Paddle on the Tacoma waterfront

Experience the Tacoma waterfront on the water! Many local businesses and clubs offer a way to exercise while enjoying the views and natural surroundings. Renting a kayak or joining a paddling club is also an inexpensive way to go boating. Consider some of these options:

Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard

Get your feet wet by trying out a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at one of the marinas. The Foss Harbor Marina and Dock Street Marina offer rentals on the Foss Waterway. Metro Parks Tacoma offers kayak rentals at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park.

Cost: Rates can vary and average about $25 for a two-hour, single kayak rental.

Join a paddling club

Enjoy working out with teammates with a South Sound paddling club, or cheer for the paddlers at a race in Tacoma!

Dragon boat. The Tacoma Dragon Boat Association (TDBA) paddles year-round for recreation and competition. Membership is $100 per year. To see if dragon boating is for you, join them for a practice! Your first three practices are free.

TDBA holds the popular Rainier Dragon Boat Festival, featuring competitive dragon boat clubs from around the Pacific Northwest and community teams in Tacoma.  This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, May 19 at Thea’s Park along the Foss Waterway. Here’s a look at the excitement from last year’s festival:

Outrigger Canoe. As a way to share Hawaiian culture, Kikaha o Ke Kai paddles outrigger canoes on the Foss Waterway, Puget Sound and beyond. Membership is $115 per year for an adult in your first year. Membership is less for youth ($50 for youth living in the Tacoma area).

Paddling can be peaceful and majestic! Watch as this outrigger canoe glides on the Foss Waterway at sunset:


Kikaha will hold the Tacoma Doublehull Challenge at Thea’s Park on August 4. Here are some photos of the 2017 Ruston Relay (from Kikaha’s Facebook page).

Puyallup Tribal Canoe Journey 2018

Photo of Canoe Journey at Seaport

The Canoe Journey is included in the “First on the Waterways: the Puyallup People” exhibit at the Foss Waterway Seaport.

The largest paddling event in Puget Sound will occur this summer when the Puyallup Tribe of Indians hosts the Puyallup Tribal Canoe Journey, July 28 – August 4. Approximately 15,000 people from tribes all over the northwest are expected to attend. The public is welcome to watch the paddlers arrive in Commencement Bay.

James Rideout, Puyallup Tribal Councilmember, discussed the Canoe Journey at a Tacoma Waterfront Association meeting in March. His talk is described in TWA’s blog post.


Other opportunities — classes and festivals

Last summer, the Foss Waterway Seaport and Tacoma Youth Marine Center teamed up to teach kayak and paddleboard classes. They may do so again this year.

Water and maritime community events are also a good place to learn more about paddling. Check out these free events along the Foss Waterway:

More Information

  • South Sound Magazine‘s May 18, 2018 article about the Rainier Dragon Boat Festival.
  • Sports Planning Guide‘s May 2018 article about dragon boat festivals, featuring Tacoma. Information about the history of dragon boat festivals and their economic impact. “Dragon Boat Festivals are Captivating the Country.”
  • Video of the Paddle to Nisqually boat launch from Owen Beach in July 2016. In anticipation of the Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey, this video gives you an idea of what a Tribal canoe journey looks like.

If you know of other paddling clubs in the Tacoma area, please let Liz know. I’d be happy to include them on this list and help get the word out! Thank you!

— Liz Satterthwaite, Engage Northwest.

** Disclaimer: Liz is a member of the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association. **