Barrett Tester Talks About the BOP's Big Move

After years producing one of the most beloved events in the sport's history at Doheny State Beach in Southern California, Rainbow Sandals and event director Barrett Tester have decided to relocate two miles up the Pacific Coast Highway to Salt Creek for the 2014 showcase, slated for October 4-5. Salt Creek is a county-run beach tucked into a beautiful cove between Dana Point and Laguna. We sat down with Tester to address concerns from the greater SUP community regarding the new location.

SUP mag: So there's been talk of problems between your event and the State Park. Is that why you're moving the event?

BT: We prefer to keep the story about the Battle of the Paddle and not anything negative. Honestly, we think it's a great move to take the Battle to Salt Creek. It'll keep the event vibrant and now we have a chance to offer some very challenging, exciting and scenic courses. The BOP is a concept and format that can work well in many locations. We’ve had very successful events in Hawaii and Brazil. And now there is the possibility we might be in Asia soon too. Moving to Salt Creek also allows us to showcase the beautiful Dana Point coast which we want to do because the City of Dana Point provides us with great support. Salt Creek is a jewel among beaches in Southern California and I think those that come race the BOP this year will agree.

SUP mag: So talk about Salt Creek as a venue.

BT: Salt Creek has always been on our radar. One of the things that has always been a concern with the event at Doheny is parking and we feel we have a better situation at Salt Creek. There's a paved lot at the top of Salt Creek that's $8 per day. And there's another lot at Strands that's free. We're going to provide concierge shuttles all through the weekend and make this event first-class. We know people are concerned about that but we've grown out of the Doheny spot. It's a better situation in that regard.

SUP mag: Salt Creek is set down, away from the road which makes it beautiful but it also hinders access for athletes and exhibitors. How do you plan to address that?

BT: The beach layout is bigger, and wider than at Doho because the beach has been reducing there because of sand migration. There's a grassy level just above the beach with a great viewing area where we'll have exhibitors, a beer garden and people will have a great vantage point to view the race much better.

For exhibitors, we're going to have a shuttle service utilizing utility vehicles and trailers to get exhibitors in and out. We'll also allow exhibitor's box trucks to go down the ramp. We'll be coordinating it all with the County. For competitors, getting equipment down to the beach, they'll be able to go down, unload then go park and get a shuttle back to Salt Creek.

SUP mag: "Creek" is one of the best high-performance waves in Orange County. It can get pretty thumpy if there's a combo swell in the fall. Are you concerned about that?

BT: We're pretty excited. We have a new, revised elite race and Salt Creek holds the cards for a much more technical race that will be super exciting. We plan on utilizing the break to showcase these amazing athletes. There's a certain amount of danger but that's what the BOP is. Safety is still a maximum concern. We'll utilize the Orange County lifeguards and be able to employ some of our own too. For the elite race, it's a big plus. And the distance race should be stunning. The course will go from Salt Creek to Laguna Beach and back.

SUP mag: What about the open and kids' and races?

BT: The kids' and open race are key. The beach is large and stretches for nearly a mile and there's Strands Beach on the south side of point. We're permitted to be able to utilize the whole beach to find good start and end locations, depending on the surf. We will have to adapt but we're all experts in understanding surf forecasts and we're going to come up with a solution if there's an overhead combo swell. We'll have Plan A, B and C and will have a response for safety and to control the amount of paddlers hitting the water. As race organizers and lifeguards, we'll make certain decisions to make sure it's enjoyable for everyone.

Salt Creek Beach

SUP mag: So culturally, Salt Creek isn't really a SUP destination. Any plans to work with the locals?

BT: We're all Orange County locals so we understand that situation. We know Salt Creek is a sensitive spot. We plan to talk to locals and work with them. We're not going to completely take over the beach. In between the races the water will be open. We definitely want to work with the locals to mitigate problems. But again, Salt Creek is such a scenic and beautiful beach and we're really excited about that.