After the Tahoe race and celebrating Jen’s birthday in Santa Cruz i made my way down to Dana Point for the this year’s Battle of the Paddle. I was super excited to be competing in, and experiencing the superbowl of SUP racing. I got there a couple of days early so I spent thursday in Laguna Beach where i hooked up with Canadian Surftech brand Manager Bodie Shandro. Bodie has an incredible stoke for Canadian SUP and we are both really excited to push this SUP stoke to everyone in the great white north. We were there for the grand opening and press conference at the beautiful SUP Company SUP shop owned by Jamie and Tommy Donnelly in Laguna Beach. The store sits above white sand beaches, turquoise waters and glassy surf and they were hosting a meet and greet in the afternoon and a party in evening. I had a chance to meet a lot of the top paddlers and waterman legends there like Chuck Patterson, EJ Ernie Johnson, Danny Ching, Jamie Mitchell, Sparky Anderson, and a highlight for sure was meeting Mr. Pipeline, Gerry Lopez. After the press conference Bodie and i headed to legendary break at San Onofre, Dogpatch was calling. Bodie and i spent a couple hours surfing the Bob Pearson Laird 11’0 and the 10′ Infinity.
|The Legend, Mr. Pipeline
I was so stoked to be paddling in boardshorts on glassy waist to head high surf i could not keep the smile off my face. I was really impressed with the Infinity board since it was the first surf SUP i had rocked. I enjoyed the performance and speed down the line as we shared wave after wave. I even had a chance to share two waves with Gerry Lopez who was out in the lineup bringing his incredible stoke, experience and aloha to this historic break. Later that evening after a memorable session Bodie and I headed back to SUP Co for the evening beach side party in Laguna.
|Post San Onofre Surf Sesh
The following day it was back in the water at San Onofre except this time we had a good Canadian crew in the lineup. Bodie and i were joined by Ian Nelson from Rogue Paddleboards, Jeff and Ken from the Okanagan and Kevin Obrien, owner of Kalavida Surf Shop. All were down to enjoy SOCAL and compete in the BOP. We shared some sweet waves and we all brought our Canadian passions to the line up. We had a few sideways looks from the locals when Ken started yelling “hurry hard(only a canadian would understand),” in order to motivate us to get into waves quicker. That evening after a great time in the water we all headed back to Dana Point for the party at the historical Hobie Surf Shop.
|Canadian Crew at the Hobie Surf Shop
The Elite Race started at 10 in the morning and Bodie and I were both pretty excited to race. I was feeling a little sore and tired from two days surfing at San O and my back was a little stiff but i stoked to finally be racing the BOP. The best paddlers in the world were lined up on the beach along with hundreds of spectators and over 100 exhibitors. Everyone in the elite race paddles a 12 6 boards and Surftech provided me with a smokin Joe Bark Competitor. It was the first time i was on this board and it certainly was a challenge to not fall off in the chop and surf. The race takes you through the surf and around a series of buoys. It’s quite technical. To do well you have to get out quick and be able to surf and turn on a dime. There was 120 competitors in the Elite Race and it’s really something to see 120 guys and girls lined up on the beach ready to blast off. I debated wearing a leash and finally made the decision to wear a standard long leash. It was a mistake and i should have had a coil leash but i could not find one before the race began. The start was nuts. You have to experience it or see it to understand it. My long leash proved fatal for my start as my leash got stuck in someones paddle and it pulled me off my board in the first 50 feet of the race. In the time it took me to get on my board I was pulled off and a mass of people went by me. I had a smile on my face the whole time because it was something i had not experienced before. Any time lost is hard to make up. The first turn had at least 50 of us trying to make a sharp turn to head to the next buoy. We had to do 5 laps for a total of 5 miles through a course with crashing surf while trying to avoid others who had wiped out. At one point a competitor who went by me said, “That leash can’t be helping you,” not understanding what he was talking about i looked down to see my leash off of my calf and dragging in the water behind me. It was a super fun experience and i learned a lot. I placed 65th out of the 120 starters. Its called the Battle of the Paddle for a reason and there are so many variables in the race that it makes it super exciting. Danny Ching was incredible as he repeated as champion with Jamie Mitchell in second and young gun Slater Trout in third. These guys are amazing. I was blown away by how well the young guys paddle. Kids who are 15 and 16 are killing it out there. I said to Bodie earlier in the week that there are not too many opportunities in sport where you get a chance to compete against the best in the world. Paddling with Danny, Chuck, and Jamie is like teeing off with Tiger woods or playing one on one with Michael Jordan. To have that opportunity makes the BOP a very unique experience. Congratulations as well to another Surftech athlete, Candace Appleby who won the woman’s elite. I also realized that if you really want to compete then you have to be on a strict training program just like you would for any elite competition. This fact excites me for the summer of 2011. Congrats to Bodie and Lina for throwing down in the Elite Category as well.
|10 miler Start
After the elite race they had the open category which saw over 400 competitors paddling in 4 different categories. Bodie and i hoisted the Canadian flag and patrolled the beach supporting Ken, Jeff, Kevin, Ian and Kelvin. Stud paddler Kelvin, rocked it in the surfboard class placing second while the rest of the canadian crew had impressive performances and built on their SUP experience.
|Canadian SUP relay team
Sunday i competed in the 10 miler which was a little more civil. We raced from Doheny to the San Clemente pier and back Surftech gave me with a 14 foot Bark Dominator which took me to a 7th place finish in my category. Danny Ching won the unlimited class and took first place overall and Brandi Baksic won the female division.The funnest race of the whole weekend was our Team Canada relay race. There were 50 teams of 4 paddlers and our team consisted of myself, Kelvin, Bodie and Lina. Through the surf and around two buoys brought lots of carnage and a really fun time. We placed 20th and it was certainly the best time out there. Anything can happen in these races and usually do. I felt really proud to be representing Canadian SUP with these other fine paddlers.
|Finishing the 10 miler
I just wanted to personally thank Ken and Jeff who provided incredible support as board handlers for Bodie and i in the elite race and who always there supporting throughout the weekend during my 10 miler and the relay race. Thanks to Kevin from Kalavida Surf Shop and Ian from Rogue for their support and encouragement as well. I know they all wanted to do the relay and i know they will kill it next year. I am sure we will have a lot more than just one canadian relay team. One of the highlights of the weekend was watching Jeff and Kevin get some of their first waves at San O. The Canadian stoke and vibe throught the weekend was awesome and it was a real treat to share my weekend with this amazing crew. Thanks to Ty, Duke, Randy, JG and George from Surftech for the race boards and support. I feel very honored to be part of the Surftech Ohana. Thanks to Cathy Mills, the most amazing and supportive SOCal woman for letting me stay at her place in Irvine. And thanks to all those Canadians who supported our group from back home.
I know next year we are going to have a big Canadian crew heading down to the BOP. I also want to thank the fellas at Hinano for hooking us up with sweet sweet gear. Thanks to Bodie for his continued support and for being a Surftech brother. I really enjoy being a Surftech team rider and the future is bright. Time to start training for next year…….real training!!