An 8-foot west swell greeted participants in early October to the fourth annual Hobuck Hoedown in Washington State. The Hoedown is the only surf kayak, sea kayak, and standup paddling surfing contest on the West Coast. The two-day contest is held at the remote Makah Indian Reservation located (literally) on the most northwest corner of the continental U.S. A five-hour drive from Seattle provides an escape to spectacular rugged sea stacks, empty sandy beaches, and windy narrow coastal roads that skirt the contest area. Access to the coastal strip of Olympic National Park is a few miles south. For respect to the surroundings, the event organizers chose to have no PA systems, loud music, scaffolding, or other evidence of standard surfing contests.
Over 40 participants arrived from across Washington, California, Oregon, and British Columbia. Heats included waveski, HP surf kayak, International Class surf kayak, sea kayak, SUP, and a Masters surf kayak heat. Saturday’s first heat was a scramble race from the beach through surf to a rock garden nearly a mile offshore. Both SUPs and sea kayaks got pummeled in the huge shore break that tossed two sea kayaks vertical. Fifteen-foot breakers hammered the outside rock while larger swell rolled through nearby. Sea kayaker Ed Hand won the Carnage Award by choosing to cut through the rocks to save time but got slammed by incoming waves and took a swim. Karen Stevens took the women’s lead, and Steve Hiegel won the men’s heat. Heather Nelson took the women’s SUP heat and Ken Campbell took the men’s SUP lead. U.S. Surf Kayak team member Jameson Riser won the women’s IC heat, which also took place on Saturday. Hamp All edged out Jory Kahn for the men’s IC win.
Sunday’s 6-foot pounding onshore waves and wind gave spectators some entertainment with the sea kayak surfing heat. Santa Cruz, Calif., native Steve Hiegel took some big, hair-raising drops but Brandon Nelson took the win in his Sterling Kayaks’ Grand Illusion. Ken Debondt won the waveski heat in his homemade ‘ski. Hamp All back-surfed his way to the lead in the men’s HP surf kayak heat. Ellen DeBondt won the women’s HP. Matt Zenobi won the SUP heat on his CostCo board. Cameron Little won the freestyle whitewater heat. At age 12, Jeffrey Steehler placed fourth in that heat and was the youngest competitor at the event. Gary Korb won the men’s Master’s surf kayak heat in his custom homemade boat.
Competitors auctioned off their prizes and donated funds (to the sum of $1,600) to the family of fellow kayaker Dave Mottershead, who missed the Hoedown due to a battle with cancer. Pacific Northwest paddle junkies should keep the Dec. 4 Deception Pass Dash , a six-mile, all-craft, tidal-rapid rocking race on the radars. – text and photos by Rob Casey