By Rob Casey
Twenty-five years ago, Sprague Ackley founded the La Push Pummel as a casual gathering for Pacific Northwest paddlers looking to surf large winter waves. Photos from those first years show kayakers perched atop windswept 20-foot storm waves at La Push, a tiny fishing town squeezed between the Olympic National Park and the Quileute Indian Reservation fours hours west of Seattle. Jagged sea stacks and vertical cliff faces line First Beach, the main surfing area known for its pounding shore break. The Washington Kayak Club ran the event for many years before passing the organizational torch to Ken and Ellen DeBondt in 1998. Originally held in January, in 2009 the DeBondts moved “The Pummel” to late February due to the raw conditions that had prevailed in recent years. The later date didn’t spare the 30-some surf boaters, sea kayakers and standup paddlers from a mix of wild-card conditions this year. They got everything from friendly waist-high waves and gentle offshore breezes, to gale-force winds, horizontal rain, and a brutal shore break.