What started out as a picture perfect California day turned brutally cruel for many of the world's best stand up paddlers, who converged on Doheny Beach on Saturday for the first annual Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle, presented by Rainbow Sandals. The event was undoubtedly the largest group of stand up paddlers ever assembled, with more than 500 paddlers on scene to compete in one of the several races and partake in the various exhibitions. Notable participants included some of the most elite athletes of surf and sport, like Olympic medal winning canoe paddler like Jimmy Terrell, big wave chargers Chuck Patterson and Aaron Napolean, icons "Buttons" Kaluhiokalani and Mickey Munoz, not to mention soul masters like Rob Machado and of course, Gerry Lopez himself.
"The whole thing became far more of a challenge than most people figured it would," said Barret Tester, who spearheaded the event on behalf of Rainbow Sandals. "It was this beautiful fall day early on—sheet glass, incredible visibility and not a hint of wind at all as things got underway. Watching more than 250 people out there at the start was an unbelievable sight. They looked like a giant bait ball. But after about two laps around the track things started getting pretty challenging, as the wind started blowing."
By midday, just in time for the elite division, the wind was maxing out at 25 knots, and the one mile circuit track was equal parts uphill and downhill. "It's so hard to paddle straight into the wind like that," said Machado, watching from shore. "I'm was thinking about jumping in there today but I'd probably be blown down to Trestles in this stuff." Indeed, most of the top finishers looked like Olympic body builders, with Chuck Patterson taking the top honors in the elite division. For grinding it out against his paddle, Chuck walked away with a $10,000 first prize, and a huge feather in his cap.
"We couldn't have asked for a better inaugural run," said Tester. "It was really cool to see such a convergence of different athletes in one place. The fact that the turnout was so big among contestants and spectators means we're probably going much bigger next year."
1. Chuck Patterson, Dana Point, CA
2. Thibert Lussiaa, Kailua-Kona, HI
3. Aaron Napolean, Pearl City, HI
4. Kyle Mochizuki, San Juan Capistrano, CA
5. Jimmy Terrell, Costa Mesa, CA
1. Thomas A Gallagher, Long Beach, CA
2. Eric Starnes San Juan Capistrano, CA
3. Eric Diamond Dana Point, CA
4. John Perell Del Mar, CA
5. Richard Schroeder Santa Barbara, CA