Danny Ching has triumphantly returned to the racing scene after a brief hiatus, claiming the Tommy Bahama Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival at Santa Monica Pier on Saturday after edging out Slater Trout and a strong field in a day of highly-entertaining racing.
Danny started the day strong, finishing the 5.5 mile distance race one minute ahead of runner-up Chase Kosterlitz and third-placed Slater Trout, however he still needed a solid result in the afternoon PaddleCross (surf race) to claim the overall title that was based on combined results.
In a fast-paced, heavily-stacked PaddleCross final, Mo Freitas and Slater took off like rockets at the start, but were soon joined by Noa Hopper, Danny and several more in the closely-contested, short, sharp two lap sprint.
With small waves testing the paddlers’ skill and strategy (and providing the crowd with plenty of entertainment), the race came down to a three-man sprint up the sand, with Slater going full on beast mode to charge across the line and claim a big win, with Noa and Danny in a photo finish for second.
It was a huge performance from Noa, however Danny edged out his 404 team mate by the narrowest of margins right on the line, which actually proved to be a crucial result; If Danny had have finished third in the sprint, he and Slater would have tied on the overall points and Slater would have won on a countback (the PaddleCross result was the tie-breaker).
The clip above shows the exciting finish between the top three, who crossed just seconds ahead of a very impressive Giorgio Gomez, Slater’s Infinity team mate who claimed 3rd overall to continue his rapid rise through the racing ranks, Bullet Obra, Mo, and Fernando Stalla.
But it was Danny’s day, with the 404 front man returning to the top of the podium in his first race since the Carolina Cup back in April (in the meantime he’s been busy welcoming his first child into the world with wife Leah).
Outside of the overall top three (Danny, Slater, Giorgio) it was Mo, Chase, Noa, Bullet and Fernando, with promising SoCal junior prospects Tyler Bashor and Nick Scheel rounding out the top 10.
It was also great to see Brazilian Jonas Leteiri return to California for more racing experience. Despite his physical disadvantage, Jonas chose to race in the elite division against many of the world’s best guys, which was inspiring to see.
Oh and a special shout out to Brennan Rose, who pulled off the move of the day with a stylish and skillful “run-and-jump” start to the PaddleCross. You can see the video of it down below in the insta-reactions.
The women’s event was similarly tight, with defending champ Shae Foudy and Candice Appleby involved in a tug-of-war that lasted all day.
Candice gained the early ground, comfortably winning the distance race ahead of Shae and a trio of talented juniors in Kali’a Alexiou, Jade Howson and Lexi Alston. But with the PaddleCross being the tie-breaker, the overall event title was kept alive right down til the final moments.
(It was a rather busy day for Candice: She was also runner-up in the prone PaddleCross race behind the prone distance race winner and ISA silver medalist Carter Graves; Jack Bark and Aussie Nick Malcom split the wins in the men’s prone races.)
In a fast-paced final, Shae, Candice and Lexi set the pace, before the reigning champ made the best of the small waves to pull ahead on the final stretch, triumphantly crossing the line and earning the bulk of the prize money. With $15,000 on the entire event, the winners enjoyed a solid payday at Santa Monica Pier on Saturday.
Candice held off Lexi in the battle for second, which left her tied with Shae on points at the end of the event. However with the PaddleCross being the tie-breaker result, Shae was crowned the Pier Paddle grand champion for the second year in a row, earning another big win for Team Riviera.
Lexi, the 14-year-old who has just returned home following an experience-building stint on the EuroTour, edged out her fellow SoCal rising stars Kali’a and Jade after the trio were tied for points.
With the average age in the elite women’s race probably hovering somewhere around 16 or 17, the future of the sport looks very bright, particularly in Southern California where the junior girls are setting new standards every week.
Despite the unseasonably overcast conditions, it looks and sounds like it was another excellent year for the Pier Paddle, with a stellar lineup and strong crowd enjoying the beach festival beside the iconic pier. Congrats to Brennan, Barrett, Vela and all the crew for pulling off a great event.
Speaking of sounds, the crowd was treated to a performance by “King of Surf Guitar” Dick Dale at the after party, with the iconic Santa Monica Pier providing an amazing backdrop for the day’s festivities.
The Tommy Bahama Pier Paddle definitely looks like one of the funnest race on the calendar, so pencil it in on your 2017 schedule. But while it’s a modern spectacle these days, the event is steeped in history, with Santa Monica Pier hosting some of California’s very first paddleboard races way back in the 1940s.
In the meantime, here are the full results from the elite showdown, plus a stack of cool pics from throughout the day — apart from the SUP racing, the Pier Paddle also features prone paddling, swimming and dory races.
2016 Tommy Bahama Pier Paddle – ELITE RESULTS
LD = Long Distance (5.5 mile)
PC = PaddleCross (surf race)
WR = World Rankings
Overall results based on LD + PC
(PaddleCross was the tie-breaker)
(Note: We’re missing the 10th placed finisher in the men’s PaddleCross final, who would have earned 1 point — I’ll try and get that fixed asap)
Pier Paddle Photos
All photos © Santa Monica Pier
What a day! Just finished the 2016 Santa Monica Paddle Race. I took 3rd in the Men's Elite Distance & Won the Men's Elite Paddle Cross (pictured here). All the hard work has been paying off. Looking forward to a long summer of racing. It has just begun. Thank you in @infinity_sup for the fastest board today & thank you @thebrownblurr for screaming your head off the whole race. Congrats to my good friend @dannyching404 on just edging me out for the overall winning points from the event. It's always a pleasure racing you. And a big congrats to my teammates @giorgiogomez & @applesteeze on a solid event finish. Now back to training. Oh and thanks Mom for the picture, love you! // #TeamInfinity #TeamUSA #ThreeStripeGang 🇺🇸
I am stoked beyond words right now! I am happy to say that I am the second time defending champ of the Santa Monica @pierpaddle Race!! Walking away with 2,250 dollars and I couldn't do it without @rivierapaddlesurf @pualanihawaii @rawelementsusa @futuressup @vynnawomen @vitargo @zealoptics @onitpro @2xu @2xu_usa
Had a great time up in Santa Monica for the @pierpaddle race! It was a lot of fun and a awesome event! Thank you so much @infinity_sup for making me a super fast board that worked amazing! I'm really stoked to walk away with 3rd overall in the event! Congrats to my team mate and my boy @slatertrout taking 2nd overall, you did amazing! Congrats to the most badass racer known to date Mr. @dannyching404 for taking the overall win, you killed it! Congrats to my other team mate @applesteeze for a great performance! Congrats to all the racers that competed! Thank you @thebrownblurr for cheering us all on and pumping us up! Love ya dude! It was so cool to see majority of the Infinity there having fun and supporting each other! Infinity definitely had a huge presence there! Thanks mom for the photo and taking me to the race! I love you! @brandibr80 #threestripegang #infinityspeedfreaks #infinitysup #infinity #pinkandblack #paddlelikeafreak #pinkispunk
Grateful for a fun day of racing with great athletes at the Santa Monica @pierpaddle presented by @tbahama. Stoked to win the Sup Distance Race and take 2nd in both the Prone & Sup Sprints. Congrats @shaefoudy for winning the sup sprint and overall. I'm proud of you girl! Thanks @infinity_sup for the great boards & team support as well as @performancepaddling for the training, coaching and all my peeps who were there cheering me on! #blessed #injesusnameiplay #AllThings #Grateful #infinityspeedfreaks #paddlelikeafreak #qbpaddles #mauijim #PurpsLife #ppsup #pualanihawaii #pierpaddle2016 #ownsurf
So happy to get third in the sup cross at @pierpaddle And third overall combined score in the long 6 mile. I was so excited to hear we had some waves because I hadn't surfed in 4 weeks and I was dying for some waves. It felt weird being back on a @hobiestanduppaddleboards 12'6 instead of a 14' board, but 12'6 will always be my favorite. Good job to everyone who competed the conditions kept changing throughout the day, but that's what made it so fun. CONGRATS to @shaefoudy for winning overall for the second year in a row, YOU'RE A BEAST!! #qbpaddles #hobiecat #hobiestanduppaddleboards