South Bay’s First is first again, but San Diego dominates South Bay Paddleboard Race

Max First led the South Bay Paddle from start to finish, with help from an amphibious rabbit to keep him on pace. Photo by JP Cordero

Max First checks behind him as he approaches the finish of the South Bay Paddleboard Race on Saturday. Photos by JP Cordero

Photos by JP Cordero

by Kevin Cody

The South Bay paddleboard season opened Saturday morning with 95 paddlers competing in a 15 mile race that started at the Hermosa Pier, followed the coast four miles south to Torrance Beach, then out four miles to the R10 Buoy, and then seven miles back to the pier.

The four-year-old race, founded by Catalina Classic board member Scott Rusher as a qualifier for the Classic, is called the South Bay Paddle. But this year’s race might better have been called the San Diego Paddle. Ten of the top 14 places were claimed by padders from down south.

But as pioneer paddler Mike Eaton once observed, there are only two places in a paddleboard race. First and finisher. And fortunately for the South Bay paddling community the first finisher was Manhattan Beach resident and Los Angeles County lifeguard Max First. 

Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tiana Pugliese was a repeat winner in the women’s division. Photo by JP Cordero

First time of 2:20:50 was just one minute off his winning time in 2019. (The race was not held in 2020 because of the pandemic.)

Photos from the finish show First looking over his shoulder, where Scott Clausen, of Oceanside, was just a few board lengths back.

“I chased Max from the start to the finish, but couldn’t reel him in,” Clausen said. He finished just 14 seconds behind First, in 2:21:04.

Scott Clausen, of Oceanside, finished second.

Finishing third was Alex Merrill, of Seal Beach.

Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tiana Pugliese won the women’s division, in 2:54:30, followed by Emily Bark in 3:04:30, and DJ Wilson in 3:06:31. Pugliese also won the race in 2019.

In the stock division, Don Miralle, of San Diego, finished first in 2:27:42, followed by Foster Campbell, of Santa Barbara in 2:40 and Los Angeles County lifeguard Tyler Jaggers in 2:42.

The 14-foot division was won by Geoff Page, of Imperial Beach, in 2:36:55, followed by Sean Jasso, in 2:44:41.

In the three-mile, short course race, Ethan Ward of Manhattan Beach finished first among the 17 competitors. In the stock division, the three Loren brothers, from San Diego, Nate, 15, Collin, 13, and Kyle, 8,  placed first, second and third.

The South Bay Boardriders Club provided staffing for the race and Waterman’s hosted the awards party.

After 15 miles, just 14 seconds separated Max First and Scott Clausen at the finish of the South Bay Paddle on Saturday. Photo by JP Cordero

Upcoming paddleboard races

The next local paddleboard race is the Rock 2 Rock, on Sunday, June 27. The 22-mile race starts at Two Harbors on Catalina Island and ends at Cabrillo Beach. The 23rd Annual R10 Paddleboard Race follows, on Saturday, July 29. The eight mile, out and in course runs from Torrance Beach to the R10 buoy and back. The next day, the Velzy Stevens Pier to Pier takes place at the Manhattan pier. The 1.6 mile race ends at the Hermosa Pier. The final race of the season is the 32-mile Catalina Classic, from Two Harbors on Catalina Island, to the Manhattan Beach pier. ER


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