The surf was nearly perfect for the Hinano SurfRace to Victory Sunday in Huntington Beach, Calif.: Big enough that race boards could be surfed with style, but not so pumping that the carnage factor exceeded the pure entertainment value. “It was definitely the most fun event of the season," said elite SUP competitor, Brandi Baksic.

The new SUP Boarder Cross format—with competitors sporting Pro-tec helmets—was a challenging one. Overall waterman skills were tested as competitors raced the W-shaped course through shore break to the end of the pier, then in and out of the surf again, before running up the beach to the finish.

"This race really showed how important the start is," Baksic said. "Getting through the shore break was rough and the waves completely changed the race because people would get stuck inside, making the ten minute heat a twenty minute heat."

But the Hinano SurfRace to Victory was all about viewing pleasure, as spectators could watch the entire race from the pier. "The race was so fun to watch because you saw a lot of elite paddlers getting worked in the surf," Baksic added. "Many top paddlers are out for the Hennessey's-WPA Championships and Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle, so it was a definitely a good showing.” The competition was narrowed down as the winners of each heat moved on to qualify for the finals and competitors who did not win their heat finished their day with repechage heats.

Anthony Vela took 1st in the finals after a close race with Australian Jamie Mitchell, winner of the Men's SUP Stock class at Saturday's Hennessey's-WPA World Championships. After battling the entire course and catching the same wave in, Mitchell fell and Vela narrowly beat him in a foot race to the finish, taking home the $1,500. Jake Jensen took 3rd, Fernando Stalla of Mexico took 4th, and Chuck Patterson grabbed 5th.

Candice Appleby, winner of the Women's SUP Stock class at Hennessey's-WPA World Championships took 1st in the women's finals with Brandi Baksic finishing close behind in 2nd and Gillian Gibree taking 3rd.

The awards ceremony was held at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway at the Surfers' Walk of Fame. Competitors and spectators wrapped up the evening with a fashion show and party at Duke's restaurant. “I was stoked the whole day, not just to win but to see everyone having such a good time in the surf,” Vela said. “And it’s always fun to end an event with a party and a cold beer.” –Shari Coble

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Photos by Skip Prosser