SUP Witches: Paddleboarders haunt Willamette River

Human Interest

The 3rd-annual SUP Witches Paddle will collect donations for local charity groups

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A coven of witches (and warlocks) transformed their broomsticks into stand-up paddleboards and descended upon the Willamette River this weekend.

Ginny Kauffman spearheaded Portland’s first SUP Witches Paddle in October of 2017. She was inspired to bring the event to the Rose City after seeing a photo of stand-up paddleboarders dressed as witches in Northern California.

Around 30 people showed up after she posted her idea online.

Ginny Kauffman, the founder of Portland’s SUP Witches Paddle events, at Willamette Park, Oct. 25, 2019. (KOIN)

“It was literally two weeks before Halloween and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, who wants to do this?'” Kauffman told KOIN 6 News.

The number of participants exploded the following year. Kauffman said she expected more than 200 people to join in on the fun this weekend.

“I think that we’ve inspired people all over the country,” said Kauffman. “I think this is probably the biggest one just because it’s Portland and it’s such a Portland thing and the river is right here.”

SUP enthusiasts began jumping in the water at Willamette Park at 11 a.m.

“We’ll start at Willamette Park and paddle up to Tom McCall, cast some spells there, turn around and paddle back,” Kauffman said. “People don’t have to go the whole distance — if they want to just paddle for a ways and come back, they can.”

The boat launch at Willamette Park, Oct. 25, 2019. (KOIN)

Those who joined in the SUP Witches Paddle were asked to bring a new or used (clean and in good condition) warm coat to donate to Sunshine Division or new, in-packaging men’s t-shirts, underwear or socks for Our House.

The event was not for first-time paddleboarders. There was no designated lifeguard and it was a “paddle-at-your-own-risk” affair.

“It’s not a float, it is actually for stand-up paddleboard enthusiasts,” said Kauffman, who’s been paddleboarding for the past six years.

Experienced paddleboarders brought their own boards, a paddle, a leash and a personal flotation device. That last item was particularly important.

“You will be chastised by many witches if you do not have one,” Kauffman said. “We’re all about safety.”

For those not ready to paddle, but still wanting in on the fun, there were plenty of places to spectate.

“South Waterfront’s a great place to watch, or the Tillikum Bridge, Ross Island, Hawthorne — the bridges are actually really cool because you can really get a great vantage point from those,” she said.

The Willamette River as seen from Willamette Park, Oct. 25, 2019. (KOIN)

And for the witches gliding across the river — Kauffman wanted them to just focus on having fun and getting into the Halloween spirit.

“Just go at your own pace, have a great time, you know, cackle at spectators — act like you’re casting a spell — you know, really, we just want people to have a great time with it and not feel pressured to go faster or keep up with anyone.”

The event ended around 1 p.m. Kauffman said they planned to head to Buffalo Gap Saloon & Eatery on SW Macadam Avenue afterward.

If you can’t make it to Halloween-themed SUP event, Kauffman said there’s another costume paddle coming up for the holidays. Be sure to pack a wetsuit for that one as the weather can be rough.

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