This race review of the inaugural Narrows Challenge on October 16th, 2021 was written by Ana Swetish, who took first in Womens HPK category and seventh overall. Way to go Ana! And thank you for this great write-up of your experience!

“I was super excited to be able to race in the first Narrows Challenge in Gig Harbor and it did not disappoint! The thing that made this race interesting to me was the fact that there were a lot of currents to deal with during the race that added a challenge to it. Along with that, I had never paddled in the Tacoma narrows, so I knew this was a race I had to try out! 

    Despite having done countless races in tons of different conditions, the conditions in this race were something new for me as I do not have a lot of experience racing in strong currents. I asked around and tried to get some inside knowledge on the lines to take, but I still think I made some mistakes on line choice. I felt good on the way out and was watching the front pack take some different lines and I was just trying to stay where most people were because it looked like they were having a relatively good time. I had never paddled that section of water before, so it was super fun to paddle through there and get to check out a different shoreline than usual. I was by myself for pretty much the whole way, which is a tough mental challenge, but I was feeling good for most of the race. The last 5k were the toughest for me, after coming around Pt. Evans I got caught in a lot of current and I didn’t take the best line to get out of it. Being by myself, I had a hard time making up my mind on what line to take, so I ended up just trying to stick on the same line as the guys ahead of me. Because of the current, it was super physically challenging to push through the water for the last part of the race, but I could see the finish line that whole time so I was able to keep pushing and make it to the end. There were lots of people cheering at the finish line as I came across which was awesome to see! 

Overall, it was a super fun race and I was glad I was able to come down to Gig Harbor for it! The challenges I had with the line choice in those conditions showed me that I still have so much to learn in those conditions, which keeps racing and paddling interesting. The conditions for this race were so unique and challenging because of the course, which makes the race so much more interesting to me because it is not all about pure speed and there can be a lot more strategy in it.  I will definitely be back next year to race again!”

Bio: Ana Swetish is a 19-year-old surfski paddler from Bellingham, WA. She started paddling when she was 11 years old and fell in love with the sport immediately! This summer she became vice world champion after placing 2nd overall of females at the Lanzarote Ocean Racing World Champs. She is now a sophomore at Western Washington University and is continuing to train while going to school.

The featured photo shows Ana about 200 meters from the finish with Mount Rainier in the background. Photo credit Tod Cole.