The 28th annual HanoHano Ocean Challenge took place in San Diego’s Mission Bay this past Saturday. The long-running paddling event is traditionally a great gathering of paddlers from around the West Coast and neighboring states. This year one could be forgiven though for mistaking the event as a puffer jacket convention as temperatures hovered around 60 F and a brisk wind blew consistently across an overcast sky.
It had been a few years since I last attended the HanoHano Ocean Challenge and this year was definitely a bit colder than years past. Despite the less than ideal Southern California weather more than 700 paddlers came out for the day long event consisting of multiple races for all skill levels and paddle craft, to include surfski, kayak, C-1s, outrigger canoes, and SUPs.
I paddled my Nelo surfski in the “short” course – an approximately 5 mile jaunt around Mission Bay. It was my first time paddling surfski at HanoHano, having previously paddled the race in an OC-1 and SUP. The short course start at HanoHano is well known among paddlers for being a bit messy. There were just shy of 400 paddlers this year and even with a staggered start there were still well over 200 paddlers thrashing their way out of Bonita Cove when the initial starting air horn sounded. It was my first competition in almost a year and while there is always room for improvement, I’m happy with my performance overall as a useful gauge of where I am against other paddlers.
The cold weather had a direct impact on the overall vibe at the event this year and several paddlers punched out not long after their events to go home and warm up. I hung around for a few hours after the short course race and had a chance to catch up with some friends, including Cyril Derremaux, owner of On the Water 360 and adventurer who completed a solo kayak paddle from California to Hawaii in 2022 – Dave Boehne the legendary co-owner and marketing man extraordinaire from Infinity SUP – and of course, Michele Eray and Maggie Hogan from Nelo USA.
Next up for me, the Lanakila Classic hosted by my old outrigger club in Redondo Beach on February 25th.