July 17, 2015
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Pacific Paddle Games: SUP Racing Will Return To Its Spiritual Home Of Doheny In October

Battle of the Paddle Elite Race start

It’s official: The Battle of the Paddle has a replacement. After weeks of rumours and speculation, SUP the Mag just announced they’ll be hosting the inaugural Pacific Paddle Games at Doheny State Beach, California on October 10th and 11th, aka the original dates (and the original home) of the BOP.

The official word came out yesterday, however there have been plenty of whispers in the racing community over the past month or two. Pretty much ever since the Battle of the Paddle was cancelled 11 weeks ago to the day, paddlers has been asking if/when a “replacement” would be announced.

But while the Pacific Paddle Games is indeed a direct replacement for the Battle – same original location, same date and very similar format – I get the impression this event is less about “filling a hole” and more about evolving the sport and giving the stand up paddling community a new & improved end-of-season showcase.

I chatted with SUP the Mag’s Editor-in-Chief, Will Taylor, about their plans for Doheny, and the recurring theme was one of creating a fun, all-inclusive festival at the original home of SUP racing. The Pacific Paddle Games (PPGs?) are being promoted to paddlers of all skill levels, so while there will be a major focus on the Elite Race showcase, the traditional “Open Race” and a renewed emphasis on demos and exhibitions will be a central part of the weekend as well.

Details are still a little thin at the moment – the official site is just a holding page and organisers are, quite wisely, being very careful not to announce the specifics until they’re set in stone – but after chatting with Will and a couple of other people close to the event, I’m very excited about the potential for the Pacific Paddle Games to help push our sport forward.

While it may seem a little odd that a magazine is hosting what could be one of the biggest international races of the year, SUP the Mag has a few key advantages over pretty everyone else in the sport. For one, they’re backed by a major company that has the resources to host a big event.

SUP the Mag’s parent company, The Enthusiast Network, has its own “Sports & Entertainment” events group, which was responsible for the Oakley Lowers Pro surf contest earlier this year. If you’re a pro surfing fan, that should give you an indication of the quality these guys can deliver.

Pacific Paddle Games

Pacific Paddle Games returns SUP racing to Doheny (photo credit: Harry Wiewel)

The other major bonus with having SUP the Mag organise the Pacific Paddle Games is media. The magazine knows SUP media better than pretty much anyone. That’s what they do all day every day.

One of my biggest gripes with the BOP was their complete lack of media exposure (no official video production, no webcast in the latter years, no central photo/media pool for the brands and athletes to repost, not even an official Facebook or Instagram account…), however I’m pretty sure the Pacific Paddle Games will be the complete opposite. While specific details are yet to drop (before you ask, I’m not sure if the PPGs will have a live stream or not), rest assured there will be no shortage of professional media coming out of Doheny that weekend.

Thirdly, the Pacific Paddle Games will fit in with the magazine’s “SUP Awards” event, which was the traditional lead in to the Battle. The PPGs are on the weekend of October 10th & 11th, with the SUP Awards set for Thursday October 8th. With one brand now in charge of that entire week of paddling festivities, things should be a lot smoother and more streamlined.

Though perhaps most symbolically of all, the PPGs will return international SUP racing to the original home of the sport. Doheny State Beach (Dana Point) hosted the Battle of the Paddle from the first edition back in 2008 right up until 2013, before the iconic race shifted north to Salt Creek for what proved to be its final year. The waves at Salt Creek produced an entertaining spectacle, however Doheny has always been SUP racing’s spiritual home. The venue is also much better suited for SUP racing, particularly for the amateur and junior divisions.

While more details of the Pacific Paddle Games will be dripped out over the next month (again, organisers stressed they want to under-promise/over-deliver), a few other snippets have emerged.

2011 Battle of the Paddle 3

As for the format of the racing itself: It sounds like organisers were tossing up the idea of creating a completely new, bold format for the Elite Race, but decided to stick with something similar to what the BOP offered.

Most of the top paddlers agree our sport has gone stale lately, with the same race format at pretty much every event around the world. I strongly believe we need more innovative/exciting race formats to evolve SUP racing to the next level. The PPGs team is aware of this, but in the end they opted to act prudent and focus on pulling off a great event in the first year, rather than stretching their resources trying to create something untested.

I think that’s quite smart. I’d love to see more experimental race formats, but what happens on the water is only one relatively small part of creating a great weekend.

The PPGs Elite Race won’t be exactly the same as the BOP though – the format will be a slight evolution (and probably an improvement) from what we’re used to. Rather than having just two qualifying heats and a final on Saturday afternoon, as the BOP did, it sounds like the PPGs elite showcase will be split into several smaller, shorter, sharper qualifying rounds on Saturday, ahead of the final on Sunday afternoon.

The Pacific Paddle Games will also feature the Open Race, Distance Race and I assume Team Relays (Update: No team relay but there will be a “Manufacturers Challenge” combining points from all races) that made the BOP’s time at Doheny such an all-inclusive affair.

As for the setup on the beach: Organisers are also planning to create a mini athletes village, where teams will have their own dedicated tents separate from the expo area. We saw some of that team spirit at the BOP, however it always got a bit messy when team rider tents and demo areas were mixed in together.

For the Pacific Paddle Games, the demos and exhibitions will happen in the northern, protected corner of Doheny, slightly removed from the athletes’ area. I hear there will also be a better setup for spectators to enjoy the racing action.

So there you go. The Pacific Paddle Games. Right now I’ve cautiously listed the PPGs as a five-star event on the Rogue Race Calendar, however I get the feeling it’ll get the full six-star treatment once the final details arrive in a couple of weeks.

Pacific Paddle Games stand up paddle SUP