In Focus: Witches Storm the Willamette River for Stand-up Paddleboard Event in Portland


Hundreds of witches clad in black, along with some warlocks and sorcerers, took to the Willamette River Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, wielding paddles instead of broomsticks, and conjured hocus pocus for the fifth annual Portland Stand Up Paddleboard Witches on the Willamette, also known as SUP WOW.

Most paddleboarders started at Willamette Park in South Portland, catching the river current north to the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown. Then they paddled back to the park, traveling about 6 miles all together. Despite an endless mist and mild drizzle, weather conditions were tolerable and the river was calm.

The event, which captured attention from the national media in 2018, was created by Ginny Kauffman of Portland after she saw photos of a similar Halloween event in California many years ago. Since then, the paddle in Portland has grown from a few dozen participants to many hundreds.

Though the event is free, organizers encouraged participants and supporters to donate to Stumptown Strays, Cascade AIDS Project and Our House of Portland.

For those thinking of attending in the future, organizers stressed that the event is for experienced stand-up paddlers only. The six-mile trek is not for first timers.