Clausen, Hunter rein over South Bay Paddleboard race

South Bay Paddle winner Scott Clausen is congratulated by race director Scott Rusher. Phot by Beverly Baird

Photos by Fabien Castro

by Kevin Cody

The Fifth Annual South Bay Paddle on Saturday was a repeat duel between the two winners of the past two Catalina Classic Paddleboard races. 

Last year, recurrent Los Angeles County Lifeguard Max First, of Manhattan Beach won the Catalina Classic for a record fifth time. In 2021, First finished second in the Classic, behind former USC swimmer Scott Clausen, of Seal Beach.

Mike Jackson, Gene Boyer, George Loren and Geoff Page. Photo by Kevin Cody

The Catalina Classic is a 32 mile race, from Catalina Island to the Manhattan Beach Pier. The South Bay Paddle is a Catalina Classic qualifier for new paddlers, and a training race for veteran paddlers. 

Saturday’s race attracted over 100 paddlers from the three west coast states, Idaho and Canada. The race runs south four miles from the Hermosa Beach Pier to Torrance Beach, then four miles out to sea to the R10 buoy, and then seven miles back to the pier.

Clausen completed the 15 mile race in 2:24:30. First finished in 2:29:37. 

Zach Jirkovsky, of Redondo Beach, finished third, though he was actually the second paddler to cross the finish line. He conceded second to First because he had trailed First throughout the race, and there was confusion over the course approaching the finish.

“It was a great show of sportsmanship on Zach’s part,” race director Scott Rusher said.

Jirkovsky’s third place finish still qualified him for a plaque on the South Bay Paddle Perpetual Trophy, which is of particular significance to him because the woodworker made it. The trophy is a two-foot tall wood replica of the red R10 buoy, which paddlers in both the South Bay Paddle, and the Catalina Classic must round on their way to the finish. A shark is hidden beneath the statue’s pedestal. The water approaching the R10 buoy is known as Mako Mile.

The South Bay Donkeys used the 15 mile SB Paddle as a traing race for the upcoming 32 Mile Catalina Classic. Photo by Kevin Cody

A second, potentially more serious mishap was avoided during the race when a power boat coming out of King Harbor threatened to run through the lead pack of paddlers. Safety boat skipper John Mirassou intercepted the boat, which was on autopilot.

There was no drama in the women’s division. 

Liz Hunter, of Oceanside, defended her title as “Queen of the Channel” by winning her third South Bay Paddle in 2:28. Hunter is also a three time Catalina Classic winner.

Emily Bark was second in 3:09:26. Sierra Perry was third in 3:18:50.

The stock (12-foot) division was won by Los Angeles County Lifeguard, and big wave rider Shane Gallas of Manhattan Beach. Quincy Lee was second, and Kyle Smith was third. Deon Lourens won the 14-foot division, followed by Andy Hoover and Mike Jackson.

Jani Lange with race director Scott Rusher. Photo by Beverly Baird

For complete results, including results for the three mile race, visit

Upcoming paddleboard races include The Ocean’s Prone 20 Miler on June 24 ( The race goes from the Ocean Prone Cafe in El Segundo to Torrance Beach and back; Rock 2 Rock, on Sunday, July 2 ( Rock 2 Rock starts at Two Harbors on Catalina Island and ends at Cabrillo Beach; and The Catalina Classic, on Sunday, August 27 ( ER



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