Seattle Paddle Battle

Photos and results from this weekend’s raw running of the Round the Rock event

Described as nothing short of grueling, 160 paddlers battled wind-tunnel conditions with a 20-knot headwind and choppy seas on the east side of the “the Rock.” At stake: the title for the second annual Round the Rock race, in which Sunday’s huge competitor field gutted out all or part of a 13-mile circumnavigation of Mercer Island, located on Seattle’s Lake Washington.

“It was a roller-coaster of emotions,” said Beau Whitehead, a Naish and Kialoa team paddler from Bellingham, Wash. “Wind was a big factor.” Thomas Shahinian, paddling for Ohana, clearly won the unlimited division in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 55 seconds. Chuck Patterson won the 14-foot class in 2:24:52, while Ernie “E.J.” Johnson won the stock class in 2:36:10. Brandi Baksic led the women’s stock division in 2:37:17 as local paddler Heather Nelson followed shortly thereafter.

Only 45 recreational racers finished the 2.5-mile short course of over 75 who started it. Following the shoreline and several buoy points, conditions worsened with whitecaps, rain, and challenging side-winds in both directions.  Rod Parmenter from Hood River, Ore., won the unlimited division in 34:22, after completing the 13-miler a few hours earlier. Doug Hopkins won in the stock division with 34:55. Seattle’s Greg Whittaker took the 14’ division with 39:14.

Jeff Underwood, one of the organizers of Round the Rock felt his favorite moment of the day was the youth race. “They were all charging with smiles on their faces,” he said. “The stoke I felt will stay with me for a long time.” Thirty kids participated in a short course in between buoys, despite strong winds and 2-foot wind-waves.

“Wind is becoming our trademark,” Underwood said, as 2009’s race was also a windy one. “Round the Rock has put Seattle on the SUP race scene.”

Bobby Arzadon, a local shaper and owner of the Perfect Wave Surf Shop added, “It was cool seeing all the other boards in the race.” A slew of event sponsors lined the beach providing board and paddle demos. Companies such as Riviera Paddlesurf, REI, Werner Paddles and Northwest Paddle Surfers were in attendance. Visit here for more information on the event.  — Rob Casey