Battle of the Bay: That’s a Wrap!
This years Battle of the Bay was an EPIC weekend of paddle racing on San Francisco Bay. The event organizers Steve Pugh from Bluerush Boardsports and Laree Mancour delivered what could be called an unforgettable weekend of paddle racing at the Crissy Field event site. By the way putting an event on at Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco is no small feat, Steve, Laree and the entire team busted their butt through wind, a bit of rain and an impromptu low rider car show & BBQ (which was really cool btw). Way to go!
Ok here is my breakdown on the two days of racing:
The San Francisco Bay always dishes out inconsistent weather, wind and tides that make for challenging paddle conditions (and keep the event management on edge). And this years Battle of the Bay did not disappoint when it came to delivering an assortment of conditions. On Saturday, the 8.5-mile-long distance had practically perfect paddling weather with a low ceiling of clouds that kept things nice and cool and practically no wind. SUP’s prones, outriggers (OC1/2) and surf skis all raced the same course. The Open SUP Race started from the beach with sprint to the water then a very fast paced run east to Alcatraz Island, David Wells from 101 Surf Sports took an early lead and pretty much never looked back. Rounding Alcatraz was straight forward, but never, ever think that the rounding the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge will have easy passage because it wont and it didn’t. Racing up to South Tower was a grind even staying close to shore did not provide relief from the flood tide. As I was approaching the South Tower I saw David Wells hammering down towards the finish with Bojan Bernard (BB) about a minute off his tail. The water at the South Tower took its toll on folks, bubbling popcorn like water made for some paddlers to either fall in or go to the safety of their knees (for 4 strokes of course) to move from the mayhem of the tower. There was a mad dash of canoes, surf skis, prones and SUP’s from the bridge down to the last mark rounding which lead to the final right hander towards the finish line. As I came through the finish arch there was a sense of relief that the race was over. While its only 8.5 miles, it’s a hard 8.5 miles of paddling. I watched the competitors come through the line one by one, they were all smiles and had a look of satisfaction on their faces, yes many of these folks had never paddled this race course and felt a sense of accomplishment. High fives ensued.
One might argue that the best racing that day took place in the long course open class race with David Wells and BB battling it out for 1st and 2nd place with tight finishes all the way into 15th place in the men’s 14ft class division. All in there were 72 racers in the Open Class Long Distance Race. In the OC1 class, there were some tight finishes there as well with Rob Rousset and Justin Banfield battling it to the finish and Aimmee Spector and Linda Banfield taking 1st and 2nd in the womans OC1 fleet. Pro/Elite racing fleets were much smaller but highly competitive with Mo Freitas taking the long course race and Bailey Rosen gliding into first place for the woman.
Sunday was a completely different day of racing right out of the gate with San Francisco Bay doing what it does best, get really, really windy. Event orgnanizers scrambled to shorten the 4 mile technical race course into more of an upwind/downwind race that made for what I would consider some of the hardest but fun racing of the weekend. Sunny and blowing 20 knots the bay was alive with sail boats and white caps. At first, I was bummed and paddling in the nasty wind would be not so fun but the upwind downwind configuration of the course was super fun and challenging. Haakon Hoyer-Nielsen jumped out the lead and dominated the Open SUP Technical Race all the way to the end. Shanna Upton ended up taking the Open SUP Technical Race on the woman’s side.
The Pro/Elite Technical Race on the short course (3 laps) was fun to watch as Mo Freitas took the win with Bailey Rosen taking win on the woman’s side. Amazing how these paddle athletes barely look like they are struggling the a 20 knot head wind and then really open it up on the downwind leg. Big props go out to Jay Wild of Tahoe Waterman who raced in the prone race prior to racing in the Pro/Elite Technical Race, still getting 5th overall in the Tech Race. And how could I forget my friend and training partner Jen Fuller, she raced in the Pro/Elite Woman class and let the ladies know that age does not affect performance, well done Jen!
This was my 4th Battle of the Bay, I helped put on the inaugural race in 2011 at McNears Beach and have competed in every Battle of the Bay since then. I know what it takes to put these races on and many thanks (again) go out to Bluerush Boardsports and all of the sponsors:, World Paddle Association, Salt Life, Desolation Outdoors, F-One Stand Up Paddle, Paragon Commercial Brokerage, Bluewater Yacht Harbor, Kings Paddle Sports PR, Hobie Surfboards, OnIt Pro, Just Add Water SUP, Lagunitas Brewing Co, SUP Currents, Stokeshare, Sean Cope Pictures, Hint Water, Adventure Sports Journal, OneBar, Nature’s Bakery and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, hope I did not forget anyone. Chris Hollingsworth and Barrett Tester, yeah you guys are pros, these guys run races in their sleep, thanks!
Here is to the off season!