C4 Waterman Field Report #0037
Where: Maunalua Bay, O’ahu
When: May 25th, 2008
What: 1st Annual Race For The Reef Paddling Fundraiser
The trade winds were light and the bumps hard to find, but after a long week of kona winds and vog, Sunday May 25th saw O`ahu paddlesports enthusiasts greeting the first returning puffs of the northeast tradewinds with open arms.
Arriving at Hawaii Kai, the organizers of the Race For The Reef Paddling Fundraiser found a mob of paddlers milling around the registration table, eager to get out there and fly ‘downhill’ on the ‘Hawaii Kai run.’ A staple for O’ahu paddlers, the 8-mile course draws a line directly downwind from Koko Head to Diamond Head; when the trades are howling it’s one long chain of ‘railroading’ bumps and chops.
Though the race was open to OC1s, OC2s, surf skis, and paddleboards, it was the stand-up paddleboard division that fielded the most entrants. SUPs of all descriptions lined up at water’s edge at the mouth of the Hawaii Kai Marina.
“This is a landmark day for the sport,” observed C4 Waterman’s Todd Bradley. “I mean, look at the stand-up boards here. Five years ago there was just a handful of us doing this, getting all sorts of funny looks from all the guys on regular paddleboards.”
A veteran of all types of paddlesports, Bradley has for five years dreamt of establishing a new regatta class of stand-up paddleboards, one in which a widely-accepted design class would be available everywhere to the serious paddler. Having fleets of standardized race board designs would, he reasoned, shift the competitive burden onto the training and technique of the paddler instead of the equipment.
That dream came true in the Race For The Reef. Numerous production models of two main classes of SUP race boards have emerged, the first being 12 to 14-footers with fixed fins; the second class being 16-foot-plus boards with controllable rudders.
Eight C4 Vortice XPs were in the race, but it was C4’s Todd Bradley, an old hand on the Hawaii Kai run, who prevailed. With a rock steady pace and an unerring eye for the magic ‘line, he fought off a spirited challenge by Aina Haina’s Dock Lock. Lock, one of the handful of original pioneers of stand-up paddleboard racing, paddled an 18-foot flatwater board with a controllable rudder. Though he was able to glide over the notorious ‘wallow zone’ off Black Point, it was evident by the time the two leaders reached the Diamond Head Lighthouse that Bradley’s experience in railroading the paltriest bumps would carry the day. He steamed across the finish line at Kaimana Beach with Lock astern, followed closely by Makaha’s Nolan Martin and Dave Parmenter, both on C4 Vortice XP’s.
“This (race) is a good example of the two classes of SUP race boards,” said Bradley as he cooled off in the shallows and watched the rest of the paddlers make their way ashore. “From the very beginning we chose designs that let us surf in the middle of the ocean——once you get on a giant displacement hull with a rudder you lose that ‘surfy’ feeling, and it’s hard to make abrupt turns to follow the run of the bumps.”
With the first race of the season behind the transom, the stand-up paddleboard set is eagerly awaiting the QuiksilverEdition Molokai-to-O`ahu Challenge on July 27th. Bradley predicts a big turnout. “Five years ago there was only Archie (Kalepa) doing the Molokai solo. This year there will be dozens of teams, solo paddlers, and even a celebrity division,” he says as he watches Aaron Napoleon’s 11-year-old son, Riggs, scoot across the finish line on his mini-SUP. “This sport is growing bigger every day, and it’s here to stay.”