Words by Ken Campbell and photos by Beau Gaughran

It is a crisp afternoon at the beginning of fall. The trees are just starting to lose their leaves, to turn from shades of green to yellows and orange, and the water has changed to gray from the greens and blues of summer. A perfect day for paddling, with little rips and eddies along the shore and the main flow of the larger current out towards the middle of the channel. The Tacoma Narrows is one of my favorite places to paddle in south Puget Sound, and it’s literally right out my back door.

A rich palette of nature’s sounds and sights greets me every time I get on the water here. Sea lions and harbor seals feed on unseen fish while gulls whirl noisily overhead. I see deer walking the trails on the hillsides, moving quietly through the thick brush, eyes and ears alert and twitching. They watch me as I pass. Harbor porpoises work the rips, finding their food in the turbulent water. High above it all, two eagles wend their way along the thermals atop the crest of the hill side, riding invisible currents of air.

With all there is to see, all there is to pull at my attention, I hardly even notice the paddle in my hands. And that’s the way it supposed to be, isn’t it? The best gear is the stuff you don’t even notice, the gear that works so well, you hardly even know it’s there. The Ovation is like that, a paddle that is not only lightweight, but still brings a solid feel to every stroke. It is substantial without being heavy, and the fact that I don’t give it much thought while I’m using it, only makes me appreciate it more.

As I cross from one side of the Narrows to the other, feeling the pull of the current move the boat with a power far beyond my own, I turn my eyes to the far side, set my angle and paddle forward. With every confident stroke, I can feel the effects of the wind and water around me. I am becoming steadily immersed in my surroundings in a way that would not be possible otherwise. It’s physical, but it’s spiritual too and I’m grateful all over again for the opportunity to get out here.

To learn more about Ken’s trips to Alaska drawing attention to plastic ocean pollution of sustainability please visit