Kevin Cody

Tide turns in South Bay/San Diego paddleboard rivalry

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Max First cruises to  first place in the South Bay Paddle in Hermosa Beach on Saturday. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Kevin Cody

Last year’s inaugural South Bay Paddle was dominated by San Diego paddlers, who swept the podium and posted seven of the top 10 fastest times. During this year’s South Bay Paddle, on Saturday at the Hermosa Beach Pier, San Diego was again well represented, but the tide swung. Saturday’s three fastest times, and six of the top 10 times were by South Bay Paddlers.

The race drew over 90 paddlers, a dozen more than last year, making it the largest local paddleboard race since the Hennessey World Championship Paddleboard Race in 2011.

Three time Catalina Classic winner Max First, of Manhattan Beach, won the 15 mile race, avenging his loss to six-time All American swimmer Alex Merrill in the previous weekend’s eight-mile Oceans Prone Paddleboard Race in Manhattan Beach.

First finished in 2:19:00, four minutes faster than last year’s winning time by Roch Frey, of Encinitas. Merril finished in 2:22:32. Los Angeles County Lifeguard Pat Jacobson, a paddler on the winning 2016 Taplin Bell team, placed third in 2:23:40.

Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tiana Pugliese was the first woman finisher. Photo by Ray Vidal

Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tiana Pugliese, who finished third in the women’s division last year, was first this year, in 2:52.16. Fellow lifeguard Jenna Solberg was second in 2:55:24. And Liz Hunter, of Oceanside, who won last year’s race was third in 2:58:22. All three paddled stock (12-foot) boards.

In the men’s stock division, Bart Schade, of San Diego, was first in 2:35:37, three minutes faster than his winning time last year, followed by Los Angeles County Lifeguard Shane Gallas, a paddler on last year’s Taplin Bell championship team, in 2:37:52, and Zach Koehn in 2:42:20.

The triangle course runs south four miles from the Hermosa pier to Torrance Beach, then four miles out to sea to the R10 Buoy off Palos Verdes, and then back to the Hermosa Pier.

Conditions were smooth throughout the course, except for light chop during the approach to the R10. A  south wind gave the paddlers a push on the final leg.

Nearly 100 paddlers competed in the Second Annual South Bay Paddle in Hermosa Beach on Saturday. Photo by Kevin Cody

Approximately half of Saturday’s paddlers were training for, or attempting to qualify for the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race on August 25. The others, like Los Angeles County Firefighters Ian Nicols and Sean Scully, were recreational surfers and paddlers drawn to the event by the camaraderie and their love of the ocean. 

A second, three mile, short course race for young paddlers and out of shape adult paddlers went from the pier to the sail race buoys off of King Harbor and back to the pier. The top three finishers were Philip Barnett, 15, of El Segundo, in 28:23 (stock), Jex McCartney, of Hermosa, in 29:45 (unlimited), and Elijah Nielsen, 13, in 31:48 (stock).

At the finish line, paddler and physical trainer Jay Russell offered competitors his Active Recovery Zone treatment, which involves an electro massaging body sleeve designed to speed recovery.

During the awards presentation at Waterman’s restaurant, race directors Matt Walls and Scott Rusher thanked the paddling community and the Los Angeles County Lifeguards for their support. Sponsors included Waterman’s, Joe Bark Surfboards, Patagonia and the South Bay Boardriders Club. ER

Photos by Ray Vidal

Photos by Beverly Baird

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