User Tools

Site Tools


tidalrace:deception_pass

Deception Pass

Intro

The Deception Pass tide race offers some challenging paddling in a beautiful setting. Check out this video of Ana Swetish (with her dad Tom) carving up the waves.


Video Wilson Reavley & Ana Swetish on a big day 2/01/2020 at Deception Pass


Keep in mind Conditions at Deception Pass are hugely variable and seemingly never exactly the same. Even when all of the weather predictors indicate the same conditions you may have paddled in before, the on-water conditions are highly variable which you will discover only when you paddle out. Challenges will rise or subside while you are on the water depending on tide and weather changes. There are days when a good section of the Pass is manageable for intermediate paddlers, other days when only the edges are, other days when only the edges are okay for experts, and still other days (logs in the water, etc.) when no one should be out there.

Launches


  • South side - launching on the south side of the tidal current there are two primary paddling options: The Pass Paddle and West Beach Paddle. They are both lap paddles, not downwinders.The Pass Paddle is paddling laps east and west between West Point and Deception Island. The West Beach Paddle is paddling laps north and south in the Rosario Straight parallel to West Beach.


  • Northside Launch - launching from the northside is also possible albeit with a longer paddle to the main tidal current. There are 2 convenient Deception Pass State Park launches on the north side - Bowman Bay and Rosario Head (less paddling, longer carry). As with the southside, you are looking at lap paddling, surfing to the east with east moving waves closer to Lighthouse Point, then easily floating with the ebb tidal current back to the west to start over again.
    • Video Denise Week's 1st paddle at DP on medium small day, launch from Rosario Head (there is a small beach and dock on the east side) and surfing laps on the north side of the tide rip close to Lighthouse Point
    • Most of the warnings listed in the next section below apply for runs on the north side of the tidal current except
      • the warning about large beach breakers probably applies only very rarely if at all to the more protected north side beaches
      • additional warning - you may have to watch out for the rocky shore of Deception Island if you swim and are carried down current
      • additional warning - there are some large rocks (Coffin Rocks) (Gull Rocks usually should not be in your path) out a ways in between Bowman and Rosario that need to be avoided. At lower tides you can see the waves breaking on them but they do not stick up far above the surface. (* need info here about visibility at higher tide *)
    • There can by a somewhat tumultuous convergence of swell on the north side of Deception Island where it comes into contact with the main tidal current from the east. Judge how far you want to venture in or back off and wait for conditions to improve. If you can safely make it past this zone, heading east toward the top of the wave section and tidal current usually reaches smoother and diminishing waves (this is true for south side launches also “usually”). On very large days the big waves can continue to the bridge and actually get bigger again.
    • On bigger days, if the swell going into Bowman Bay is sufficient, you may be able to do laps at the entrance of Bowman Bay. You won't have to deal with the kind of current there is out in the Pass. Just remember where the rocks are. There is plenty of room available to keep away from them.

decept_copy2.jpg


Warnings

  • It can get extremely technical with waves coming from three directions.
  • The beach launch can require paddling over large breakers (applies to south side launch much more than northside)
  • Currents vary and can reach near 9 knots stopping the forward progress of strong paddlers.
  • Limited places to land in the Pass as the shore is rocky.
  • Boats do travel through the Pass even when the tide current is strong and you should pay some attention for them. Boats traveling with the tide may be going through fairly fast.
  • Coldwater paddling requires proper dress.
  • If local winds are over 20 mph, danger ratchets up significantly. (And not necessarily just from the increased turbulence - big wind days can blow limbs and logs into the channel that pose significant risk)
  • Typically the roughest area of the tidal current waves is at the west end where you can be washed by the current if you go for a swim. On smaller days you will be flushed beyond this rough area into calmer seas in which case remount can once again be easier if you are not exhausted. On bigger days there may only be rough sea to the west. If you are too exhausted to remount or you have lost your paddle or boat, you had better have a buddy to help you and/or a VHF radio to call for rescue (although boat traffic is intermittent here and the CG is far away)

Skills Required

  • Bombproof remount in large, multi-directional waves.
  • Ability to assist a paddler in distress (see safety section).
  • Radio/GPS responder and knowledge to use it.

Pass Laps - Conditions

  • Best conditions are with a west wind and ebb tide. If it's been building for awhile out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (ikitesurf Smith Island), the long fetch will build the incoming ocean swell. The whole beauty of the waves there is the opposing swell against the out-flowing ebb tide. Generally showing up an hour before max ebb yields the largest waves. Watch for a decent west wind in the Strait and time it with max ebb through the pass. Most of the play is in line with Deception Island - outside gets manky and inside gets glassy.
  • Water is glassy and smooth closer to the bridge, getting progressively more technical as you go out west past the island. Bigger conditions push the glassy section further east (it can disappear entirely on really big days). The manky outside section generally aligns with a dropoff where the water goes from 50 feet deep to 250 feet deep a bit west of Deception Island.

Video showing glassy and rough (low local wind, medium+ wave day) starting in glassy section west of bridge and going 2km straight west with current instead of surfing waves from west to east (expert level surfskier in video - stayed north of the roughest water that day).


  • A S-SW wind can make the conditions funky. It gives you two choices. Paddling in toward the bridge where the waves usually smooth out (except really big days), or paddle south and do West Beach Laps.
  • It's common for sizeable conditions even with little local wind. This also allows a person who can’t remount to flush out into calmer water. When Smith Island shows 20+ west winds a swimmer will be flushed out into conditions that will still create a challenging remount.

West Beach Laps - Conditions

  • With a south wind, paddle south toward the naval air station where you can meet some larger and cleaner swell about halfway to the naval station (approx. 3/4 to 1 mile south of West Point). Along the south, you can run into some tidal rips coming from both sides making it very technical paddling.

Put-in/Take-out

  • Southside - normally launch from the West Beach parking lot in Deception Pass State Park. If the shore break gets too big you can launch from around the corner at the amphitheater parking lot. The Amphitheater and its parking are just to the east of West Beach - still on West Point. There is a sign on the road for the right turn to the Amphitheater immediately before you enter the West Beach parking lot. There is more grass for OC setup at the north end of the West Beach parking lot.
  • Northside - launch by the east dock on Rosario Head (less paddling, longer carry) or Bowman Bay. Both options have plenty of grass for OC setup close to your parking.
  • All suggested parking locations require possession and display of an annual Discover Pass, or purchase of a day pass. Overall the West Beach parking lot has more parking space than the options on the north side, but they may all be full on sunny summer weekend days. You may either need to get there early or be willing to wait a while until someone leaves and opens a parking space. Amphitheater parking is another option to check out if West Beach parking is full.

Alternatives

On days when you get to the Pass and it's too big or maybe after you paddle for awhile and are too worn out to overcome the tidal current but would still like to paddle some more….(on really big days there can be too many logs in the water to watch out for and the parks with beach access will sometimes be closed too)

  • Bowman Bay as described above in the North launch section may provide cleaner waves with no tide to paddle against.
  • Nearby Burrows Bay on the south side of Anacortes

OCs

Most OC paddlers usually find catching the waves here more difficult than surfskiers do - at least in part due to the strong counter current. But some days are easier than others and when you do catch waves it can be very satisfying.

Whatever boat you paddle, you will get a heck of a workout. Laps at the Pass can be heavy duty interval work and Lipps can be particularly rare.

More Videos

tidalrace/deception_pass.txt · Last modified: 2021/08/05 02:55 by preavley