Into the great wide open. Beautiful sunrise mid-Catalina Channel. (Photo by Brandon Magnus)
Last month I competed in my 3rd Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, the premier and most historical paddleboard race in the world. Officially started in 1955 by Los Angeles County Lifeguard Bob Hogan, the first Catalina crossing was won in 1932 by Tom Blake, and has since seen legendary watermen such as Ricky Grigg, Mike Bright, Tom Zahn, Gregg Noll, Bob Hogan, Mickey Munoz, Mike Eaton, Buzzy Kerbox, Joe Bark, Jamie Mitchell, and Laird Hamilton make the Catalina Classic the preeminent waterman’s event of the year. Paddlers leave Catalina Island at dawn and paddle 32 miles to the Manhattan Beach Pier on boards between 12 and 19 feet long, using only their hands to propel them through the water. Swells, Currents and wind conditions play into what is notoriously one of the most grueling endurance events in the world.
After training for most of the year with my goal and sights set for Catalina, I almost pulled out the week of the race because I caught strep throat and was in bed for three days leading up to race. I very rarely get sick but my immune system was compromised after losing 10 lbs covering the London Olympics for three weeks in July and August (which didn’t help my training as well! ) But the Friday before the race I got out of bed and went for an easy paddle and decided there was no way I was going to miss the race I trained all year for.
All the paddlers who started the race finished the race this year and posed for the traditional photo at the Manhattan Beach Pier. It’s hard to describe the feeling of crossing a massive body of water using your own power and will to propel you, and everyone who is in this photo feels the stoke of having accomplished a herculean feat. (Photo by Jonathan Moore)
The ocean and mother nature was on our side that day, giving us beautiful calm seas and perfect temperatures which made for a very fast race. I beat my time from the year before by 30 minutes, crossing the finish buoy at Manahattan Beach Pier 5 hours and 25 minutes after we started in the dark at Two Harbors Catalina. I was 14 minutes behind Adam Buckley who had an amazing race form start to finish and won his 2nd Catalina Classic, and 6 minutes behind 2nd place Sean Richardson, a 51-year old phenom who in my opinion is one of the best prone paddlers the sport has seen in the past decade. I was really happy for those guys and also my 3rd overall finish all things considered; but I was most stoked for Steve Schlens who won the stock division after missing last season with back surgery. Most paddleboarders have day jobs and for the most part don’t make money for what is a truly grueling sport, training for hours upon hours for the love of the sport and ocean.
I finally downloaded my Garmin GPS info from the race and you can see my line, splits, and speed in the charts below. You can see after the R-10 buoy when the south current started playing a factor in the race (as well as my body started to bonk!) Special thanks to Tom Candaleria for providing me with another straight line and safe crossing aboard his boat “The Chief” and my photography assistant Brandon Magnus for taking some killer pics and helping with nutrition. But most importantly to my wife Lauren and my sons Luke and Micah for putting up with my early morning paddles and training for another year. For a great story and summary of this years’ race go to the official Catalina Classic webpage here, and if you haven’t been on a prone paddleboard or standup get out there and enjoy the water!