Standup paddling went off in Dana Point last weekend at the 4th Annual Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle (BOP). Over 15,000 competitors and spectators came out to Doheny State Beach over the two days of racing, making this the largest BOP and SUP race to date.
Saturday was an eventful day starting with two Qualifying Heats where top standup paddlers competed to make it to the Elite Finals race. Competitors paddled through a two-mile course, battling to make it in the top 32 slots in order to advance to the Elite Final.
In the final,Connor Baxter (Hawaii), Danny Ching (California) and Jamie Mitchell (Australia) charged through the start, quickly breaking away from the pack of elite racers. For three miles, the three battled in and out through the surf around the buoy course. It all came down to the final turn as Baxter rounded the last buoy first, with Mitchell and Ching right on his tail. Mitchell was unable to keep his balance, falling as he came around the buoy and blocking Ching's course at a vital moment.
"I thought if it came down to the end I'd be able to pull away and I just fell," Mitchell said. "I sort of messed Danny up as well and really blew it for a sprint finish for the three of us.”
Baxter took off after Mitchell's fall, winning the Elite Race at 43:52, with Mitchell and Ching finishing second (43:55) and third (44:00).
"It was an exciting, great run," Mitchell said. "The young kid deserves it- he had a great year, so congrats to Connor."
Candice Appleby of California took the Women's title for the fourth time at the Battle after a brutal race against fellow elite paddlers Brandi Baksic (California) and Annabel Anderson (New Zealand). Appleby finished the course not far behind the top men' s finishers, with a time of 49:44. Baksic and Anderson, second and third place finishers, completed the elite race at 50:12 and 50:19.
"I've had harder races this summer" the BOP champion said. "Everything I did this summer, all the races I did leading up to this made it kind of easy, easier than before for sure, so it was good.”
Although the Elite Race was the main event of the weekend, the Open Race, also held Saturday, had a huge competitive field with over 320 registered racers. Californians dominated the Open Race with Dane DeBoer winning overall (38:54) and San Diego brothers Scott Shoemaker (39:06) and Dan Shoemaker (39:20) finishing second and third.
Sunday kicked off with the Distance Race, a 10-mile race from Doheny State Beach south to San Clemente Pier. SUP champion, Danny Ching, took the win with a time of 1:17:00, finishing with over a minute lead on the other competitors. San Clemente's Rob Rojas took second (1:18:12) and Australia's Jamie Mitchell and Travis Grant finished third and fourth with a shared time of 1:20:23.
Top finishers in the Women's division of the Distance Race included the same top women standup paddlers from Saturday's Elite Race. Candice Appleby took first, finishing at 1:30:14 with Annabel Anderson (1:32:22) and Brandi Baksic (1:32:44) close behind at second and third.
The Surf Relay Race wrapped up the weekend with fun competition. Each relay consisted of 3 males and at least one female. Team C4 Waterman won the Relay Race with a time of 34:07. Naish Team 1 took second (35:00), just barely beating out Hobie Team 1 (35:01). - Shari Coble
For more info and results: Battleofthepaddle.com
For interviews from the elite race visit the SUP magazine Facebook page where Jamie Mitchell talks about the drafting process during the elite final.
Photos by Chris Bishow