Round the Rock is the largest SUP event in the Pacific Northwest, and welcomes every skill level, including beginners and kids. On Saturday, September 7, at Seattle’s Seward Park on Lake Washington, you can compete in the main event, a 13-mile race around Mercer Island for $10,000 in prize money. The race is organized in board length classes and has an extra layer of suspense with the 'Sweep or Weep' aspect, meaning those with shorter boards have the chance to steal the prize from those on longer boards. This pumps up the competition and makes the finish line dash even more exciting.
There’s also a 3.5-mile race following the shoreline of Seward Park. Spectators may follow along on the bike path or just take in the incredible sight of all those people standing on the lake. A team relay race and kid’s race for children ages 7-14 will round out the fun. Enjoy food, music, a beer garden and free board demos from retailers and manufacturers post race.
It’s a supportive crowd. “One year, when the last finisher was far behind and the safety boats were encouraging her to give up and get in the boat, she said, ‘to hell with that, I’m finishing,’ and she refused to get in the boat,” recalls Jeff Underwood, co-founder, Round the Rock. “Everyone, including elite athletes from all over the world, formed a paddle tunnel for her to run under when she crossed the finish line. It was quite inspirational.”
Round the Rock was created by Jeff Underwood and Dan Eberhardt, college buddies who launched their business, Northwest Paddle Surfers in 2009. Two locations in Kirkland and one in Lake Chelan State Park offer rental SUPs, instruction, and SUP yoga.
Paddle boarding has grown considerably in the last few years, virtually exploding in the water rich Pacific Northwest. “I believe SUP is the fastest growing water sport on the planet,” says Underwood. He recommends Lake Washington and Lake Union for people just starting out for the warm and calm summer water, and the Sound for its abundant sea life. “Calm waters and days with light wind are best,” he says. “Warmer water and lakes instead of the Sound, in case a splash down occurs. Wet suits are not advised, unless you’re hitting the waves in our cold ocean waters, as you will overheat.”
The great thing about paddle boarding in Seattle is that there are so many options. “You can do it everywhere,” says Underwood. “We are blessed with water! You can also do it year-round. Whether it’s surfing ocean waves, running white water on rivers, or leisurely paddling calm, flat waters on lakes and bays, there’s a place for all levels to get out and enjoy themselves on a paddle board.”
So if this year's Round the Rock inspires you to get out on your board in the Seattle area, you've got options!