the second annual Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival. Hundreds of competitors paddled through the Pacific Ocean in an old Santa Monica tradition that is making a comeback.
Thousands of spectators came along to honor paddleboarding’s past and present at the Santa Monica Pier Paddle Race and Ocean Festival.
Organizer Joel Brand is trying to bring back the sport that started in Santa Monica back in the 1930s and 1940s. After a wave of surfing hit in the 1970s, paddleboarding lost its popularity.
But after two successful events in two years, Brand is confident in the return of the sport.
“They were fantastic water races and a wonderful celebration of Santa Monica’s formative place in the evolution of paddleboarding, surfing, and ocean lifesaving,” said Brand. “And it’s only going to keep getting better next year.”
Paddlers in this year’s race ranged in age from 9 years old to well in people into their seventies. Also present were a number of families with multiple generations who raced together. The Pier Paddle also showcased lifeguard dory races and an outrigger canoe competition.
While paddleboarding has exploded in popularity, it had a long prior history, including a heyday in the 1940s when the Santa Monica Pier was a hub for racing. The sport disappeared for decades, eclipsed by surfing, only to be brought back to life with the innovation of stand up paddling, or SUP.
The Pier Paddle was a benefit for Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay and its public marine education facility, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Heal the Bay will receive a portion of net proceeds from the event.
“Bringing paddle sports back to the Santa Monica Bay and the Pier is a wonderful measure of Heal the Bay’s 25-plus years of work to improve water quality,” said Randi Parent, public outreach specialist at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. “It’s gratifying that the paddle sports community has come together to support a cleaner, healthier bay for the benefit of us all, and particularly for the marine life.”
The event, sponsored by Honolua Surf Co. was part of the World Paddle Association’s championship qualifying series and featured some of the top paddlers in the country. The elite class paddlers raced on a 5.5 mile course which was won overall by Dialy Ndiaye with a time of 54:12. Lifeguard and pro paddler Anthony Vela was second overall in 54:31. Candace Appleby was the fastest woman, winning the women’s elite prone paddle with a time of one hour four minutes and twenty seconds. Complete results will be posted at pierpaddle.com
“Our company is all about supporting the traditions of these sports and of the waterman lifestyle,” said Pat Fraley, brand manger of Honolua, “This event was an example of all that and more.”