Hundreds of people gathered at El Dorado beach last weekend to get back to the grassroots of standup paddling.
The 3rd annual Race the Lake of the Sky celebrated the sport with a full two-days of competition. Participants traveled from all over the world for the races and even attracted professional paddlers Kai Lenny, Danny Ching, Rob Rojas, Thomas Maximus and Candace Appleby. Lenny did not participate due to injury.
Event organizer Chris Brackett had trouble putting the weekend into words. The entire beach was full of racers and spectators who were enjoying music, sun and racing,
“It made a 6 mph sport seem like NASCAR,” Brackett said. “All I heard was people were so happy, they were blown away.”
Saturday saw the biggest participant race, the El Dorado 5 miler, a 6.2 mile buoy race that had about 260 paddlers. Thomas Maximus and Danny Ching finished first and second overall with times of 1 hour 3 minutes and 1 hour 4 minutes.
After the 5-miler, the SUP-cross took place with heats of 6 racers each paddling 800-yards. For the SUP-cross races, Brackett built a new in-water start gate. The top finishers in each division were Josh Brackett and Lexi Alston girls and boys 13 and under, Noa Hopper and Kali’a Alexio for boys and girls 13-17, Alic Funk and Julianne O’Neill in 18-49, Lance Erickson in Men’s over 50 and Anik Wild and Danny Ching for men’s and women’s elite.
The first day ended with the grom race for paddlers 12 years and younger racing for 400-yards. Matix Springer, Keagan Lamar and Tyler Bashor placed first second and third with times all under three minutes.
Sunday started with the Emerald Bay distance race of 14.4 miles. Rob Rojas, Thomas Maximus and Danny Ching were the top three finishers in the field of 147 and all three finished in just under two and half hours.
The high jump and limbo competition followed the distance race and the “best sweet move” competition. The team relay finished out the weekend.
“This is our third year and each time we want to stay longer. It’s for family and fun,” said Brad Rambo from Riviera Paddle. “We do a lot of events around the world for SUP and this is the best.”
The planning for the event takes an entire year and is put on with the help of about 150 volunteers. All the races are webcasted live and this year garnered about four thousand views.
“It’s been doubling every year,” Brackett said. “Right now, I just want to keep what we have going, but make it better.