The 2016 Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life have something for everyone, from first-time paddlers (demos and clinics) to veteran pros (top-quality racing and the biggest prize purse in SUP). That said, the focal point is the racing. Whether you’re into technical surf racing or open-ocean distance races, there’s something on tap for all divisions—Pro, Open, Junior and Prone—accompanied by a massive prize purse for the overall fastest finishers. To ensure your success on the water at #PPG2016, you’ll want to tailor your strategy and training to each race. Here’s some insight on both courses along with training tips for each race, courtesy of race director Anthony Vela.
While #PPG2016’s six-mile Distance race will run a different course than last year’s, the Pro race will still consist of a water start with two laps around our three-mile, three-point course outside the surf near Doheny State Beach for a six-mile total. Open and recreational contenders have the option to race three or six miles (one lap or two) around the same course. As with the Technical race, the Distance race ends with a sprint up the beach, so you’ll want to fine-tune your dismount accordingly.
“That’s a part you shouldn't leave out of your training,” says Vela. “That's actually practicing getting off your board and running up the beach with a paddle.”
Contenders in the distance race will face surf coming on and off the beach, so if you plan to take part, be comfortable navigating whatever swell is in the water on a race board.
Unlike the technical race, the race kicks off with hundreds or competitors together at the start line.
“In the open distance race there are about 300 to 400 people starting at one time. There’s a lot of turbulence,” Vela says.
And as with any distance race, it’s a longevity thing. Hone in on a pace that will allow you to finish strong.
“You want to get off to a good start where you are paddling at almost 100 percent,” Vela says. “Then you need to find your groove, that 70- to 80-percent range where you can sustain that pace for the remainder of the race.”
This year’s technical races will be structured a bit differently, with multiple 16-man heats in four elimination rounds. It’s a safety thing and it’ll also make for more exciting contention. This reconstruction better suits the format of the race, which consists of multiple laps around a short-course that weaves in and out through the surf line.
“The main difference between the Technical and Distance races is that competitors will be going in and out of the surf,” Vela says. “You’ll want to practice maneuvering around buoys on the inside of a breaking wave.”
Regardless of the forecast (if it’s anything like last year, it’ll be pumping), a surf race at Doheny is always exciting. The wide-open playing field and intricate reef system at Doho make for entertaining conditions no matter the swell size.
“Doheny is an interesting place that has a lot of reverb coming off the beach, and there are a lot of different reefs,” Vela says. “Even on a flat day that doesn't look bumpy, there’s still a lot of water moving around.”
One key component in such a technical race is equipment. Don’t make the mistake of going so small that your sled doesn’t work in turbulent waters.
“It’s really important to be comfortable on your board,” Vela says. “It has to be wide enough to paddle in tough conditions.”
The ten fastest pro racers with the best combined results from both races will take home honkin’ chunks of the $60,000 prize purse. The top four contenders of each individual race will also take fat checks. Get to training.