January 30, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

The Battle Of Salt Creek: BOP California Gets A New Home, Says Goodbye To Doheny

2014 Battle of the Paddle

After months of rumours, whispers and behind the scenes negotiating, it’s now official: The 2014 Battle of the Paddle will not be at its traditional home of Doheny State Beach, but instead will move five minutes north to Salt Creek.

The Battle of the Paddle California, which for the past six years has been the biggest race of the season and the only race that’s been able to attract virtually all of the world’s best, will also be on a new weekend this year: October 4th & 5th, one week later than its usual last-weekend-in-September time slot.

The move in date and location are due to a number of reasons, but it basically all boils down to this: State Parks and Rainbow Sandals haven’t exactly gotten along the past six months, after State Parks dumped a bunch of unreasonable demands on the doorstep of the BOP organisers and told them to either take it or take a hike. That led to a lot of back-and-forth behind the scenes, but in the end the BOP crew decided they could organise a better event for paddlers, fans and exhibitors if they had the freedom of a new location.

Technically speaking we’re still going to be in Dana Point, as the “City of Dana Point” stretches north-south to include both Doheny and Salt Creek Beaches. And actually if you look at where Salt Creek is on the map, it’s only two miles as the crow flies between the old and new locations.

The official line out of Rainbow Sandals HQ (aka the BOP organisers) is that they’re excited to be moving to the “Very scenic, wonderfully clean and iconic Orange County beach that is Salt Creek… Should be an awesome location for everyone.”

Orange County locals will know the spot well, but for those traveling to the BOP, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the Battle of the Paddle’s new home at Salt Creek.

Salt Creek Beach - The New Home of the BOP

For the paddlers themselves, one key point to know is that the wave at Salt Creek generally has a LOT more bite than Doheny, which is known for its slow, fat rollers. There are half a dozen NSSA and Surfing America contests held at Salt Creek each year, which tells you it can get some decent surf. The beach is also a lot more exposed to the Pacific, whereas Doheny is tucked in around a corner and rarely gets over three or four foot. So if a solid swell hits Orange County in early October, we’re in for some carnage that’ll make Doheny look like a walk in the park, potentially making the event more exciting (or simply more chaotic, depending on your viewpoint).

As Gillian Gibree (just one of many local paddlers to comment about the potential for solid waves at Salt Creek) said on our Facebook page moments ago: “Whoa…there’s gonna be a lot of broken boards”

Apart from the improved chances of scoring decent surf (which, again, is either a positive or negative thing, depending on your viewpoint, and perhaps depending on your talent level as well…) the move to have the Battle of the Paddle California at Salt Creek could be a blessing in another way, in that it may revamp and revitalise this iconic race. The BOP has been growing each year and it’s still seen as “the” race on the calendar, so it was hardly at risk of dying, however the elite paddlers were definitely getting a little tired of the same old proceedings at Doheny each September, so perhaps this will add some new flair and excitement to the weekend.

This whole saga about the BOP getting forced out of Doheny and having to find a new home has been a fascinating look at local government politics, one that we could probably write a whole book about. However the end result for the paddlers is simple: The Battle of the Paddle California is confirmed for October 4th & 5th at Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point, California.

Though there is one big question mark/problem: The new dates for the 2014 Battle of the Paddle now clash directly with the Stand Up World Series Finals @ Turtle Bay, one of the other major stops on the SUP racing calendar. I know a lot of the World Series regulars had penciled in Oahu for the first week of October, so they won’t be too stoked with these new dates for the BOP.

A direct clash between these two events is bad everyone: For starters, the Battle would lose young superstars such as Kai Lenny, who fully commit to the Stand Up World Series. Meanwhile the World Series would suffer as well, as it’s trying to build its “Finals” race weekend into a much bigger, world-class event that both elite and amateur paddlers want to travel to, something that will be severely impacted if the BOP California is happening at the same time.

Basically the paddling world would be split between two of the biggest events on the calendar, which would water down both races and kinda suck for everyone.

When asked why they chose this weekend, knowing full well it clashed, the BOP organisers suggested this was the only available slot in September and October, and that they otherwise would have had to move the event to a whole new time of year.

We’ve also asked the World Series organisers what they plan to do: a) move their event or b) simply go ahead and deal with the clash. We’ll update this article when we hear back. (Option c, asking the BOP to move their dates, would seem unlikely given how long it took just to find a new home for the event at all.)

(UPDATE: The World Series crew are chatting with the BOP organisers right now about how to avoid the clash. The BOP dates seem fairly locked, so it’s more likely the Finals @ Turtle Bay event will need to move.)

In the meantime you can pencil October 4th & 5th into your calendars.

Just remember: Doheny is out, Salt Creek is in.