My First Catalina Crossing

Paddlers prepare to make the 32-mile channel crossing. (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

It’s hard to find the words to describe looking out from the dark of the Catalina Isthmus Cove at 6am with nearly 100 other paddlers embarking on a 32-mile open ocean crossing on a paddleboard less than two feet wide with only your arms to power you across the unknown. I guess nerves and adrenaline would be a good description, but after you and the other competitors spread out after the first 5 miles or so, it becomes very lonely with alot of time for introspection. About 6 hours of deep thoughts actually.

Getting my bib and boat number from all-around great person and multiple Catalina champ Jo Ambroise of Australia. (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Competitors begin to congregate around bonfire to check in before the start of the race. (Photo by Jeff Berting)

Competitors try to stay warm and keep nerves cool in front of the bonfire (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

My first Catalina Crossing was a successful but bumpy one, with a little bit of chop and wind in the water, and only a couple cramps at mile 10 or so which I dispelled with ample hydration and salt tabs.  I have to admit a couple days leading up to the race I was a little concerned after receiving five staples in my head from a surfing accident last week when a longboarder with no leash bailed his board and fin into my head at Cardiff Reef. Also, only getting a month to train on a new board in my first serious race in the unlimited class also made me doubt whether or not I could finish well if at all.

Some last minute touchups on the sunblock from the deck of the “Chief” (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

View from the boat of the bonfire and competitors lining up their paddleboards on shore. (Photo by Jeff Berting)

Competitors enter the water on the shores of Catalina (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

I managed to finish 11th overall (10th in Unlimited) in the Catalina Classic amongst some of the world’s best paddlers and waterman from the USA, Australia, Hawaii, Canada, and France. I was happy with a top ten finish in the unlimited but know I could do better next time around with more than a month of training time, course knowledge and knowing what to expect. It was definitely the most challenging and grueling 6 hours of my life but an unbelievable experience overall, and saw everything from a blue whale, to dolphins and large fish while I was out there.

Lots of bump early in the channel (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Trying to get in a rythm knee paddling early on (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

A view form the back of the board (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Morning light trying to break through mid channel (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Coming in for a pitstop of nutrition…(Photo by Jonathan Moore)

More importantly I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate all your donations to the American Cancer Society. Because of your generosity over $4,300 was raised to go towards research, education and prevention of cancer. We all made a difference in someone’s life effected by cancer and I reflected on that as well as family and friends lost to the disease while I was out in the middle of the ocean. The last 10 miles those thoughts as well as thoughts of my family waiting for me on the beach is what got me back on dry land. I dedicated this race to my father who died of brain cancer 6 years ago and my father in law who succumbed to melanoma 3 years ago, and I definitely felt their presence while I was out there. Thanks so much for helping me make this happen, I am forever grateful for your support and kindness.

Digging mid-channel with the island in the background (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Rounding the R-10 as seals look on…Only 12 miles to go, but they are the most painful on the race (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Cross the finish line and don’t have alot left. (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Still have a little energy  and stoked to be done (Photo by Jeff Berting)

Thanks to my wife Lauren and sons Luke and Micah who put up with my long training hours the last month and my crankiness when I was tired of waking up early. Thanks to Jonathan Moore ( who spent the entire weekend with us in the escort boat and supplied us with some great photos; and Jeff Berting ( who hooked us up with some good pics as well. Special thanks to Tom Candelaria, friend and captian of his escort boat “Chief”, who drew me a great line, supplied me with ample nutrition, and was fun company even in the most painful sections. Can’t wait to do it again next year, and hopefully raise the bar with my donation and finish goal!

Good to be back on dry land with the family (Photo by Jonathan Moore)

Here’s the list of all of you who donated to the American Cancer Society and helped me reach my goal. THANK YOU!!!

Joshua Aliesch

Ray Anderson

Applegate Family

Clayton Begrin

Al Bello

Doug Benc

Linda Bonenfant

Aaron Boone

Cheryl and Barry Boone

Jesse Bowman

David Breen

Brewer Family

Ken Chamock

Xiaojing Chen

Jason Curry

Deborah Dadlani

Ross Dettman

Dirk Dewachter

Katrina Ducis

Dustin Edwards

James Escher

Deanne Fitzmaurice

Dom Furore

Jonne Goncalves

Jody Grober

Jeff and Jenny Gross

Leon HJalip

Jeff Haynes

Harry and Rebecca How

Daniel Inskeep III

Linda Inskeep

Eric Isaacs

Jed and Lika Jacobsohn

Jeff Julian

Darcy Katris

Robert Laberge

Michael Levitt

Ursula Liang

Victor London

Claire Lopez

Rick Loughery

Amanda Lucidon

Clive Mason

Daniel Megna

Stein Metzger

Janet Milack

Dawn Miralle

Grace Miralle

Joe Morahan

Steven Mullensky

Allen Murabayashi

Atsushi Nakamura

Thomas Oed

Christian Petersen

RJ Poston

Lara Potter

The Powell Family

Joe Raaen

The Ritter Family

Quinn Rooney

Daniel Root

The Sage Family

Erik Schelkun

Dave Schmidt

Ezra and Jen Shaw

Paul Spinelli

Eclipse Sportswire

Paul Stackhouse

Mitchell Stringer

Vince and Erin Taylor

Kevin Terrell

April Tse

Dilip Vishwanat

Fred Vuich

Karl Walter

Stephen Warner

Justin Weiss

Bruce Wigo

Marcus Williams

Maxx Wolfson

The 81 finishers of the 35th Catalina Classic pose for the traditional photo next to the Manhattan Beach Pier (Photo by Jonathan Moore)


  1. Scott Neubauer says:

    Hey Don

    Great pix from last year’s race! You paddled a LOT better than I did! I really want a photo from the 2010 race of the boards lined up against the pier. Do you have a high quality (higher than the resolution on the blog) pic that I can get from you???


    • Hey Scott,

      This photos were shot by friend Jonathan Moore ( I am sure you can contact him for a print or highres. Did you make the crossing this year? Speak to you later!


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