SUP on Quarter Master Harbor from Jensen Point on Vashon Island, WA
Distance: Varies, ~2.5 miles from Jensen Point into harbor and back
Time Estimate: Varies
Skill Level: Medium-Advanced
Water Type: Saltwater Harbor/Peninsula
Directions: Jensen Point – 8900 SW Harbor Drive, Burton, WA
I’ve been looking forward to trying my first saltwater/ocean paddle on one of the Puget Sound Islands for a while – this Vashon Island paddle seemed like the perfect place to start! When looking for a place to paddle in an unfamiliar location, I first google where they rent boards in that area. I assume that a company wouldn’t rent paddleboards in an area that wasn’t suited for a paddle! In my research, I found Vashon Watersports, located at Jensen Point on the Burton Peninsula, just around the corner from Quarter Master Harbor. Given the length of this peninsula, I felt like I could get on the water with the confidence I wouldn’t be swept into the sea.
Vashon Island is just a short, 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Jensen Point is a small, 4-acre park on the east shore of Burton Peninsula off Harbor Drive. The park is the perfect spot to drop in your SUP board, as there is easy put-in access as a boat launch and parking is free. I arrived at the park at 10 am on a Saturday in August and found just two other cars in the parking lot and the tide low. I ended up walking past the end of the long boat ramp to launch my paddleboard.
I recommend heading left from the park, towards the harbor. The harbor is roughly 1.5 miles away. From my experience, you’ll be paddling into the wind going in this direction, but you’ll have a much more enjoyable paddle back to the park. Keep your eyes open for crabs and jellyfish. The shore to your left, potentially abandoned by the tide, is likely lined by hundreds of sand dollars, seashells, and oysters. I recommend you stick close to the shore in case anything unexpected comes up.
I’ve only done this paddle once, and I’m making the difficulty level medium-advanced given the need to understand weather patterns. I ended up having a very miserable and scary paddle here. I really only recommend doing this paddle on a nice day where you anticipate the weather being perfect.
Before my paddle, I did my reading, checked the tide times, and checked the weather. All looked good, so I made my plans to go out on a Saturday morning. As I left the park, I saw some clouds and double checked the weather. A Storm would roll in at 2 pm, but given the time I would have at least 3 hours until then. I had planned to paddle just for an hour to be safe. Well, that didn’t work out, at all.
I paddled about 1.5 miles inland into the peninsula as the sun shone down. Minutes after I stopped to take a few photos and turned around to head back, a storm rolled in. The waves picked up and swept over my paddleboard sideways, the wind blew sideways pushing me across the harbor area opposite the direction I wanted to go, the sky grew dark, and the rain came. I fought, every paddle stroke digging into the water. I was desperate to get to the shore, praying with each move. I felt like I was losing water with every stroke – the longest probably 10 minutes of my life. We eventually made it to the shore where I planned to walk back to the park. Of course, minutes after I started to walk, everything calmed.
Please be mindful that mother nature can have a mind of her own. Be prepared, wear a life jacket, and only go out when the weather is beautiful unless you have the knowledge to read the weather patterns yourself. The weather can change quickly on the sea, and change the entire pattern of the water.
I’m Liz Filion – I believe in chasing life outdoors by land & water. I’m a recent transplant to sunny Arizona all the way from the state of Washington. Wherever life takes me, my heart will always be anchored in the evergreens of the pacific northwest. I'm a runner, standup paddleboarder, and avid believer in seeking out adventure.Learn more