June 10, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Tommy Bahama Pier Paddle: California’s Finest Set to Do Battle at Santa Monica on Saturday

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We’re certainly in for a big weekend of racing…

While the EuroTour continues on to San Sebastian, across the pond we’ve got one of California’s biggest and best events of the year: The Tommy Bahama Paddleboard Race & Ocean Festival at Santa Monica Pier — aka the Pier Paddle.

Steeped in history, the Pier Paddle isn’t just a race, it’s a festival. On the water this Saturday is everything from SUP racing to prone racing to traditional lifeguard events (don’t miss the dory races), while on the sand you’ve got the gear expo, food fest, beer (and rum!) garden, and even a bit of live music after the race (featuring no less than the “King of Surf Guitar” Dick Dale – aka the Pulp Fiction theme song guy).

Sounds like a pretty good day out to me.

Pier Paddle

One of California’s finest events, the Tommy Bahama Pier Paddle (photo: Mike Muir)

Held right beside the iconic Santa Monica Pier, the Pier Paddle will feature a stellar lineup of elite paddlers this year, with the likes of Danny Ching and Candice Appleby set to battle against defending champs Mo Freitas and Shae Foudy, along with dozens more of the finest from California and beyond.

After growing into a world class event over the past few years, this year the Pier Paddle is rated as one of the rare 3-star events on the SUP Racer World Rankings, meaning it’ll score a guaranteed minimum of 30% on our Race Index and give the Top 100/Top 50 leaderboards a good nudge.

The overall champions at the Pier Paddle are decided on results from the two main races: The 5.5 mile Elite Race loop (distance race) and the highly-entertaining Tommy Bahama PaddleCross (surf race). The world ranking points, and the bulk of the prize money, are based on these combined overall results.

Old school paddleboarding

Where it all began! Old school paddleboard racing at the Santa Monica Pier in the 1940s (photo: Tom Volk)

While I’m not always a fan of “combined” events, it’s hard not to like the Pier Paddle. Just seems like one of those fun days out at the beach no matter whether you’re a pro racer or beginner. Plus race director Barett Tester has devised a new points breakdown (which you can view right here) that should keep the hunt for the overall title interesting right til the end.

These overall points will also decide who gets the biggest share of the $15,000 prize purse — you can see the prize money breakdown over here.

I was chatting with Mo Freitas and Noa Hopper about the Pier Paddle when they were over here in Europe last weekend, and they were both super pumped to get back to Cali and compete in this race, while Brennan Rose, who is famous for paddling everywhere in his signature Tommy Bahama shirt, will no doubt add a bit of flair to the proceedings.

Chase Kosterlitz has flown back from a trip to Floida just in time to race, while I know Fernando Stalla has just landed in town as well, with Team Mexico having a strong connection to this event (see the classic down at the bottom). And keep a close eye on rising star Giorgio Gomez, who gets better with every race and who’ll be christening his new race board tomorrow:


It really seems like this is one of those races that brings the entire SoCal paddling community together, so expect plenty of other familiar faces to be standing on the start line tomorrow.

While I’ve never managed to be in California at the same time as this event, everyone I’ve talked to says the Pier Paddle is one of the best (and more importantly, funnest) races of the year. There’s also a lot of history surrounding this race, with Santa Monica Pier being the site of the original California paddleboard races way back in the 1940s.

So if you’re in SoCal on Saturday, get down to the Pier and take part in the festivities, or just kick back in the beer garden and enjoy the show.

If you can’t make it don’t worry, just hang tight on Saturday afternoon and we’ll get you all the results and juicy photos of the action straight after the race. The boys from SUP the Mag will be on the beach as well, so follow them on Facebook and Insta for more updates.

Should be a great show, and I’m quietly hoping we see some more of this: Bicho’s famous wave from the 2014 event. Alas, there’s only a 2ft swell forecast for tomorrow… (which is probably for the best)

Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race Carnage 1
And as another bonus, here’s one more shot of the Santa Monica Paddleboarding Club from 70 years ago:

Santa Monica Paddleboard Club