FREELAND — It beats waiting for the ferry, and it certainly beats Seattle traffic.
Kevin Lungren has been commuting to work on Whidbey Island, some days using a paddleboard, a double-bladed paddle of his creation and the relatively calm waters of Holmes Harbor.
Lungren, who is a financial advisor, decided to try finding a different way to get to the office when his work relocated from Clinton to Freeland, closer to where he lives.
“One of the things I was hoping is that I could basically use that as a way to commute and not burn fossil fuels, and also do that kind of commuting that lets you eat a big breakfast and then burn it off,” he said of his paddleboarding.
Since he’s only fallen off his paddleboard twice during the past five years, he can usually wear his work clothes while balancing on the board.
It’s a commute he can do in all seasons — even winter.
“In the wintertime, it’s actually one of my favorite times to do it because I can be on the water at first light, which is a really neat time to be there,” Lungren said.
The only impediment is wind. Paddleboarding in blustery conditions, he explained, is a fool’s errand.
“Talking about it falls short of the actual experience,” he said.
At low tide on a calm day, eel grasses reach upward, wrapping around submerged ankles. Brown lion’s mane jellyfish and schools of tiny, shiny fish lurk just beneath the water’s surface.
“It’s like paddleboarding over an aquarium,” Lungren observed during an outing with a reporter.
Lungren said he likes seeing the abundance of wildlife on his way to work. Bald eagles swoop onto the beach like seagulls, hunting for their next meal. Seals clamber onto a swimming platform and some days, usually earlier in the year, gray whales pass through the harbor to feed on ghost shrimp.
He considers himself an “unofficial steward” of the harbor, keeping an eye out for failing drain lines and litter.
He’s developed his own double-ended paddle, which he referred to as “the Lungren long shaft paddle.”
Similar in design to a kayak paddle, he said it helps him to stay in the “rhythmic paddling zone” since he never has to switch sides to paddle on.
It can take him about 45 minutes to an hour to traverse Holmes Harbor, from his home to Freeland Park.
From there, he walks into Freeland where his office is located.
“There’s an expression in boating, ‘When you’re on your boat, you already are where you want to be,’” Lungren said. “That’s kind of true with paddleboarding. I try to never be in a hurry and I really try hard not to do client calls on the paddleboard.”
“It just really sets me up for a good day, and it’s a great way to end the day,” he added.
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sister publication to The Herald.