Paddleboarders from across Southern California will celebrate a past tradition at the Santa Monica Pier with the Santa Monica Paddle Race and Ocean Festival Saturday, June 11.
Returning competitive paddling to Santa Monica for the second consecutive year, the event will feature stand-up and traditional, or “prone” paddle races over a 5.5-mile-long course, as well as a historic surfing and paddling museum display on the pier.
The event, sponsored by surf clothing maker Honolua Surf Co., is a fundraiser for the Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay and its public marine education facility, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Heal the Bay will receive a portion of net proceeds from the event.
Last year’s race and festival brought paddle racing back to the Santa Monica Pier after many decades of absence and far exceeded expectations both in terms of the number of competitors and the enthusiasm of the thousands of spectators who watched from the pier, event organizers said.
During the 1940s and 50s, the city’s historic pier was the site of races where competitors would paddle on boards either lying down or standing up. It was a time prior to the surfing boom in Southern California when paddleboarding was at the height of its popularity by the pier, with race results regularly published in the local newspaper.
While the activity’s popularity waned over the decades as the surfing phenomenon took hold, paddleboarding has experienced a resurgence in recent years.
“The rapid growth of stand up paddling as a sport has really provided an opportunity to embrace the history and heritage of the waterman culture,” said Pat Fraley, brand manager at Honolua Surf Co. “We didn’t really know what to expect last year but we were really happy with how it turned out. Now, with the growth in the sport and the additions we’re making this year, it will be a stand-out event.”
The first race will kick off promptly at 9 a.m., with race events scheduled back-to-back until 2 p.m. Categories include traditional paddleboard, stand-up paddle, lifeguard dory and outrigger canoe races. Immediately following a 2:30 p.m. awards ceremony, there will be live music on the pier and a competitors after-party.
A number of special guests who played important roles in the early days of surfing and paddling are expected to be on hand at this year’s event, signing books, taking photographs and meeting the public.
Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, whose Malibu surfing antics in the 1950s inspired her father to write the 1957 novel “Gidget: the little girl with big ideas,” will be at the race, talking surfing and signing copies of the reissued book.
Esther Maire, who won the Pacific Coast Paddle Board Championship at the pier in 1947, is also scheduled to attend and plans to bring the board she rode in 1947 to include in the historical exhibit.
Another special guest will be Jeff Ho, whose Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica was represented by the original Z-Boys Skate Team that revolutionized skateboarding in the 1970s.
Mickey Mu—oz, one of the original pioneers of big wave surfing at Oahu’s Waimea Bay in 1957, is among several people over 70 years old who will participate in the paddle race event.
The museum exhibits will include memorabilia such as antique surf and paddleboards, lifeguard rescue equipment and photographs of the first paddle racing craze which hit Santa Monica in the 1940s.
Day of race registration begins at 8:30 a.m., but space is limited. Participants are encouraged to register online to ensure a spot in the competition.