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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Reader photo: Surfing the storm

UPDATED: Wed., April 8, 2020

Christopher Celentano took this “self-portrait” on Monday, March 30 at about 6 p.m. off Mullan Point on Tubbs Hill. (Christopher Celentano / COURTESY)
Christopher Celentano took this “self-portrait” on Monday, March 30 at about 6 p.m. off Mullan Point on Tubbs Hill. (Christopher Celentano / COURTESY)

Christopher Celentano took this “self-portrait” on March 30 at about 6 p.m. off Mullan Point on Tubbs Hill. The Coeur d’Alene-based photographer has been sea kayaking for nearly 15 years.

Below is his account, including some important safety notes.

“Early on, I discovered my love for surfing sea kayaks, either by chasing boat wakes or watching the weather and downwind surfing on any number of the large lakes we have in the area. Lake Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille both generate large swells when the wind blows from the right direction and with enough force.

I have surfed ocean-sized waves cresting at 10-plus feet on Lake Pend Oreille several times and have paddled 6-foot waves on Lake Coeur d’Alene many times.

The storm on March 30 was predicted to bring south winds at 25-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph – the perfect recipe for large swells and breaking waves on our larger lakes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make it up to Pend Oreille in the afternoon, so I settled for Lake Coeur d’Alene. The south side of Tubbs Hill is a ton of fun and similar to paddling in the open ocean during these storms. I was able to knock the rust off of my “rock garden” paddling skills and catch quite a few medium-sized waves for some nice carvey surfs in toward shore. To top it all off, the photographer in me was treated to some incredible late-afternoon golden light filtered by heavy rain while out paddling around out there.

I would like to stress the importance of safety here. Being out in these conditions brings about a fair amount of risk that should not be taken lightly. The top danger is the water temperature; it is currently 34 degrees. Water this cold is likely to kill in only a few minutes, if not instantly, if a person is not prepared and trained in cold-water immersion. A dry suit, adequate base layers and a PFD are mandatory minimum pieces of gear.

I also wore my kayaking helmet due to my close proximity to the rocks. Solid, nearly fail-proof self-rescue skills are equal in importance to having the adequate safety equipment.

Kayaking in storms is one of my favorite things to do and I am probably one of the biggest proponents to getting people out there and learning to do the same thing. But I can’t stress enough the importance of proper safety equipment, training and common sense. I implore people to take a class, build basic skills and learn what it might take to paddle safely in challenging conditions.”

Web extra: Submit your own outdoors-related photographs for a chance to be published in our weekly print edition and browse our archive of past reader submissions online at

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