The morning marine layer, known by locals simply as June Gloom, did nothing to deter competitors at the annual Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival this past Saturday. The decade’s old event featured a variety of ocean going competitions, from swims to dory races, but it is the new sport of Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) which has rapidly ascended to take center stage.
The competition has increased in recent times and this year did not disappoint as top competitors from around the globe descended upon the historic pier to battle it out in the waves. The team from Quickblade Paddles fell just short of scoring a trifecta in both the men’s and women’s elite SUP races as teammates Jamie Mitchell and Chase Kosterlitz dueled all the way to the finish line, crossing one and two respectively, while Rogue SUP’s Javier Jimenez and Quickblade’s Matt Becker rounded out the top four.
On the women’s side, it was Shae Foudy all the way. The young competitor led the pack of seasoned athletes as Quickblade’s Morgan Hoesterey finished a solid second ahead of Kelsa Gabehart and visiting teammate Silvia Mecucci from Italy.
The excitement did not stop with the pros, as local standouts and newcomers demonstrated that they too could turn it on. Ryan Khysh made his first visit to the pier and delivered a solid performance, claiming second in the men’s stock class open 16-39 division. The young Canadian paid a visit to the Quickblade Paddles HQ prior to the race and his result suggests he picked up a tip or two from four time Olympian Jim Terrell along the way. Local favorite Mike Vaughan took home first in the stock 40-49 division, while the Sultan of the South Bay – Gene “Tarsan” Smith won his division and finished second overall in the stock class competition.
Pete De’Avila delivered a sound performance in the men’s 14’ class race, claiming second place, among a stacked field of local athletes, as Southern California stalwarts Kristen Thomas and Antoinette Cocco each won their divisions.
In addition to the morning’s 5.5 mile course, the event featured a SUP Cross competition later in the day. Born out of a format first used on the shores of South Lake Tahoe, SUP Cross involves multiple heats of competitors racing from shore around a series of buoys and back in a high intensity and dramatic competition. Unlike many SUP races where competitors rapidly fade from view, SUP Cross takes place directly off shore making the races thrilling to competitors and spectators alike.
Quickblade’s Candice Appleby proved she still has what it takes after taking time off to recover from an injury by claiming first in the women’s SUP Cross competition – in addition to winning earlier events in prone paddling. The cross training on prone boards has clearly paid off as the Queen of SUP demonstrated she is more than a one trick pony by sweeping the field with first place victories in the 5.5 mile prone paddleboard race, SUP Cross and Prone Paddle Cross events.