The historic 32-mile paddleboard marathon, the Catalina Classic, which physically and mentally challenges participants, will cross the Catalina Channel on August 27.
CATALINA ISLAND— Mark your calendars for August 27 in preparation for the 46th year of the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race. This event is considered a historical paddleboard event by participants and is organized and conducted by the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Association, Inc.
Since 1955, this 32-mile paddleboard race has challenged humans from all over the world to cross the Catalina Channel in this historical and challenging race. Paddlers will depart from Isthmus Cove at 6 a.m. and paddle 32 miles to the Manhattan Beach Pier on paddle boards between 12-19 feet long. Racers must use only their hands to propel them through the water as they battle against swells, currents, and wind. The race must be completed in 9 hours to qualify for completion.
The first paddleboard crossing through the Catalina Channel was completed in 1932 by three men— Pete Peterson, Wally Burton, and Tom Blake. The race was influenced by Tom’s efforts to promote his new paddleboard design. According to the National Museum of American History, Blake introduced the patented hollow paddleboard in 1931, cutting the board weight in half and fueling the first boom in surfing as the lighter boards made surfing more accessible.
This board became a standard piece of life-saving equipment that went on to be used by lifeguards worldwide. In 1935, Blake’s second innovation was the stabilizing fin. Although it did not catch on in Hawaii for another five years, this advanced design inspired future board designs and became a board standard in 1940.
This original event was only held five times from 1955 to 1960. The event was canceled due to the pier’s construction and again in 1961 due to dangerous ocean conditions. After the death of Cliff Webster, who was the driving force and most significant promoter of the race, the city decided to end the race. As a result, marathon paddleboard racing went on a hiatus.
In 1982, LA County Lifeguard Lieutenant Karl “Buddy” Bohn was approached by the Manhattan Beach Historical Society to find and donate a 1950’s style paddleboard for their museum’s exhibition. While searching for a good racing board to present, many convinced Buddy to re-start the race, a responsibility the Chamber had been trying to give Buddy and other Lifeguard Association Directors for years. At last, Chamber executive Trudy Smart turned over the race by-laws and articles of incorporation. Buddy enlisted the support of some of the original channel paddlers, fellow county lifeguards, and Manhattan Beach resident Weldon “Gibby” Gibson to start the race again. Then, they put together the Catalina Classic 32-mile Paddleboard Marathon race. The rules were updated, changing the stock class board length from 14 feet to 12 feet. With the help of friends from the Catalina Channel Swim Federation, they garnered advice on the subject of logistics and safety as it related to channel crossings. Today the race is called The Catalina Classic.
Race registration is currently open and available at Paddleguru.com. Registration for open qualifiers will go until July 20. The Race Directors will attempt to fill all 100 entries based on pre-qualified applicants, open qualifier race results, and committee selections of international admissions. All open qualifiers will receive race entry confirmation or be refunded by July 31.
For more information on the Catalina Classic, please visit https://catalinaclassicpaddleboardrace.com/race-info/.