This article was originally published on http://www.ocregister.com/articles/event-636823-elite-races.html.
Two-day event hosted by Rainbow Sandals and surf legend Gerry Lopez also includes kids’ events and vendors.
Stand-up paddlers ride the waves in, after rousing a buoy/marker out in the water during the Open SUP Relay race in 2013, part of the Battle of the Paddle.
BY KELLY ZHOU / STAFF WRITER
Published: Sept. 30, 2014
Hundreds of elite athletes will compete in the seventh annual Battle of the Paddle on Oct. 4-5, held for the first time at Salt Creek Beach.
Hosted by Rainbow Sandals and surf legend Gerry Lopez, the two-day event is expected to attract 20,000 spectators with a slew of stand-up paddleboarding races, kids’ events and expo vendors.
Needing more space after last year, event organizers decided to move from Doheny State Beach to Salt Creek, which adds room for a bigger expo and crowd, not to mention a more challenging surf. The elite route will move in and out of the surf and requires participants to catch a wave and ride it to a point, which means there’s “more chances of collision and wiping out,” said Pat Huber, marketing director for Rainbow Sandals.
“The surf at Salt Creek is … definitely kind of a higher level than the waves at Doheny,” said Lopez, the namesake of the event. “It should make for some interesting races.”
Seven years ago, Lopez and two friends, Rainbow Sandals creator Jay “Sparky” Longley and paddleboard builder Ron House, wanted to create an event to share the love of stand up paddleboarding.
Huber helped coin the name, and the Battle of the Paddle was born at Doheny. The event has since become the premier stand-up paddleboarding competition, event organizers believe.
Lopez has seen the event grow larger and the competition pool become stronger each year, with elite athletes coming from as far away as South America, Japan and Europe to compete. Last year there were about 1,200 competitors throughout the weekend, Huber said.
“The most amazing thing about this new sport is that the field of young paddlers is really continuing to progress and evolve,” Lopez said.
The change to Salt Creek will also help spectators, Lopez and Huber said, because they can watch from the bluff above the beach and get a better view of the races.
The elite race is a 4-mile lap course with a 75-foot beach run this year, which brings competitors back to the beach and closer to cheering fans. Oct. 4 includes the elite men’s and women’s races, along with an open 4-mile race. A new event this year is elite prone paddleboard races Oct. 4, which will run the same route as the elite stand-up paddleboard races, Huber said. The Oct. 5 schedule offers a 10-mile distance race, kids’ races and all of the relays.
The Kona Brewing beer garden will help support the nonprofit Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, and Ocean Institute staff will be on hand for educational activities for kids. There will be free parking at Salt Creek and Strands beaches, and shuttles will take people from Strands and the parking lot at Dana Hills High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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About 150 stand-up paddleboarders hit the surf during the third annual Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.
Brennan Rose of team Rogue Sup paddles in during the Elite SUP Relay race during the 2013 Battle of the Paddle in Doheny at Doheny State Beach.
Spectators and team supporters fill Doheny State Beach in Dana Point during the 2013 Battle of the Paddle.
Stand-up paddle racers take to the water at the start of the Open SUP Relay race during the 2013 Battle of the Paddle in Doheny at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.