Aussie, 22, holds off defending champ in Catalina Classic paddleboard race, concluding at Manhattan Beach pier
Australian Lachie Lansdown, 22, was so physically spent after winning the Catalina Classic on Sunday that the muscles in his shoulders and chest would not stop twitching after the race.
His muscles twitched and his body shook so much while giving an interview almost 20 minutes after the race that it looked like he was shivering.
“I’m not cold,” he said. “I’m just getting, like, muscle spasms.”
Lansdown had just beat 92 competitors paddling by hand across a 32-mile channel from Two Harbors in Catalina to the Manhattan Beach pier, a race that’s been occurring on a consecutive basis since 1981.
This year Lansdown led from the very beginning to end, finishing in five hours and 23 minutes.
Taking first place among a field of five women was D.J. O’Brien with a time of six hours and 47 minutes, followed by Marisa Kuiken four minutes behind. Costner McIntosh won the stock division, which limits boards to 12 feet and 20 pounds, with a time of 6 hours and nine minutes.
This year’s race included an encounter with a cargo ship passing through the channel on a direct course toward the field of paddlers and their support boats. Race organizers radioed the captain of the ship and successfully got him to reduce speed and alter course, said race director Francziska Steagall.
“I think that was a first in race history,” she said.
During the race competitors saw dolphins and toward the end the lead paddlers saw a whale, Steagall said.
Lansdown, who won the stock division the past three years, said he moved up to the more competitive unlimited class to unseat past champion Max First, who came in third, six minutes behind the winner.
“I wanted to beat Max,” Lansdown declared after the race.
First, who was overtaken for second place in the last five miles of the race by Patrick Shaughnessy, 27, from Santa Cruz, said he enjoyed the competition. First won the Catalina Classic unlimited class each of the past two years in addition to 2014.
“They are both incredible athletes,” First said of his competitors. “It’s nice to have some new blood.”
First was greeted on the beach by a group of friends who showered him with champagne, some of which he shared with Lansdown on the way out of the water. All the competitors received kukui nut leis.
Lansdown said the race for him was spent looking over his shoulder, trying to maximize his lead.
“I saw Max did a bottle change and he slowed down a bit, so I sped up and kind of went for it and put 20 yards on him,” Lansdown said.
For the victory, Lansdown joins the ranks of revered race champions going back to the contest’s inception in 1955. There is no prize money.
“This is the most traditional race by far,” said Lansdown who competed in the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race in Hawaii July 26 placing first in his age bracket.
The Catalina Classic ran from 1955 to 1960 but went on hiatus until 1981. Taking into count the years since, race organizers marked this year’s competition as the Classic’s 40th.
Lansdown said he was proud to join a few other Australian names on the winning trophy.
“It’s really cool to be a part of it,” he said. “When you see all the names on the trophy, they are absolute legends.”
After the race, Shaughnessy sat under the Manhattan Beach pier with his left arm bleeding from chafing, caused by making repeated contact with shorts for five hours. He said he got a second wind in the race after removing his wet suit top.
“I started slowing down about three miles off the R10 buoy,” Shaughnessy said. “After I got rid of the wetsuit, I got a second wind. But I could never got close to this guy (Lansdown).”
Asked what hurt the most after finishing the race, Shaughnessy said it was the lower part of his back.
The annual paddleboard challenge across the San Pedro Channel has always been a test of strength and courage going back to 1932, the first time a group of Santa Monica lifeguards dared one another to make the journey.
Craig Lockwood, a writer who competed in the 1981 race and designed his own brand of paddleboards at that time, said with the race came a resurgence in paddling that was lost in the 1960s with the advent of modern surfing.
The history of the @catalinaclassic the 32-mike paddleboard race from #Catalina to #manhattanbeach from journalist and former paddler Craig Lockwood. pic.twitter.com/q5ZXrKpT1m
— David Rosenfeld (@RosenfeldReport) August 26, 2018
“The classic represents the golden tradition of California watermanship,” Lockwood said. “It is our longest running, longest existing, long distance race. It survived the test of time in a way that has created a much greater interest in the sport than there has ever been before.”