Weldon Gibby Gibson

Paddling In The Wake of Giants

1981 began the rebirth of the International Catalina Channel Paddleboard Race. The Manhattan Beach Chamber Of Commerce Executive, Trudy Smart, gave the original race bylaws and articles of incorporation( from the International Catalina Channel Paddleboard Race) to lifeguard lieutenant Buddy Bohn. Bohn consulted with many of the past competitors and current ocean Lifeguards and ocean athletes. After much encouragement, Lt. Bohn partnered with fellow Ocean Lifeguard and friend, Weldon Gibby Gibson, who had actually competed in the original races. Together they approached the LA County Lifeguard Association Trust Fund for their support and endorsement. All parties decided that the event should be attempted the summer of 1982. All agreed that the new bylaws, rules, and articles of incorporation should be as close to the originals as possible. They would call it what they all felt it was, The Catalina Classic Paddleboard Marathon

The paddle from Catalina to the Manhattan Beach Pier had not been officially attempted in twenty years, and much had changed since 1960. Several paddlers of that period made themselves available and the Lifeguards formed a committee of volunteers to begin the organization. Safety being the number one priority, the committee consulted with our ocean athletes that had been racing the channel during those previous twenty years. The Catalina Channel Swimming Federation was one such group and the National Dory Association was another. Their input was vital, with regard to escort support, communications, navigation, advanced life support, and general organization. The Swimming Federation’s format was the closest fit to the original paddles. The Dory Association’s race was really an annual lifeguard event with a two person crew rowing from Catalina’s Isthmus to Palos Verdes. The Catalina channel Dory race at that time was a male dominated event, but there were a few female Lifeguards getting on board. The channel swimmers format consisted of one solo swimmer at a time, challenging the channel, and required that an escort be present. Some of their event distances exceeded our 32 mile course. The Channel swimmers were only limited by age, minors needed parental consent. We knew many of the men and women swimmers and their trainers. Many of our Lifeguards and paddlers had paddled as support for these brave swimmers.

The Catalina Classic Paddleboard committee decided that entrees younger than 18 needed parental consent. There would be no age groups or distinction of gender. It was felt that if you could meet the qualifications for entry you could paddle. Our focus was on racing the channel first, and competing against the other paddlers was second.

The rules were eventually updated, stock boards would go from 14 feet to 12 feet with a 20 pound minimum weight. The original course would be the same, required escort same, not touching or being aided by anyone or craft, the same, no age or gender categories. This was the “Classic”.

The core values were focused on , “let’s keep this original, we are paddling in the wake of giants, it’s the Catalina Classic”.  At the end of August in 1982, 10 paddlers and their crews met at the Isthmus cove. They were briefed by some of the former paddler/Lifeguards, pitched their tents, and tried to sleep a few hours before the 6:00 a.m. start. The crossing was a success and a new kind of aquatic camaraderie was established between the women & men who paddled it together that day. All the paddlers were really supportive of each other’s achievements.

“Winning “ was really secondary, the feeling was that we’d CONQUERED the Catalina Channel. The race had been reborn. Our paddling camaraderie is alive to this day!

Catalina Classic Race Dedications

Over the years, the paddling community has been inspired by so many extraordinary paddlers.

We have been honored to have had most all of them race in the Catalina Classic.

They are as follows:

Year dedicated:

1999:  Brendan Sullivan

200?:  Tom Zahn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004:  Jimmy Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007: Gibby Gibson

 

2009:  Jeff Johnson

 

2013:  Bob Meistrell

Bob & Bill Meistrell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014:  Mike ” Bones” Bright

2015:  Mike Eaton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016:  Bob Hogan

Bob Hogan the original founder of the Catalina Classic in 1955.