By Jake Howard

The sun has hardly set on the Ohana Fest, and it’s time for another weekend of good times and fun in the sun down at Doheny State Beach.

This weekend, the Pacific Paddle Games are coming to Dana Point, and there’s something for everyone—even if you don’t reckon yourself a racer. The cornerstone of the weekend is the pro-class races, but there are also equipment demos, a fitness zone, good eats and drinks, and all kinds of other family-friendly activities throughout the weekend.

“I always love going back to Dana Point each year for the PPGs—the best of the best are there and the conditions are fairly unpredictable, so you never know what you may get on the day,” Australian power paddler Michael Booth recently told SUP Magazine. “A tip is to not let yourself get over-awed by the situation and just focus on yourself and what you can control. Just go out there, do your best, and most importantly, enjoy it!”

Competitors at last year’s Pacific Paddle Games cross the finish line on the sands of Doheny State Beach. Photo: File/Daniel Ritz
Competitors at last year’s Pacific Paddle Games cross the finish line on the sands of Doheny State Beach. Photo: File/Daniel Ritz

In terms of racing, there are three basic categories at the Pacific Paddle Games: technical, distance and pro. The technical category makes the most of the iconic setup at Doheny. Featuring laps in and out of the surf and around marker buoys, these races require athletes to not just be able to paddle fast but also negotiate their boards in the surf, as well as maneuver them in a crowd of other racers.

The pro-distance race is a 6-mile race that will consist of two 3-mile laps outside of the surf. There’s also a 3-mile race for the open and recreational racers. The pro division is where the big money and heavy-hitting athletes are. Pro racers are required to compete in both the technical and distance races.

When it comes to who’s eligible to compete, there are divisions for pro men and women, pro junior boys and girls, open men and women, open junior boys and girls, open grom boys and girls, as well as a prone division.

In addition to established stand-up paddle racing rules, there are a few details that every racer should be aware of heading into the weekend. All SUP distance racers are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). Leashes are required for all open competitors, and open youth technical racers will also need PFDs for their events. Additionally, to avoid any serious head injuries, race officials are requiring that all youth divisions wear helmets.

In terms of team relays, each team is comprised of four paddlers. At least one must be a female and one must be a junior (17 and under). To keep things fair, there are only two pros allowed on any one team (a “pro” is considered anyone who competed in the pro men or pro women technical or distance races, as well as any junior who competed in either the pro men’s or pro women’s events).

In addition to all the serious racing that’s going to be going down, the Pacific Paddle Games fitness zone offers a great opportunity to get the body moving without all of the stress of competing. Featuring free yoga and exercise classes, all you have to do to get involved is check the daily schedule, pick a class you want to take and show up. You don’t need to RVSP or anything. Classes are being hosted by event sponsors Maui Jim, OrangeTheory Fitness, Club Pilates and Sea Vibes.

And for those who want to get out on the water and try something new, the demo zone is the place to be. Presented by Salt Life, the highly successful demo zone is now in its fourth year. Open to everyone from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, it’s an epic chance for beginners or experts to try out the latest board and paddle designs. With a number of top brands participating, it’s also a good time to talk to the experts and tap into some of their knowledge. You’ll need a valid photo ID or credit card to register. Be sure to visit www.supthemag.com/ppg/ for additional information.

As of press time, Surfline.com is forecasting 3- to 4-foot surf in South Orange County for the weekend of Oct. 6-7. It looks like we’ll be getting our first real shot of west swell this fall, and it’s worth keeping an eye on what Tropical Storm Sergio does. That could also send some swell our way. The weather forecast is calling for clear skies and warm temps with some light winds out of the south.

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