It is hard to believe the radical evolution of the Battle of the Paddle. Compared to the inaugural event that occurred only 2 years earlier just a few hundred yards south in an area 1/4 of the size with a 1/4 of the competitors. The 2010 Battle of the Paddle defined the true and heavily discussed evolution of SUP as a legitimate sporting event. The BOP has grown from what it was 2 years ago to an international event that is broadcast internationally via the world wide web, hosts a vendor expo of almost trade show scale, and now consumes an entire state park and its beach front. It has become an official international event with competitors representing countries from almost every continent.
The Hobie Team Race Pit came alive first thing Saturday morning. Team riders eagerly stacked their boards on the race racks and prepped for what was setting up for two days of true Battle. The beach began to buzz as the first and most prestigious event of the weekend neared, The Elite Race. I am not sure what kind of rain forest juju occurs before the BOP, but almost like clock work the typical Doheny flat conditions transform with consistent sets sweeping across the course. The start is nothing lass than chaos with more than 150 paddlers jockeying for premier position. The Hobie Elite paddlers showed their depth placing 4 in the top 20, Colin McPhillips 11th, Jay Wild 16th, Byron Kurt 17th, Chuck Patterson 18th, and 16 year old Emmy Merrill securing a top 10 finish among the women.
The afternoon's event de jour, the open race, probably saw the biggest competitive single stand up racing field ever, with 313 paddlers tackling the 5 lap box course. Hobie paddlers did extremely well with, many placing within the top 3 in their respective age groups.
Day two started off a quite a bit more reserved than the first day as paddlers carefully worked out the aches, pains and kinks from the day before. The 10 mile distance race saw many of the same SUP Elite work horses return, this time some had opted for longer unlimited or 14' boards and others kept the 12'6 grind alive. Hobie's Chuck Patterson posted the best team finish of the day placing 3rd overall behind Danny Ching and Rob Rojas. Byron Kurt (1st 12'6 40-49), Colin MCPhillips (3rd 14' 30-39), Rob Pelke (3rd 14' 40-49), Jay Wild (2nd 12'6 30-39) and Mitch Kahn (1st 14' 50-59) all finished top 3 in their respective age groups.
The Grand Finale of the BOP, The Team Relay, is an event that Team Hobie has been very successful in the past with it's paddling depth. From the start, Team Hobie (Colin McPhillips,Chuck Patterson, Emmy Merrill, and Byron Kurt) jumped out to a commanding lead and looked as though it may of been enough to hold off Team SUP Co. Byron Kurt hit the final lap with about 10 yards on Sup Co's Jaime Mitchell, but unfortunately was unable to maintain the lead as Jaime was fortunate enough to catch the 1st wave on an outside set. Sup Co 1st, Team Hobie 2nd in one of the best fought SUP Relays.
It is hard to fathom the next evolution of the BOP, what is next is purely up to the organizers and the SUP community supporting it, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the next BOP include prime time TV coverage, who knows???
Team Hobie Race Pit
Elite Race Start
Open Race Start
Team Relay - Colin McPhillips, Chuck Patterson
Team Hobie - 2nd Place Team Relay (Emmy Merrill, Colin McPhillips, Chuck Patterson, Byron Kurt )