Day camps offer adventure on the water

  • Fri May 7th, 2010 7:13pm
  • Life

By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer

Beach Camp at Sunset Bay might be Snohomish County’s best kept summer-camp secret.

Perched on a long stretch of sandy beach midway between Mukilteo and Edmonds, this historic resort is fast becoming a modern-day watersports haven for kids.

Kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and wake-boarding lessons are popular in the crystal-clear waters, and that’s just for starters, said Jeff Thomas, a local attorney who owns the property and lives with his family on a nearby bluff.

“Anything you can think of, we’ve got it,” said Thomas, a Meadowdale High School graduate who grew up enjoying local watersports. “We spend all winter trying to come up with cool things to do in the summer.”

Thomas bought the historic waterfront resort, a partially covered 20,000-square-foot wharf, in the mid-1990s. It was established in the 1920s as a recreation destination known as Norma Beach.

Thomas took over an existing boat and kayak rental business that also offered pier fishing, bait and snacks, along with easy access to the water. Over the years, the business changed.

This summer will mark the third year Thomas has offered summer watersports day camps through the Edmonds Parks, Recreation &Cultural Services Department.

“We want to get as many kids down here as we can,” Thomas said. “No one knows about it, including people who live a couple blocks down the road.”

Weeklong day camps for kids going into the fifth through 12th grades begin June 21 and cost $350 a kid. This year the camp is also adding single-day weekend sessions for groups and families of all ages on Saturdays and Sundays.

Kids can enjoy watersports in any weather, thanks to wet suits and a covered hot tub area for added warmth.

Just in case, however, there are activities offered inside the wharf’s large covered area, including roller hockey, basketball and ramp skateboarding with a custom-made harness to guard against falls. There’s also an indoor batting cage and pitching machine.

Camp instructors schedule each day’s activities based on tides. Adventurous options, including a 200-foot zip line into the water and a tightrope walk, are reserved for high tides.

Jordan Ingmire, an avid snowboarder and professional snowboarding photographer who works at Stevens Pass in the winter, is the camp director.

Ingmire said the camp has to be experienced to be believed.

“The kids are immediately excited,” he said. “They are taken out of their element and placed into an almost amusement-parklike atmosphere. Not only will the kids be having the time of their lives, they will also be taking home new skills.”

Much of the equipment at Beach Camp is geared toward beginners, Thomas said.

That includes windsurfing floats that allow students to get a feel for the motion before jumping onto skinnier boards.

There are also training sailboats with adjustable-size sails for beginners who might otherwise get blown right over.

Campers can bring their lunches or buy lunch at the camp.

Large sun decks and a lunchroom offer views of the water, beach and activities.

Thomas rents small studios built into the wharf year-round to local artists, who put their work in the wharf’s Sunset Bay Art Gallery, which is open to the public on Saturdays.

Beach Camp isn’t a big money-maker for Thomas, father to three teenagers who work summers at the camp.

But he loves the opportunity to share the one-of-a-kind waterfront access the wharf provides, including a drag-down ramp that allows students and instructors to move boats and equipment easily into the water.

“You can get anything down to the beach. I’m convinced this is the highest and best use of the property,” he said. “There’s so little access to Puget Sound. People think you have to go to the San Juans to do this.”

Thomas, who has attended numerous conferences for summer camp operators, is excited to share the local gem, which sits at the western end of Norma Beach Road, also known as 148th Street.

“Objectively speaking, I think this is the best summer camp in the country,” Thomas said. “There is literally nothing like this on the planet.”

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.