SUP Festival Highlights Growth
There are a handful of stories of the origin of stand-up paddle surfing, but most say the sport evolved as a way for Waikiki’s Beach Boys to help tourists during surf lessons.
On June 12 and 13, hundreds of island residents from around the state and visitors took a step back in time during the inaugural Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle Hawaii, presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection. The two-day event was a stand-up paddle (SUP) festival that included a series of races and demonstrations for everyone. It was a chance for Hawaii to take center stage once again.
“SUP is a dynamic platform full of fun and what we’ve come to know as the aloha spirit. For that reason, we are ecstatic to bring Battle of the Paddle to Hawaii for the first time this year,” says Jay “Sparky” Longley, founder of Rainbow Sandals.
“To be a part of the first one was really something special,” adds competitor Danny Ching. “I took part in the last one in California and that was great, but to bring this back to Hawaii is more memorable.”
The battle was held at Duke Kahanamoku Beach and hosted by legendary big-wave rider and SUP enthusiast Gerry Lopez. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s in the Islands, we all pretended to be Lopez, “The Pipeline Master.”
This generation may soon be imitating the moves of the ocean’s newest star, 27-year-old Ching of Redondo Beach, Calif. He solidified his reputation as one of the world’s greatest paddlers by winning both the 5-mile elite race and the 10-mile distance race from Hawaii Kai to Waikiki.
“I was definitely training hard for the races, and to have it all come together like that is great because it doesn’t always happen that way,” says Ching, who earned $6,100 for the victories.
Ching says the event will attract other elite paddlers across the globe as the sport’s largest cash purse of more than $25,000 continues to grow.
“I think the prize money will grow, and I like the format where the purse is spread out,” he says. “Everyone trains hard, so more people should be rewarded for their hard work.”
In the women’s division, Candice Appleby of San Clemente, Calif., won the elite race earning $2,500, while Andrew Moller of Maui won the long-distance race.
A similar event was held in California with nearly 400 paddlers. Hawaii’s event at Waikiki drew more than 600 participants from nearly every age group and skill level, with paddlers coming from throughout the Islands. In addition to the championship races, there also was an Open Age-Group race as well as relay races and races for children. Ching believes this event will explode next year.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to be this big, but it definitely exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he says. “It’s going to get bigger. More people will want to come to Hawaii and compete, and that’s good for the sport.”
Good for the sport and good for Hawaii. And all because our Beach Boys wanted to better serve our visitors.