Ellen DeBondt, an avid member of the Washington paddling community and co-organizer of the annual La Push Pummel surf kayaking and SUP gathering, rides a wave during the late February 2011 Pummel event. DeBondt was killed a week later, March 6, in an auto accident. Photo: Rob Casey

By Rob Casey
Published: March 10, 2011

A little over a year ago, paddlers Ken and Ellen DeBondt sold their Seattle house and moved to a rural home perched on a steep cliff above the picturesque Salt Creek Recreational Area on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington state. Active in sea kayaking, surf kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, and stand up paddling, the home of their dreams was located above a popular surfing beach with access to the wild and scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca. Ellen continued her work as a nurse while Ken worked as a guide and instructor at local paddling shop, Adventures Through Kayaking.

Ellen and Ken DeBondt at La Push, late February. Photo: Rob Casey

On Sunday, March 6, Ellen's pickup truck was stuck head-on by an alleged drunk driver who crossed the center line on Highway 112, not far from the DeBondt’s home. Ellen did not survive the accident. The 24-year-old woman who hit Ellen is an alleged repeat offender, who had stuck and killed a pedestrian in 2007 and had a prior DUI.

Originally from Hawaii, Ellen met Ken in the late 1990s during the annual La Push Pummel, a winter surf kayaking gathering known for its pounding shorebreak and huge storm waves. The couple married on the beach at La Push and went on to become the organizers of the event to this day.

Ellen was known for her brilliant smile and on the water for her pure stoke while surfing the beach below their house on the red homemade stand up paddleboard Ken made for her. Originally an artist by trade, Ken also shaped his own wave ski and has done so for others. The couple's sticker-covered Volvo is a classic on Peninsula's roads, with one sticker in particular: "Born Right the First Time."

An account has been set up at Sound Community Bank for Ken DeBondt; contributions can be made in Ken’s name (account 10544240). Contributions may also be made at any Sound Community Bank branch, or by check to the Port Angeles branch. Contact Tammi Hinkle for any questions or info relating to this account (tammi@atkayaking.com).

2011 La Push Pummel story and images on CanoeKayak.com »

Photo: Rob Casey

Photo: Rob Casey