 2018). This year’s top three finishers all went under 11 hours and finished within 9 minutes of each other!

First place Team Imua landed in Port Townsend 11 hours after they departed Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway. Photo courtesy of SEVENTY48

The race starts in the evening and becomes a paddle through the night, for those who are looking to complete the course straight through. Racers assemble for the start on the Foss Waterway in Tacoma and finish at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.

Tacoma-based Team Blister in the Moon placed second, 7 minutes behind the winning team. Photo courtesy of SEVENTY48

Conditions were cooperative, more or less. A few racers who dismissed the notion of fog and packed their compasses away a bit too deep in the bag are making notes about not repeating that mistake again (what’s a few extra miles of paddling in circles?).

For those who were running in the 18- to 28-hour efforts, there were some winds and currents to be dealt with and some craft had to resort to sitting it out on shore until conditions improved. Others just put their heads down and settled in at 1.8 mph until they got somewhere. One team left Point No Point at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and did not make the finish until 9:30 p.m. that night (ouch).

Up at the front, a couple of teams went out so hard and competitive that they blew a head gasket (or similar metaphorical digestive symptoms) and had to pack it in early.

Top finishers chased sunrise as they docked at nearly 6 a.m. in Port Townsend. Photo courtesy of SEVENTY48

One of our favorite stories this year was the high school team of 16 students from Platte Canyon, Colorado. Never mind that none of the kids had ever even seen saltwater before. Their STEM class build a tri-hull canoe and finished in under 18 hours (23rd place).

The SEVENTY48 was built to be a “working man’s epic.” The race is for those of us who can’t jump off the grid for a three-week long challenge like its big brother, the Race to Alaska (R2AK). The SEVENTY48 is long enough, risky enough and serious enough to command all of your attention for about eight months of prep. The training is hard because the bulk of it takes place in the dark, wet and cold winter months. And there are no guarantees how the weather will be come May/June.

Team Kikaha O Ke Kai was among the 109 teams at the start of SEVENTY48. The Hawaiian outrigger canoe club placed eighth in the race. Photo courtesy of Fergus Hyke

For more on the race and this year’s results, check out