Sept. 19 Greg Barton successfully defended his title of US Surfski champion at this year’s Ocean Paddlesports US Surfski Championship, held in San Francisco on September 18th. Over 100 of the United States’ best paddlers came together to vie for top honors. The field of athletes was very strong. In addition to Barton, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Flat Water Sprint, competitors included Robert Clegg, a former US Marathon Kayak Champion, Johan Dahl, the 2003 Swedish Masters Marathon Champion, and a number of former U.S. Olympic team members.
The 18.3 mile course started out in Sausalito at the Sea Trek Kayak center, headed out under the turbulent waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, then out into the ocean, turned around a navigational buoy and headed back into the San Francisco Bay, past Alcatraz Island and back into Sausalito. The wind was blowing pretty hard as strong currents were flooding the bay, which caused a lot of disturbance in the water. The treacherous conditions wreaked havoc on a number of paddlers, forcing them to either be rescued or turn back to Sausalito without finishing the course. Many found the water challenging, but even those that did not finish would later say it was still a fun race. On the beach there were many great stories being swapped.
Race organizer DeAnne Hemmens, a former US Olympic team member, said, “This year’s event was a great success. We had more paddlers than last year, more sponsors, and more cash prizes.” Hemmens, along with her husband and business partner at Ocean Paddlesports, Patrick Hemmens, also took on the role of title sponsor in order to ensure cash prizes for the competitors. “Paddling in the United States is a growth sport, and as such there is not a lot of money available to small sports here,” Patrick said. “In South Africa, where I’m from, paddling is huge and attracts the attention of multi-million-dollar companies. That is our goal for this race and for paddling in the U.S.”
In the mean time, industry sponsors came through in a big way. Companies like Futura Surfskis, Huki Outriggers, Valhalla Surfskis, Epic Paddles (owned by Greg Barton), Brasca and PaddleMe Sportswear provided products for the after-race raffle. “These prizes help entice athletes to make the long trek from the east coast or Hawaii,” says Mike Martinez, a Northern Californian race organizer. “If there is a good chance you could win a $2,500 boat or a $400 dollar paddle, the idea of making the trip becomes that much more enticing. Having a great race venue like San Francisco doesn’t hurt either.”
The top ten singles finishers were:
Greg Barton, South Carolina (2:20:22); Robert Clegg, South Carolina (2:21:11); Mark Sandvold, Hawaii (2:28:04); Dave Jensen, Northern California (2:35:07); Steve Kelly, Hawaii (2:35:59); Erik Borgnes, Wisconsin (2:36:44); Patrick Hemmens, Southern California (2:37:28); Johan Dahl, Northern California (2:38:16), Joost Zeegers, Washington (2:39:18); Mike Shea, Northern California (2:39:56). Mary Jo Gumbert, Southern California, was the first and only woman to enter and finish the race, with a time of 3:34:41
Check out www.ussurfskichampionship.com for official times, photos, and more information.