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Catalina Classic Paddlers Triumph in Manhattan Beach

Aug 29, 2021 06:53PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Paddlers braved rough conditions at the 44th annual Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, the world-renowned annual race that ended in Manhattan Beach on Sunday.

Paddlers left the Isthmus cove on Catalina Island at 6:00 a.m. and paddled 32 miles to the Manhattan Beach Pier on paddle boards (between 12 and 19 feet long), using only their hands to propel them through the water.

Swells, currents, and wind conditions played into what is notoriously one of the most grueling endurance events in the world. The race began with 88 paddlers and only 74 were able to finish. 

Scott Clausen of Seal Beach was the first paddler to finish, in 5:38:44. 

Clausen waited in the water to congratulate the next finisher, Max First, who arrived at 5:53:40.

After the race, Clausen called the ride "long and rough," noting that it was "bumpy from the start."

Clausen and First, both riding in the Unlimited (longer board) category, were the only two finishers to complete the race in under six hours. (By contrast, the all-time race record, set in 1999 by Tim Gair, is 5:02:12.)

The 2021 first-place women's finisher was Liz Hunter at 7:26:50. Quincy Lee took first place in the Stock (12-foot board) category, at 6:44.25.

And paddler Tom Horton won an award for completing his 15th year of paddling the race.

"I was 'one and done' originally, but it's the camaraderie and the community of people here who keep me coming back," said Horton.

Catalina Classic History

This historic 32-mile marathon, which starts at Catalina’s Isthmus cove and ends at the Manhattan Beach Pier, attracts paddlers from all over the world and is known as the “grand-daddy of all paddleboard races.”  Many legendary watermen and water women have taken the challenge and have helped make the Catalina Classic the pre-eminent waterman’s event of the year.

The first paddle board crossing to the Catalina Channel was done in 1932 by Pete Peterson, Wally Burton, and Tom Blake. The race was motivated by Tom’s desire to promote his new paddle board design.

The race officially began in 1955 with Los Angeles County Lifeguard Bob Hogan and members of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. The race became an annual tradition, but was canceled in 1959 due to pier construction and in 1961 due to ocean conditions.

The race then went into "hibernation" for two decades, until it was re-started in 1982, riding a new wave of popularity for the sport of paddleboarding.

It was once again put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before resuming in 2021.

This year's race was dedicated in memory of Steve Troeger, a paramedic, rescue boat captain, father, husband, and friend to many in the South Bay, who passed away in 2020.

The Catalina Classic is organized and conducted by the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Association, Inc., a volunteer 501c4 non-profit organization.

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