Battle of the Paddle California 2013

karla gilbert SUPThe Battle of the Paddle at Dana Point California far exceeded my expectations….not that I really had any!

If standup paddling is your thing then this event is the highlight on the world SUP calendar.  Anyone who’s anyone in the SUP world attends this event and I guess is very similar to surf lifesavings Aussie titles in terms of prestige and build up.  With over 700 competitors in the one event, it makes for busy waters and an electric atmosphere.

Dana Point is in Orange County, California.  SUP paddling is massive in the USA and was reflected by attendance and spectators.  The BOP was held over two days, day one being the short course run/paddle and buoys and day 2 testing our endurance in a 18km long distance paddle.

Even though I had trained for the event, I wasn’t really placing too much pressure or emphasis on racing.  I was there to soak it all up and enjoy the time away. Since retiring from professional competition I promised myself not to get too caught up in that ‘horse with blinkers on’ kind of mentality and to keep it light-hearted and fun. And fun it was!

If I could choose to ride a board it would be Naish so I’m really fortunate to be a team rider for them.  The race LE board was magic over the weekend and really proved itself against the rest..actually the whole Naish race team did well so that is saying something!

Karla gilbert BOP

Day one was the 40 minute race.  Our heats were sent off with the guys and wasn’t that a nerve tester! There is a buoy positioned within the break and with 100 people trying to round it while waves are breaking means you have to be on your game.  It was fairly cruisey getting through to the final which was a stand alone event for the females.

With the world’s best lining up it was time to up the pace and hope for the best!  Being the first time I have raced internationally like this, I didn’t really have any idea how I matched up against the girls. It was just a matter of going my own pace and trusting my fitness.  I finished in 3rd place behind New Zealander Annabel Anderson and Hawaii’s Jenny Kalambach both highly acclaimed paddlers so who can complain about that!

Going into Sunday’s endurance race, I was entered in the amateur 12 foot class simply because I didn’t have a 14 foot board with me to compete in the elites.  Luck has it though and what was a misfortune for my Naish team mate, Karen Wren, made it a perfect opportunity for me to enter the elite race and use her board. ..all within about 10 minutes of the race start!

karla gilbert SUP

We raced with the men and this gave us the perfect opportunity to use them as pacing partners. The paddle took us to a turning buoy 9km down the coast, with lots of concentration needed to stay on the washes I felt quite fresh at the half way mark. Annabel Anderson was 30 seconds in front at the half way mark but unfortunately I was stuck on the outside of a male paddler that couldn’t turn the bouy and we lost the pack on the way back.  It didn’t matter too much though and I maintained my position and finished one better with a 2nd in the distance race. Not bad considering I wasn’t even going to compete in it.

Naish riders topped the day with a 1st and 3rd in the professional relays which was superfun and the perfect way to get everyone together at the end of two hard days of competition. It was a whirlwind of a trip but BOP 2013 lived up to all the hype;)

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