Catalina to mainland, Rock 2 Rock paddleboard race gets new course
Despite the new Rock 2 Rock course being a mile longer than in previous years, there were no complaints from the competitors about the change. Traditionally, the 12-year-old, Father’s Day paddleboard race has been a straight shot from Two Harbors on Catalina Island to the closest available landfall on Palos Verdes. When the race began in 1997, that was York Point, the former Marineland site. When the Terranea resort was built there, the finish was moved a few coves east to Abalone Cove. The 21.5-mile course was almost due north, which meant the paddlers took the prevailing west wind and west swells on the beam.
This year, race director George Loren pointed the course in a more easterly direction, to Cabrillo Beach, just below Point Fermin.
The added mile was more than compensated for on Sunday by the light westerly wind and small wind bump that helped propel the 60 prone and stand-up paddlers across the channel.
Stand-up paddlers (SUP) who found the old course nearly impossible to navigate, took the top three place on Sunday. Palos Verdes native Jared Vargas was the first to finish on his unlimited SUP, in 3:34:20, nearly three minutes ahead of Ohana teammate Thomas Gallagher. Vargas said he was averaging 6.9 miles per hour for much of the race. Dane Morrissey, paddling a 14-foot SUP finished third overall.
In the unlimited paddleboard division, Los Angeles County Lifeguard Anthony Vela and Loren exchanged leads throughout the race. Vela finally pulled away as the two approached Point Fermin to finish in 3:52:48, approximately two minutes ahead of Loren.
“Anthony went out ahead of me. But he was about a mile high, and when he came down around mid channel I passed him. Then we played cat and mouse with one another. He’d get to his knees and I’d paddle prone. Then I’d get to my knees and he’d lie down. We were only a few feet apart for about 12 miles,” Loren said.
For the first 17 miles, the two averaged just under 6 miles per hour.
Rock 2 Rock is regarded as a tune-up race for the Molokai 2 Hawaii 32 Mile World Championships in July, which Loren will compete in; and the Catalina Classic in August, which Vela finished second in last year.
Rock to Rock is also an opportunity for paddlers to fundraise. Tom Horton, who competed in the relay division with his Hermosa Valley School son Cole, has raised over $100,000 for the ALS Association — Golden West Chapter through paddling over the past four years.
Jerry Conway, a first time Rock to Rock paddler, raised funds for the International Brain Research Foundation. Family friend Kevin Kret is receiving treatment from the foundation after hitting his head while skateboarding and falling into a coma.
U.S. Marines Krystal Flanigan and Ryan Artuso competed on a relay team with members of the Jimmy Miller Foundation to raise funds for Wounded Warriors.
Redondo Beach filmmaker Chris Aguilar paddled to raise awareness about Pleuropulmonary Blastoma, which took the life of his niece Andrea when she was three.
Aimee Spector and relay teammate Fred Sardisco raised funds for the Ocean of Hope Sarcoma Alliance. ER