Battle of the Paddle – GO!

Dana Point will be bursting to the seams with every sort of standup paddler from the most elite to the curious newbie. From  a huge array of vendors on the shore to the high-energy races and the exuberant fans, friends and families this is a not-to-be missed stand-up paddle (SUP) exposition that is an ocean festival celebrating what has become a global lifestyle. The expectation for more than 1000 entries is highly realistic – and I truly wish I could be entry number 1001. My guess? There are plenty of you out there who’d love to join in as well. There will be something for everyone. From beginners, to family and company relay teams, to high intensity elite competition, Battle of the Paddle is a showcase for the water sport we love.

Long before I ever thought I’d have the skills to consider heading out for an event like Battle of the Paddle I received the 2009 Commemorative Promo DVD called, “Stand Up and Make a Difference” for the Battle of the Paddle. Seriously, the dream began. Just this summer we purchased a new Mike Waltze film called, “That First Glide.” The hook was now seriously set. 

The story began with images evoking the pioneers of 2000 years ago venturing from Tahiti on their paddle canoes. Over time, Hawaiians introduced surfing and paddling to the world. Over many generations, the “beach boys” refined their sport purely out of having fun on the waters that sustained and influenced their life and culture. No doubt you’ll be in awe of some of the waves the film captures, monsters being ridden with an evolutionary array of boards and paddles by modern day pioneers that include Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Chuck Patterson and many more. When you take the time to watch the film it’s hard not to get jazzed about riding waves and paddling flatwater that is accessible to any of us. The segment showing Laird and Dave simply playing on waves that many of us might find “not good enough” is a perfect example of the absolute versatility of standup paddling from the perspective of two of the greatest watermen.

This is what it’s all about – Rainbow Sandals Founder Jay ‘Sparky’ Longley looks to the future of SUP – 12-year-old Riggs Napoleon, son of Aaron Napoleon. Photo by Chase Olivieri.

Back to the theme of this article, the Battle of the Paddle. There is a short interview midway through the film in which Gerry Lopez is asked about the inspiration for what has become such an incredible SUP event. There is a pause and then a grin, Gerry explains that he and Sparky Longley (founder, Rainbow Sandals)  both became enamored with standup at about the same time. When they started thinking about what kind of event they could design Gerry knew exactly what kind it should be. “The race should start right in the surf and go in and out through the surf with the course set right in the middle of the surf break.” And so began one of the most compelling and challenging ocean events drawing in some of the best ocean athletes in the world.

The elite racers have to mix it up with a sprint through the gauntlet midway through their race. They return to the surf for another loop. Obviously these elite athletes have to stay tuned in to the condition and be in top physical shape.

One aspect of BOP is that it includes events that stretch standup paddlers of all levels to the best of their current abilities. The Open course begins outside of the surf break. Demos and “fun” events allow beginners to feel a part of the energy and culture.

To all of you reading this who are “BOP Dreaming,” take a look around your own backyard – or ocean, lake, river or bay. We are blessed with endless numbers and types of events organized by people with a similar passion for getting the SUP “game” right. Maybe you are one of those people. If so, please share a story or comment about your event. Just like we are collecting stories about SUP retailers and professionals working hard for a cause, we want to collect stories about people who infuse local events with a passion and energy similar to what the BOP has nurtured.

Read a bit about one such event organizer, Steve Gates of Big Winds and the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River Oregon. Then send us e-mail with your story. We might not be part of the 1000+ at Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point next weekend, but we can be a part of the culture it inspires.

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