Santa Monica Pier | A Storied History of Paddle Racing
Over 80 years ago, the seeds of our sport were planted at the Santa Monica Pier.
This Saturday, June 11, those seeds will come to bear when elite SUP racers from around the world charge into the waters beneath the famed Santa Monica Pier during the 7th annual Tommy Bahama Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival.
Spectators and racers alike have flocked to this fan-favorite festival since it’s inaugural run in 2010. An event whose world-class competition is only matched by its revelry and storied history. While most SUP competitions and festivals these days are focused on the here and now of our sport, Santa Monica tips its hat to the good ol’ days.
From the beachy sounds of surf guitar legend Dick Dale to a pop-up Waterman’s Museum featuring surfing and paddleboarding relics from the yesteryear, event organizers will give spectators an opportunity to step back in time to the roots of paddling.
“People are drawn not only to this as a solid competitive event, but also for the chance to connect with all the cool culture and history of paddling,” said event spokesperson Andrew Rice.
Santa Monica Pier is one of the first places paddle racing took place on the US mainland. Lifeguards including legendary waterman Pete Peterson began racing paddleboards–which were originally wooden planks used by lifeguards as rescue tools–for fun before the first official paddleboard race was held next to the pier back in 1934.
Santa Monica remained the hub of paddle racing until around 1950, when the surfing craze took over and the racing died out. That is until the emergence of SUP in the 2000s, that brought racing back into the limelight.
So after a nearly 60 year hiatus, racing returned to the Santa Monica Pier in 2010 with the inaugural Santa Monica Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival. While organizers only expected a small grassroots festival, over 300 competitors show up.
“We were blown away that first year by how much enthusiasm there was for what was a pretty young sport at the time,” Rice said.
Today, the festival has blossomed into one of the top ocean events in the nation. From elite competitors vying to sketch their name alongside Santa Monica’s greatest paddlers, to casual beach-goers curious to check out a fun-filled festival, this event has become a perfect ambassador for the past, present and future of our sport.
“The celebration of both paddling and lifeguarding history at this event is really cool,” said competitor and organizer Anthony Vela. “It’s not just the racing, but rather the music, festivities and history that gives this festival such an energetic vibe.”
Get stoked for the race with this 30 second teaser video.
Find out what to expect with our preview of the event.