Riding wind and waves with Kite Paddle Surf

Two emerging adventure sports, kiteboarding and stand-up paddling, have found a home on the Bellingham waterfront. Kite Paddle Surf offers...

By Isaac Bonnell

Bellingham Kite Paddle Surf
Owners: Andy and Marlys Holmes
Start date: June 12
Square feet: approx. 600
Address: 2620 N. Harbor Loop Drive
Phone: (360) 775-2741

The odds are slim that two emerging adventure sports will complement each other and appeal to the same group of people. You would be hard pressed to find an outdoor store tailored to rock climbing and snowmobiling.

But stand-up paddling and kiteboarding seem to go hand in hand, especially at Bellingham Kite Paddle Surf.

“It’s the perfect complement to kiteboarding,” shop manager Colleen Carroll said about stand-up paddling. “If you show up to the beach and it’s not windy, you can still get on the water, guaranteed. It’s another way to enjoy gorgeous Bellingham.”

Owners Andy and Marlys Holmes opened the shop June 12 after they decided to add stand-up paddling to their existing business, Bellingham Kiteboarding, which they ran out of their home near Locust Beach.

Located along the Squalicum Harbor walkway, the new retail store offers kiteboarding lessons, stand-up paddle board rentals and all the gear you need to get out on the water. For those simply spending the day at nearby Zuanich Point Park, the shop also carries a selection of small stunt kites and single-line flyers, which have sold extremely well, Carroll said.

Stand-up paddling has been popular in Hawaii for decades and is quickly gaining followers here on the West Coast. The boards are typically 10 feet to 12 feet long and wide enough to provide a stable platform. Some are made of high-density foam and resemble a giant body board, others are made of fiberglass and have a pointed bow similar to a boat. Riders propel themselves using a long-handled paddle similar to ones used for canoeing.

There may not be any waves for these stand-up paddlers to ride here, but the shallow bay and steady wind is also attracting kiteboarders from around the region, Carroll said. Already the shop has seen customers from Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C.

“People don’t think about Bellingham as a kiteboarding destination, but it’s becoming one,” she said. “We get more consistent wind than a lot of places in Puget Sound. The wind comes in off the strait nice and smooth and we get real moderate speeds.”

The shallow waters off Locust Beach make it ideal for teaching beginners because the instructor can stand in the water next to the student and offer tips, Carroll said. The steady 10-mph to 20-mph wind is ideal for those just learning to control their large kite as it pulls them along the water on a board similar to a wakeboard.

“The hardest thing is learning good kite control,” she said. “There’s a lot going on at first, but it’s really not that difficult to learn.”

But with summer in full swing, the hardest part of Carroll’s job is staying inside.

“It’s hard on windy days. Everyone here kiteboards and we argue about who gets to bail first and go play,” she said. “We’re just water people.”

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