First, Hunter repeat in South Paddleboard Race at Hermosa Beach Pier

Max First passes the R10 Buoy, which marks the halfway mark. Photo By JP Cordero

by Kevin Cody

After months of cold, snotty water, the ocean was welcoming to paddlers participating in the Sixth Annual South Bay Paddle on Saturday, June 8. The temperature was still an ice cream headachy 60 degrees, but the water was smooth as glass. The result was record times in both the men’s and women’s divisions, and a record 73, of the 103 paddlers, completing the 15 mile course in under three hours. 

Photos by JP Cordero

The South Bay Paddle starts at the Hermosa Beach pier, goes south four  miles to the Palos Verdes Beach Club, then four miles out to sea to the R10 NOAA weather buoy, and then back to the pier.

Max First, of Manhattan Beach, set the course record in 2:17:54.

Liz “Queen of the Channel” Hunter, of Oceanside, set a woman’s record of 2:42:18.

First is a five time winner, and Hunter a four time winner of the Catalina Classic, a 32 mile race from Catalina Island to the Manhattan Beach pier. The SB Paddle is a qualifier for the Classic, which is held each year on the last Sunday in August.

Robert Parucha, First’s former training partner, who now lives in San Diego, was second, two minutes behind First, in 2:19:36. 

Don Miralle, of Encinitas, won the prone (12 foot board) division in 2:36:43. Dave Thomas, of Hermosa Beach, was second in 2:37:42.

Geoff Page, of Imperial Beach, won the 14-foot division in 2:37:21, followed by Sean Jasso, of Huntington, in 2:37:29.

Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tiana Pugliese was second in the women’s division, in 2:51:05. 

In the three-mile short course, Hunter Sleeis, placed first in 29:09, just 30 seconds ahead of Elijah Mozian. Hunter’s sister Juliana, was the first female finisher, in 34:46. 

The South Bay Paddle was founded in 2018 by Catalina Classic directors Scott Rusher and Matt Walls as a qualifier for the Classic. Previously, despite the fact that half of the Classic paddlers are from the South Bay, the only local qualifying race was the Rock 2 Rock, from Catalina to San Pedro. The other qualifying races were in Santa Cruz and San Diego.

Since the race’s founding, Rusher, as race director, has made it one of the largest prone paddleboard races on the west coast. This year’s 103 finishers, including nine women, are from up and down the west and east coasts. Over half of the paddlers were from San Diego.


At the end of Saturday’s race, Rusher announced he is turning over responsibility for the South Bay Paddle to the South Bay Boardriders Club. Under club president Tom Horton, SBBC has also taken over the Rock to Rock Paddleboard Race, and the International Surf Festival Pier to Pier and R10 paddleboard races. SBBC also runs six surf contests each winter and a variety of other ocean related events. Many of the events are youth and family oriented.

For complete results from the 2024 South Bay Paddle and information about upcoming paddleboard races visit ER


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