Ready, set, race! Photo credit: Lightspeed Outdoors

On January 26, 450 people gathered under a dreary, rainy sky to compete in the 17th Annual Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge at Mission Bay in San Diego, CA. Every year, the event brings in paddlers of all ages and of all disciplines to celebrate the sport of paddling.

“Throughout the years, I’ve had such a great experience learning all the disciplines, and I just wanted to share the love,” Race Director Dan Van Dyck said. “The whole thing about Hanohano is that it’s all inclusive.”

The event is broken into two courses—long course at nine miles and short course at 4.5 miles—and people raced in OC-1, OC-2, surfskis, SUPs and prones. The day’s schedule included some outstanding performances by Bayley Olds, a 16-year-old member of the San Diego Canoe and Kayak Team, who finished 3rd overall on a surfski. Olympic kayaker Kristina Zur finished strong, winning the women’s 12’-6” SUP division. The second race of the day featured some of southern California’s fastest surfski and OC-1 paddlers including Danny Ching and veteran paddlers Mike Eisert, Rich Long and Brian Kummer.

To Van Dyck, the most important aspect of Hanohano is providing a place for kids to learn and race in all the paddling disciplines. “They are the future of paddling,” Van Dyck said. “We wanted to keep the races free for children under 13 just so they had a place to get into the sports.” During the event, 30 kids under 13 raced, and another 30 at 13-18 competed. Les Hopper of the San Diego Canoe and Kayak team helped organize the Under 13 Kids races, which consisted of the “Yolo SUP Cup”, 1 in a series of Standup Paddleboard races for kids in So Cal; and the Lightning Race; a flatwater spring kayak race and open race for all kids on any craft.

To encourage people to attend and race, the Hanohano tries to keep registration fees low, which it does through sponsorships. “We couldn’t do what we do without Maui Jim, YOLO Board, Quick Blade, Lightspeed OutdoorsHuki Outrigger and Ocean Minded.”

While the weather remained harsh all day, with dense fog receding only to cold rain, the event saw many happy people at the finish line. “The main point of the Hanohano is that it develops the camaraderie and spirit of Aloha for which it has become known,” Van Dyck said.