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Bellingham, WA (and nearby)

Bellingham's Fairhaven Harbor and South Hill with Mt Baker in background. - Click to enlarge




Bellingham has an avid surfski community with one of the highest per capita numbers of surfskiers of any city in the continental United States (Hood River is possibly the only other city with a close or higher number per capita). There are a number of reasons for the local surfski popularity, not the least of which is the variety and quality of opportunities for paddling, downwinding, and outdoor sports in general. Clearly Bellinghamsters have embraced downwinding as a primary way to experience “uitwaaien”1) 2) .

Questions for locals? Get a membership on Whatcom paddlers and post your questions/requests.

Bellingham Water Trails Map.pdf

Bellingham Wide Area Conditions tide, winds, weather, webcams

TCSurfski interview with Bellinghamster Reivers Dustin about creating a paddling community with Bellingham as an example. (excellent interview, but if you find Reivers' and Nick's delivery a bit slow you can speed up the playback (1.5X may be enough, 2X is probably too much)) Intro


What is a Downwinder ?


  • Lake Whatcom can also be good for downwinding (and safer than the Bay as long as the water is not too cold) when the wind is strong

South of Bellingham

North of Bellingham

  • Lummi Bay
    • A strong south wind coming up Hale's Passage (between Lummi Island and mainland) can produce a great 10 mile run from the Lummi Ferry to Gulf Rd Beach. Don't leave any valuables in shuttle vehicles left at Gulf Rd. Sandy Point Conversation Sandy Point is the peninsula at the north end of Lummi Bay, just south of Neptune Beach. If you go farther north - stay away from refinery docks.
    • Downwinding video (facebook)
  • Birch Bay The long fetch coming from the west and northwest can provide surfable waves, ocean sized swell coming from the Strait of Georgia, and downwind laps.
  • Vancouver, BC, an hour away if you are traveling to/from Bellingham with a Nexus Pass, or there may be a much greater delay at the border when it is busy - as it is on most weekends. Vancouver's options include Ambleside Surf Laps - first class tidal race surfing when it is firing.



Bellingham Area Marine

Local Lakes

  • Always take care with cold water - most years you need to take adequate precaution for dealing with water in the mid 30’s Fahrenheit (1-2 deg. Celsius) in the winter in our lakes.
  • You will need an invasive species sticker. Whatcom Boat Inspections The checking station at Lake Whatcom - Bloedel Donovan Park is closed in the winter, but you should always follow the recommended precautions to prevent invasive species spread.
  • Lake Whatcom largest of our local lakes. Home of the Wednesday night races in the warmer months.
  • Lake Padden There are several launch sites and a decent amount of parking for a small lake. Padden can get wind, but it is usually the best protected from wind of the local lakes. Please take extra care in avoiding spreading the little snail that has now invaded Lake Padden to other lakes. Location for Monday night interval training during warm months.

Lake Padden photo 1 Dani Giddens, photo 2 Cynthia ? Click on photos to enlarge



  • Lake Samish
    • Lake Samish County Park Picnic Area and Beach Parking is pretty limited and the park often gets quite crowded during the summer. You can scope out odd hours when it is less crowded during the summer or go off season when it typically is much less crowded. Or launch from the Public Boat Ramp on the east side of the lake farther south.



  • Bellingham Bay is cold water paddling. The average monthly water temp varies from 6 degrees Celsius (42.8 Fahrenheit) to 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 degrees Fahrenheit). When in doubt, dress to swim.
  • The Bellingham Coast Guard has a program where you may register your GPS/DSC radio and with one button push they will know your location and that you need assistance.
  • Shipyard Rules and Safe Distances - from commercial/gov docks and ships

Adaptive Paddling

  • Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation of Whatcom County (AIROW) held its first adaptive paddling event on June 30, 2019 with 29 participants. Watch for more to come.

Injury and Recovery

Broke Down Paddlers Discussion 4/29/2019

All of the following have received strong recommendations from local athletes and paddlers

Clubs and Groups

Surfski & Sprint Kayak

  • Whatcom Paddlers - is a loose “confederation” of individuals with a wide variety of interests and personalities drawn together for conversations about their shared love of paddling - with an emphasis on racing and downwinding. While basically an online discussion group started by a nucleus of paddlers in Bellingham, WA., pods of the group sometimes effectively act together when they wish or need to represent their common concern, interest, and passion for the delight and freedom of human-propelled watercraft. See also Where Bellingham's Surfskis Came From
  • B'ham Canoe Kayak Sprint Team youth sprint kayak team. Although their primary focus is flatwater sprinting in ultra tippy sprint kayaks, these kids have long been encouraged to try various other kinds of paddling, particularly surfskis and downwinding. The 15-18 yr age group women's world champion in downwind surfskiing for 2019, Ana Swetish, trained, raced and thrived with this team that practices on Lake Padden.
  • Sound Rowers - Pac Northwest club with a very active racing calendar supporting rowers, surfskiers, OCers, SUPs, etc.




Sprint Kayak


  • Ana Swetish 360.306.4191
  • Wilson Reavley
  • Pacific North Sports Rentals & Beginner Lessons. Granary Building next to Waypoint Park


Online Coaches

Surfski/OC Dealers

[Many of the local dealers may be reached through the Whatcom Paddler's listserv. They are free to post their contact info here.]

  • Paddling Accessories
  • Surfskis
    • Carbonology Sport - Sitontoppros sells primarily recreational sit on top kayaks, but they do sell the beginner model surfski from Carbonology Sport - the “Cruze”, and the upper beginner model Carbonology Sport Boost
    • Epic - Pacific North Sports Granary Building next to Waypoint Park, Epic surfski sales and rentals (V5 Roto, V7 Roto, V8 Pro in performance composite, and V9 in Performance composite), & some paddling accessories
    • Fenn, Carbonology Sport ( Ocean Paddlesports West Coast distributors) - David (DJ) Jacobson, Ana Swetish 360.306.4191
    • Nelo - Simon Brownlie
    • Nordic Kayak (nordickayaksusa) - Wilson Reavley ( has NK demo boats in Bellingham
    • Think - Jamie Klein
  • Farther Away From Bellingham



  • Community Boating Center. The CBC offers inexpensive storage for skis and other boats right on the Bay with an excellent place to launch.


General Rental Advice

In recent past there were surfski rental businesses in Bellingham. But as of 2023 check with Pacific North Sports for Epic surfski rental options. Or you might be able to work something out with one of the local paddlers…(vacation swap - exchange for use of yours?). Get a membership on Whatcom paddlers then post your request.

  • Epic - Pacific North Sports Granary Building next to Waypoint Park, Epic surfski sales and rentals (V5 Roto, V7 Roto, V8 Pro in performance composite, and V9 in Performance composite)
  • Rentals for the Gorge Downwind Championships



sea lions photo:?

jogging or walking into the wind, especially in the winter, for the purpose of feeling invigorated