On Sunday, August 29th, 2010, paddlers from all over the United States and from as far away as Australia took to the waters off of Southern California in the 35th Catalina Classic Paddleboard Championships, the premier and most historical paddleboard race in the world. Officially started in 1955 by Los Angeles County Lifeguard Bob Hogan, the first Catalina crossing was won in 1932 by Tom Blake, beating out Pete Peterson and Wally Burton in just under 6 hours.
Adam Buckley conquered 32 miles of choppy and cold water on the open-ocean course Sunday to win the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, which starts at the island’s Isthmus Cove in Catalina Island and ended in Manhattan Beach.
The 32-year-old Hermosa Beach resident improved his 2009 time by 23 minutes to go from 19th to first in 5 hours, 34 minutes, 6 seconds.
Brian Rocheleau, 29, of Kailua in Hawaii, finished second in 5:41:03. Anthony Vela, 36, an L.A. County lifeguard finished third in 5:47:06 in his first race.
Vela was hanging with Buckley during the first 10 miles. but then was dropped or Vela took a different route north.
He is quoted in the daily breeze as saying “I don’t think either one of us knew what we were doing in terms of the course,” Buckley said, smiling. “It’s hard to say what’s the best way to go at some points, but I’d been told head north, so I think I took more of a straight line.”
“We were way off course,” Vela said, “then I think he did choose the best route, but he’s such an incredible paddler. That’s why he won.”
It was obvious after the race that the paddleboarders were equal parts competitors and friends. The surfing/paddleboard community is a tight one and the shared experience is important to them.
“This is a great finish, seeing all these people and the excitement,” said Rocheleau, who finished fourth in 2009. “It’s great to see the sport is alive over here like it is in Hawaii.
“I came here because I wanted to experience the race and see some friends. It’s amazing what Buckley did in his second try.”
The race, which began at 6 a.m. in Catalina, is one of the sport’s great tests of endurance and skill.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Rocheleau said. “Your mind wanders a bit out on the ocean. It’s kind of a meditative thing. I think we all share that part of it, being out on the ocean.”
For Vela, this year’s Catalina Classic had special meaning. He dedicated his first 32-mile race to one of his friends and heroes, the late Jim Miller, who has a charitable foundation in his name.
“I did this for Jim,” Vela said. “I kept thinking about what he did for me during the race. When I finished, the feeling was almost indescribable …
“I cried. It meant a lot to me.”
Typical of the competitors, Vela was as happy for Buckley was he was for himself. And he was delighted by the positive turnout.
“The South Bay community understands what this race is about,” Vela said. “The paddling community is pretty special.
“There’s something about sharing the experience on the ocean. All paddlers started as surfers. The ocean is what bonds us.”
Tom Duryea of Coronado finished 10th overall in 6:14:00 and was the stock winner . Matt Sullivan and Jay Scheckman finished second and third in the stock division and took a solid 13th and 14th overall in 6:17:15 and 6:17:27.
Aussie Jo Ambrosi, 38, won the four-woman division in 6:40:55. DJ O’Brien, 44, Carly Rogers, 34, and Christina Powers, 33-all members of the South Bay Mermaids-finished behind her in 6:52:28, 7:54:55 and 8:26:55.
Eighty-seven paddlers started the race and only two did not finish. Other top-15 finishers not mentioned previously were:
4. George Plsek, 41, Solano Beach, 5:48:28;
5. Jay Miller, 42, Cardiff, 5:51:51;
6. Todd Robinson, 45, San Diego, 5:55:30;
7. JP Cruz, 46, Hermosa Beach, 6:03:35;
8. Peter Hursty, Honolulu, 6:09:46;
9. Steve Schlens, 40, Santa Barbara, 6:10:20;
10. Tom Duryea of Coronado in 6:14:00
11. Donald Miralle, 36, Carlsbad, 6:14:21;
12. Mederic Berthe, 36, Carlsbad, 6:15:09;
15. Ron Roebuck, 45, Hermosa Beach, 6:17:40.