By Andrea Swayne
The fifth annual Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle, September 29 and 30 at Doheny State Beach was a record-breaking event in more ways than one. Not only did it attract more competitors and spectators than ever before, the event earned its way into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Event organizers estimated a crowd of about 6,000 was on hand Saturday to witness the largest stand-up paddle race in the world, when a total of 389 SUP enthusiasts participated in the open division race. A Guinness World Records judge was on site to verify the numbers and officially certify the huge group effort.
On Sunday, a second world record attempt was made for the most surfers on a single wave.
According to the Guinness World Records website, the current record for the most surfers riding the same wave simultaneously is 110. It was set in Cape Town, South Africa, October 2009.
“This record has yet to be certified but unofficially we set the world record for the most people surfing on one wave at 127,” said Pat Huber, Rainbow Sandals marketing director. “Setting Guinness records is amazing, but we are also excited by the fact that this year’s event, as a whole, was the biggest and best so far. We estimate a record attendance for the weekend somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000. Its popularity has prompted our decision to expand and we have officially decided to have a Battle of the Paddle event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in April 2013.”
“We could have topped 127,” said event founder Gerry Lopez who was in the water leading Sunday’s record attempt. “I should have listened to Joe Bark’s kid Jack. We were about ready to take off when I looked back and saw Jack letting the wave pass him by. Most of us were already committed, so we just went. Jack went on the next one and it really would have been a better wave. We probably would have had quite a few riders more up. I should have followed the youngster’s lead. His eyesight and wave judgment are certainly better than this old man’s.”
The event also awarded a record prize purse of over $25,000—so far the largest on offer in the relatively new sport of SUP.
“Stand-up paddling is fairly new as a sporting event and the Battle of the Paddle has become its major contest,” said Lopez. “We have a special type of elite racing that draws the best athletes from all over the world. And they don’t just show up for the money. They come back year after year in larger numbers, more for the camaraderie and the vibe. We also draw more spectators for the same reason. Both groups have grown every year.”
Lopez believes that SUP racing’s growth as a spectator sport is due largely to the fact that is much easier to follow than traditional surf contests.
“It’s very exciting to watch and easy to follow,” said Lopez. “Results are not at all subjective but instead very definitive. The guy across the line first wins. Also, we learn something new every year and keep making the event better and better. I don’t know where this sports going but it sure seems to continue to grow.”
For more information and full results, visit www.battleofthepaddle.com.