“In 16 years, this was the best Loop ever,” said Dan Mann, of Mannkine Surfboards and organizer of the annual Memorial Day weekend 11.4-mile paddleboard race around Coronado.
More than 70 paddlers enjoyed the finest ocean and weather conditions in more than two weeks with light winds, sunny skies and calm ocean conditions.
The ocean athletes paddled from Gator Beach at the south end of the Coronado Shores out to Zuñiga Jetty at the entrance to San Diego Bay. They then headed back down around the naval ships docked at North Island Naval Air Station, past the bayside homes and restaurants of Coronado, and the high rises of downtown San Diego.
The last leg of the endurance race had them pass through the Coronado bay bridge before arriving at Glorietta Bay, a grassy beach park, ringed by awaiting family members and friends.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, many surfers who competed in surfing competitions also raced paddleboards. Tom Blake is credited with developing the sport back in 1926 when he built a redwood board for the Bishop Museum that was a replica and ode to ancient Hawaiian “olo” surfboards.
Along with Blake, watermen such as George Downing, Pete Peterson, and Mike Doyle were as accomplished on paddleboards as they were on surfboards.
Today, the popularity of prone paddleboarding has been eclipsed by the trendier and more female-friendly sport of stand-up-paddling (both are great workouts).
Elite paddleboarders such as Jamie Mitchell and Kyle Daniels are famed for their athletic prowess and dominance of the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race and the Catalina Classic. Both 32-mile events require ocean crossings in rough conditions and are the ultimate ocean endurance paddle test.
Additionally the Hennessey’s SUP and Paddle Board Racing Series offers up the U.S. Championships in Dana Point Saturday.
Paddleboards are long, sleek and built with traditional fiberglass or lighter carbon fiber or epoxy. New custom unlimited class boards (over 18’) can cost well over $2,000 and are outfitted with tillers, and small racks that hold water bottles and waterproof GPS devices. Shorter boards (12’ and 14’) are also raced.
Roch Frey of Encinitas dominated the Loop field winning overall and the unlimited division by more than three minutes. Sean Richardson and Dan VanDyck followed him.
Geoffrey Page of Imperial Beach placed first in the 50 and Over division with a time of 2.00.06. “I actually didn't train enough for the race,” Geoff said. “I just had a good start and tried to hang on until the finish. I was really struggling at the end.”
Big wave charger Jim Montalbano, also of Imperial Beach, placed third in the Stock class.
“I'm training for the Molokai to Oahu race,” he said before the race commenced. The Hawaiian event takes places on July 29.
My eldest son Israel, 16, entered the race the morning of the event. Borrowing a 12’ custom stock board from Jeff Knox, he started out the race fast ignoring dad’s advice to start slow and carry food and water.
“Halfway through the race I began to fully realize my mistake,” wrote Israel. “My arms became harder and harder to move and I began to fantasize about fast food. I still had six miles to go. The only thing in my mind was the thought of eating incredibly large amounts of food that were waiting for me at the finish line. I passed the finish line and immediately started eating.”
Coronado’s Dougie Mann of clothing company URT has competed in the Loop since its inception back when he was 12.
“It is always worth getting in the ocean. It always makes your day better,” he said.
The Loop 2012 Results
- Roch Frey, 1.51.17
- Sean Richardson, 1.54.35
- Dan VanDyck, 1.58.13
- Shannon Delaney, 2.19.14
- Aimee Spector, 2.22.35
- Kristin Thomas, 2.32.52
50 and Over
- Geoffrey Page, 2.00.06
- Ron Nelson, 2.03.42
- Wally Buckingham, 2.05.04
- Jay Scheckman, 2.04.40
- Reno Caldwell, 2.06.34
- Brant Bingham, 2.13.07
- Steve Schlens, 2.02.01
- Rodney Ellis, 2.05.27
- Jimmy Montalbano, 2.07.12
Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.