The Rubber Duck Race is possibly one of the most sought-after games of chance at the Ocean Festival, drawing hundreds of participants each year. Sometimes, grand prizes have been as lavish as weeklong vacations to Tahiti. Photo: Eric Heinz
The Rubber Duck Race is possibly one of the most sought-after games of chance at the Ocean Festival, drawing hundreds of participants each year. Sometimes, grand prizes have been as lavish as weeklong vacations to Tahiti. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

Traditionally, rubber duck races get the attention of a lot of smaller children, eager to compete for bragging rights as having the fastest duck.

Ocean Festival’s version of the universally quaint competition takes it to a whole other level. Thousands of ducks are poured into the Pacific Ocean shores and bob their way over waves with owners’ hoping their duck will be the first on shore, about a quarter of a mile toward the Marine Safety building. The first duck wins a grand prize and other ducks are selected as runners up for other rewards.

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This year marks the 25th year of the Rubber Duck Races, and Tod Bryant, the coordinator of the Duck Races, said he’s seen people lunge for the ducks, craving to claim ownership of the multicolored counterfeit birds.

In 2008, the duck races raised more than $12,000 for Ocean Festival, selling at a rate of 3.3 ducks per minute for 13 hours over the weekend, according to figures provided by Bryant.

“One year, someone tossed a small bag of them on a table, and people were scrounging for them as if they were the last ducks on the planet,” Bryant said. “For years, the Ocean Festival did not make a dime at all, and so it was really the efforts of the community that brought these events together.”

Bryant has been the lead coordinator of the races for the last 17 years and understands how important it is to maintain order. He said even though they’re mostly children competing in the races, 600 pairs of eager eyes ready to tackle those first ducks on the shore can be intimidating.

Proceeds from the duck races go toward operations of Ocean Festival, and anything that is left over is put into a fund for local scholarships and programs for children.

“We look for someone who is going to be a marine biology major or something that’s ocean-related,” Bryant said.

If You Go:

Ocean Festival Duck Races

When: 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 16
Where: Just north of the San Clemente Pier, Marine Safety Division building

Cost: Ducks are $5 each and may be purchased at booths during the weekend of Ocean Festival

 

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