BOP: The Ultimate Paddle Battle
Salt Creek turned out to be the ultimate venue for this year’s 7th Annual Battle of The Paddle. With classic SoCal weather (90 degree, no wind) and solid swell (4-6 ft. south swell) it provided the perfect conditions for audiences but challenging for racers. With the surf conditions well overhead the racers were required to wear PFD’s, leashes and advised to wear helmets. These conditions didn’t stop anyone but instead put on an unforgettable display of athleticism and wave expertise for all spectators.
The Races: Carnage and Deviousness
There is nothing like watching the best paddlers in the world paddle straight into head high waves. There were crashes and collisions but with so many obstacles to overcome the racers needed a game plan. Some took a reserved position while others capitalized on situations such as when Connor Baxter collided with reigning champ Kai Lenny on the second lap. Baxter felt that Lenny was forcing him off the wave so consequently he cut back into Lenny which led to him falling off. In the end, Lenny used his wave expertise to win by catching a swinging left on the final lap allowing him to pass Connor Baxter and Danny Ching.
The women’s race was just as intense and commenced with a head high set rolling through. Candice Appleby took home the win after passing previous winner Annabel Anderson as she slipped and fell pulling some kelp off her board on the last wave.
Among the SUP superstars were two of our own representing the Isle team competing in the first qualifying round. We were just shy of advancing to the finals due to a couple “set backs” but was just as much an accomplishment finishing the race. Below is a firsthand account from one of our riders Jessie Wright putting together his thoughts of the race.
Isle Rider Experience: First hack at Baddle of the Paddle:
Three years ago this fall I entered my first Paddleboard race on a 11’0” Isle Glider. The race was flat-water buoy rounding with a decent range of competitors from pro to first timers and I placed 2nd in my age group. That first race was the realization for me how important it is to learn a proper stroke and train if you want to have the capability to complete a race let alone place. After that I was hooked and have attended as many races as possible.
So with three years of racing both open ocean and flat water paddle races I felt like I was ready to try my hand at the “Super Bowl” of paddle boarding. The 7th annual Rainbow Sandals Jerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle at Salt Creek Dana Point.
I was in Hawaii the two weeks prior catching up with family and old friends with a little swell chasing. I would also try to squeeze in at least a 2-mile paddle a day. Little did I know this was not nearly enough for what I was about to face, as the battle in Salt Creek was for real.
As advertised the elite race is not for the intermediate paddler, or the out of shape expert. With overhead surf conditions those with lack of ocean and surf experience were quickly weeded out. I was confident in my ocean capabilities but not my level of fitness in comparison to the world’s elite.
When at the water’s edge lined up next to 60 “stiff back” fit paddlers I decided to just take a step back and race my own race knowing that I would be content just crossing the finish line. It was for sure a uphill battle against some extremely fit men once past the surf but with surf experience I was able to hold a position. The race is full speed ahead 100% of the time including running the sand chicane.
So with the high surf all competitors had to wear PFD’s and on the last lap I had to jump off the board and dive through a head high wave that was breaking on me. I came up thinking Damn that’s it! I’m toast! I can’t finish… only then look out and see a full set coming. So, I harnessed my Zen and did a few duck dives holding on to my hat and paddle and getting drug back by the 12’6” race board. After about 4 or five waves passed the ocean flattened out and I could see my friend who had made it over the set rounding the next buoy and I knew that I had to finish.
On the last lap I compare the level of fatigue similar to high school wrestling camp or getting a snowmobile stuck at 10,000 feet. Being this tired obviously makes it a little more challenging catching that last wave to the sand and the finish line you promised you would cross. I still had a small pack behind me so I knew to not finish last I would have to finish strong. I lucked out and stroked right into a perfect left that took me all the way to the sand and made every minute of pain and suffering worth it. A LONE perfect left at Salt Creek on a SUP…
Moral to the story. Get in good shape if you want to play in the super bowl.