By Chris Bensch
Storms, sunshine, big waves, little waves. The Pacific Paddle Surf Series got a little bit of everything in it's first four rounds. The PPSS is a five-round paddle surf competition that happens up and down US West Coast. It links together the top five paddle surf competitions that allow multiple types of surf craft. Each contest is a little different, but what ties them all together is the camaraderie and excitement for playing in ocean waves, by both competitor and spectators alike. Competitors can earn points in three categories at each event SUP, waveski and surf kayak culminating in the final event in Santa Cruz, Calif where a winner is crowned in each category as “Best in the West.”
Here is how the first four rounds went…
Pacific City Surf Off
The series started with Alder Creek's Pacific City Surf Off in Oregon. This event takes place at the end of September. Usually a beautiful sunny Oregon weekend, this year it looked more like November, with sustained winds of 40mph and gusts to 55mph, along with 25ft-30ft swells. Needless to say the event was postponed and rescheduled for a February weekend, dates TBA pending a weather window.
After starting off with a swing and a miss, the series quickly continued the next weekend with the Hobuck Hoedown. This mellow event happens on the Northwestern most point of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula outside of a little town called Neah Bay. Put on by Olympic Raft and Kayak, this fun event features a category for pretty much anything you can a paddle. Yes, there is even a raft division! Fearing the same fate as the Surf Off, the organizers turned this into a one-day event to avoid the incoming storm on Sunday. So Saturday morning Surf Kayaks, SUPs, waveskis, whitewater kayaks, sea kayaks and rafts all took to the water to battle it out. Chris Bensch took the podium in three of the four divisions he entered, surfing many heats back-two-back because of the change to a one-day event. Fletcher Burton also came up big and won both SUP and waveski, showing the crowd his high level of skill no matter the craft or conditions.
Masters HP-Bradley Martin
Sea Kayak- Chris Bensch
Whitewater Rodeo- Larry Little
Junior Whitewater Rodeo- Hunter Vincent
Raft- Morgan Colonel/Hunter Vincent/Rob Avery/Tim Vincent
Ventura Paddle Surfing Championships
The following week was round three, the Ventura Paddle Surfing Championships at “C” Street. This SoCal event is also the US National Waveski Championships, and draws some international competitors such as Blair Moore from Australia, Steve Gibbs from New Zealand, Ian Macleod and Mike Wessels from South Africa. Having some of the best waveski surfers in the world made for some fierce competition. Despite the high level of competition, taking top spot in Open Waveski and the US National Championship Final was Tyler Lausten for two years running now. As for SUP, there was also some exciting action with Daniel Hughes airing on pretty much any wave he dropped in on and then there was the McPhillps Family. Collin McPhillips and his two sons Kai McPhillips (age 11) and Dax McPhillips (age 9) laid waste to the field of competitors, making for the SUP final just Daniel Hughes and the McPhillps Family. Collin ended up taking the win with his long creative rides, over Daniel's powerful and inspiring airs. The two brothers battled it out for bragging rights for the next year. Kai ended up beating his younger brother for third place, landing Dax in fourth. The brothers finished top four in a field of adults; look for these rippers to dominate in the future.
US National Waveski Champs-Tyler Lausten
SUP Open-Collin McPhillips
SUP Masters-Byron Kurt
Waveski Open-Tyler Lausten
Waveski Masters-Blair Moore
Womens SUP-Diane Wenzel
Surf Kayak-Matthew Hoff
Freestyle Waveski-Eric Luhrs
1 Kai McPhillips (age 11)
2 Dax McPhillips (age 9)
Davenport Paddle Surfing Contest
Round four took place at Davenport Landing, just a 10-minute drive north of Santa Cruz. This classic central coast competition has a unique category in the series called “King of the Wave,” in which you can enter with any paddle surf craft you want. This year's final consisted of a SUP, IC and 2 HP surf kayaks. Dave Boehne of Infinity Surf won the title last year and was back to defend his title this year. Boehne was barely edged out by Sean Morley who also won the Open HP. Sean took a break the past few years from surf competition, but since his return, he has reminded everyone that he is a force to be reckoned with. The other note worthy performance of the weekend was put forth by Kate Duncan, who also won two divisions. She beat out all of the men in Open Waveski and all of the ladies in Women's Kayak. Duncan recently claimed second place in Women's HP at the Surf Kayaking World Championships in Australia and is always fun to watch as she charges hard.
King of the Waves
Wave Ski Open
The PPSS has made for some good connections between the events and helped to strengthen the paddle surf community. The series finale will be at the Santa Cruz Paddle Surf Fest, which is put on by Adventure Sports Unlimited in Santa Cruz Calif. It all goes down at one of the best breaks on the West Coast; this is not one to be missed, as a competitor or spectator! The chase is on in all three categories and it is all up in the air as to who will be dubbed “Best in the West” for the 2nd Annual Pacific Paddle Surf Series.
Top Three in the Series Standings:
1. Fletcher Burton
2. Collin McPhillips
3. Daniel Hughes
1. Mat Hoff
2. Sean Morley
3. Chris Bensch
1. Fletcher Burton
2. Tyler Lausten
3. Blair Moore
Stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for results from the last round and who the overall winner will be.