SMP Paddleboard Race

SMP Paddleboard Race

RACING AND REVELRY AT SANTA MONICA PIER

With sand underfoot, sea breezes blowing and waves hitting the shore, dozens of people rush headlong into the surf carrying boards, paddles and the drive to compete.  

Since 2010, that’s been the heart-pounding scene each summer at the annual Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival. Races were first held at the iconic landmark in the 1930s and remained a popular spectacle until the explosion of surfing in the 1950s. But the rapid rise of stand up paddleboarding (SUP) in the 2000s rekindled enthusiasm for the sport and inspired a new annual competition. The festival, which is open to all skill levels, includes SUP, traditional paddleboarding (lying or kneeling on a board while propelling forward with the arms), swimming and dory races.

Originating in the Pacific Islands as a mode of inter-island transportation, paddleboarding has been a part of island culture for thousands of years. Once the boards became a work tool for lifeguards in the early 20th century, water sports aficionados saw the recreational potential and flocked to the sport like seagulls chasing a fishing boat.

Now a popular annual event, the Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race and Ocean Festival is an all-inclusive day of fun that celebrates paddling sports’ history and contemporary competition. Families race together. Serious competitors attempt to break records and win trophies. Pairs of lifeguards sprint the waves in two-person dories. Hula dancing, a pop-up paddling museum, live music, trivia and lounges add to the celebratory atmosphere of this Southern California favorite.