The unofficial start to the racing season went off with a bang at Saturday's Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge at Bonita Cove in Mission Bay, Calif. With the largest turnout in the race's 16-year history, an awesome expo and perfect weather, competitors and race directors alike couldn't have asked for more.

What once began as a small surfski race of about 20 entrants has grown to over 600 competitors- a staggering increase from last year's 400 racers. "This was our largest year and there were way more competitors than we anticipated," said Race Director Dan Van Dyck. The turnout for the two-course event, sponsored by Huki, Maui Jim and Quickblade, included a mix of beginners to elite racers from 7 years old up to 70, competing on SUP, prone paddleboards, OC-1/OC-2's, surf skis and kayaks. In addition to the two courses, and unique to the Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge, a free 1000m race was offered to kids 14 and under, drawing in more than 50 young competitors who raced SUP, prone paddleboards and K-1.

Three board classes were offered for SUP in the long distance 9-mile course, including 12'6, 14', and Unlimited. Competitors faced perfect conditions with "the best weather ever and no wind," Van Dyck said. Maui boy Slater Trout took the win in 12'6 with Rami Zur placing 2nd. The dominant Danny Ching placed first in 14' and Thomas Maximus Shahinian won in the Unlimited class. After taking a short break from racing Brandi Baksic came back ready to win, taking first in 12'6 with Maggie Hogan placing 2nd, while Suzy Strazzula won the 14' class with Julie Wolfe just behind in 2nd. Candice Appleby, a usually-dominant SUP racer, switched it up and raced prone paddleboard, taking the win in her division and proving her waterwoman abilities once again.

Throughout the day, competitors and spectators could refuel with tacos from Taco Bull while enjoying the sounds of Makihele Polynesian Revue. The event also offered the opportunity to check out and test the latest in paddle sports gear at Hanohano's expo of 25 vendors, including OEX, ULI Boards, Rogue, Sweet Waterwear, West Coast Paddlesports and more.

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16th Annual Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge paddle board race from Boardworks Surf on Vimeo.

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