Advertisement

THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | MIGRATIONS

Dodging freighters and nausea

August 24, 2004|Ben Marcus

The Catalina Classic is all about conditions -- of the wind and sun, of the swell -- and of the watermen who gut out this annual 32-mile paddleboard race from Santa Catalina Island to the Manhattan Beach Pier. When the sun is blazing, the winds are contrary and the surf comes head-on, the race reduces the strongest competitors to seasick, vomiting jelly. On Sunday, about six dozen paddlers who work out year-round (below, Tommy Duryea trains in San Diego Bay before his stock division win last year) will try to break the record of 5:02:12, set in 1999 by Tim Gair under overcast skies and a favorable south swell. Stroking from their stomachs or knees, they will slip out of Two Harbors, then cross shipping lanes, dodging freighters, watching for flukes and fins, and fighting hypothermia, exhaustion and, oddly, dehydration. Although an elite few will push the five-hour barrier, most just hope to go the distance. Today's paddlers, including some pros from Australia, use computer-designed boards made of carbon fiber. Malibu firefighter-paramedic Gene Rink, who won the Classic in 1991, will be a spectator this year, but he's proud to have paddled in the wake of legends: "They started the Classic in 1955 and guys like Greg Noll, Bob Hogan, Ricky Grigg and Tom Zahn were the pioneers," Rink says. "Those guys shoved off on boards made of redwood and balsa. They didn't have GPS, GU packs, escort boats or all the mod cons. If they got mowed by a freighter, oh well. And if they got lost in a fogbank, they might end up at the Santa Monica Pier."

-- Ben Marcus

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|