Danny Ching- For those of you who are not familiar with OC-1 or six man paddling, it may seem like he came out of no where to all of a sudden take over stand up racing. Quite the opposite. He has been dominating canoe paddling for a long time and with someone as talented as Danny it’s just a matter of recalibrating his stroke to stand up and he is off and running. In my opinion no one at this point is going to out paddle him. The only person that I know of that possibly could is Kai Bartlett, but he still needs more time on the board to acclimate his canoe skills to the stand up. Unfortunately for him he’s so busy paddling canoes and building them that it doesn’t leave any time for stand up. So at this point I really don’t think anybody will out paddle Danny. His downwinding is really good but not untouchable. I’m not going to make any claims on the down winding side but if the conditions were really windy I think I could compete. Plus Danny is a good guy and earns everything he gets.
Connor Baxter- He sure has been making a lot of noise lately. Jamie Mitchell and I were talking about it the other day. How some people just have that ability to read and ride swells. I’m not saying that just because your not born with it that you can’t acquire it with practice and experience, but some people just start out with it and continue to get better. I’ve got a feeling that his current weight doesn’t hurt his cause and combined with his height, he has really good leverage on the paddle. So when you combine his skill, weight, height and throw in some good equipment, he has everything he needs to be extremely competitive. Like Slater the scary thing is how old he is. I suspect that if he continues to maintain his dedication and puts more effort into the strength and conditioning, along with paddle technique, that he will become a serious force to be reckoned with. He already is extremely dangerous, obviously with his third place finish in the Battle of the paddle. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching the next group climb up the ladder and fight for superiority, but trust me the torch will not be handed over without a fight.
Battle of the Paddle- What a great event! Sparky and Gerry along with Barrett Tester and all the troops on the ground did a great job. It all started with Glenn and Meredith and all the great people at Quik raising the bar for pre-race parties. Wow, they really went all out. The food was ono ( Hawaiian for tasty). The bands created a party atmosphere reminiscent of a good old fashion beach party and the who’s who of stand up were in attendance.
Unfortunately the elite race wasn’t blessed with the waves that Dana point had, but the race for first made up for it. Absolutely great competition between Danny and Travis, not to mention all the races within the race, as they fought their way around the tortuously long course. While there wasn’t the carnage we expected to see, there was just enough surf to make a difference. Several times the lead changed because of the most insignificant bumps and the ability to maximize those little opportunities. As for the running on the beach between laps, that’s just cruel. It’s fun as a spectator to watch these guys suffer but is it a paddle race or a running race?
The distance race wasn’t any Maliko, but it was fun none the less. Just being at the start and seeing all the people was worth the price of admission. For me it went pretty much as I expected. Probably about tenth to first mark, got by everybody except Danny by Diamond Head, then got passed by the lighter flat water guys very soon after. One of them being Connor Baxter, which was perturbing but not surprising. Anyway by the time I got to the beach I was exhausted after battling with Travis for forth place. The vibe on the beach was great and from the number of board manufacturers exhibiting I would say the health of the sport looks good.
One more honorable mention has to go to Duane Desoto for his Na Kama Kai program he has for getting kids in the water. What a great thing he is doing with that. If you have a chance, he always needs volunteers and you’ll be the one that comes away with a smile.
Finally, the team relay, to me is the best part of the whole thing. Everybody is cheering for each other, the course is a simple out and back, you get to spread the load out with three other team members. It just has a great vibe to it for being a competition. It was great to see Sparky out there competing too.
On another note I think they need reexamine the equipment rule for the elite race. It’s just not fair that a two hundred plus guy, like Chuck, has to compete on the same size board that a 130 lb.guy, like Connor, does. I’m not sure there is a way to make it truly fair, but I know the way it is now really favors the smaller guys. Maybe start the length at 12′ for guys 125 lb. to 150, then 12’6″ for 150 lb. to 175, then 13′ for 175 to 200 lb. and 13’6″ for 200 plus. Might be worth testing to see if there is any merit to it.