HISTORY OF THE CATALINA CLASSIC Paddleboard race
In 1955, local lifeguard Bob Hogan, and Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Cliff Webster, joined forces to create the International Catalina Classic 32 Mile Open Ocean Paddleboard Marathon. The race began, as it does today, at Two Harbors Catalina Island, and finishes on the southside of the Manhattan Beach Pier. In its early years, this race attracted 50,000 spectators to the Manhattan Beach Pier to watch the finishers, and it eventually transformed into a 3-day event to entertain the crowds with volleyball, swimming, rowing, and other competitions (now known as The International Surf Festival). After treacherous ocean conditions in 1960, Pier construction in 1961, and the death of race co-founder/supporter Cliff Webster, the race went into hiatus for 20 years due to the lack of someone championing its annual occurrence.
Fortunately, in 1982, lifeguards Buddy Bohn and Gibby Gibson resurrected the race utilizing the same race guidelines and rules used in its original years. It has been going strong ever since and is known as the “grand-daddy” of prone paddleboard races throughout the world, with participants traveling from across the U.S. and other countries to complete this very challenging channel crossing.
- Originated in 1955 by LACOFD Lifeguard Bob Hogan.
- Championed by MB Chamber of Commerce Executive Cliff Webster.
- The race went on hiatus from 1962 to 1982 when lifeguards Buddy Bohn and Gibby Gibson brought it back into existence and it has been run annually each year since.
- Early years brought 50,000 observers to Manhattan Beach Pier.
- Evolved into what is now known as the 3-day International Surf Festival.
- The most rigorous race of its kind.
- 32 miles of open ocean.
- Prone paddleboards only.
- Paddlers must pre-qualify.
- Escort boat required.
- 9 hours time limit to finish.
- Held annually on the last Sunday of August.
The race serves as an excellent fundraising vehicle
100’s of thousands of dollars have been raised over the years for non-profit organizations.
- Jimmy Miler Memorial Foundation
- Ocean of Hope – Sarcoma Alliance
- The ALS Association Golden West Chapter
- Wounded Warriors Batallion
BUILDING THE STATUE
South Bay Boardriders Club
Tom Horton, President
August 24th 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The South Bay Boardriders Club Unveils Catalina Classic Commemorative Statue
Presented as a Gift to the City of Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach, CA – The South Bay Boardriders Club officially handed possession of the Catalina Classic
Commemorative Statue to the City of Manhattan Beach Thursday August 24th, 2023. A reception was held to celebrate the
occasion, just days before the 46th running of the annual Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race.
Through a long seven-year effort the South Bay Boardriders Club (SBBC) was able to design, fundraise, secure
community support, and install the statue at the south end of the Manhattan Beach Pier Lower Parking Lot; immediately
adjacent to the strand and bike path and within a stone’s throw of where the annual 32 mile open ocean race culminates
off the world famous Manhattan Beach Pier. The race is the premier paddleboard event in the world, attracting both
international talent and a serious list of homegrown contenders each year. Surfers, swimmers, and other ocean athletes
raised in the cities of the South Bay are intrinsically aware of the race and its world-renowned prestige. Most feel the need
to complete the grueling challenge at least once to earn their place via one of the most revered events in our collective
Efforts were spearheaded by SBBC President Tom Horton, Treasurer Ed McKeegan, Architect Michael Lee, and Designer
Brian Kingston. Sculptor Chris Barela was commissioned to create the life-sized statue after previously leaving his
indelible mark on the South Bay by creating memorial statues honoring Lifeguard Tim Kelly and Body Glove Founders Bill
and Bob Meistrell in Hermosa and Redondo Beach respectively. Heritage Bronze Foundry in Hesperia, CA, turned
Barela’s hand-crafted designs into life sized bronze figures. Finally, the complex and complicated installation process was
completed by Bennett Tasky, Peter O’Campo and Craft Construction. Designer Brian Kingston explained that the statue
was crafted in such a way “to not only honor the amazing athletes and their equipment but create a clean, contemporary,
and timeless look that would stand the test of time. The base was designed to represent the ocean with the inset paddlers
angled in such a way that would match the trajectory and line they would take while paddling from the the races starting
point at the Isthmus on Catalina Island.”
The South Bay Boardriders Club would like to thank the City of Manhattan Beach for supporting this important and
relevant addition to the cultural heritage of the City. The Club would like to thank the citizens of Manhattan Beach for
overwhelmingly encouraging the City Council to recognize the race as a cherished part of our collective history and
deserving of this permanent tribute. Over several months the club was able to amass thousands of signatures in favor of
the project, motivating Councilman Richard Montgomery to ask at a subsequent City Council meeting, “Has there ever
been anything put in front of this Council that has ever received this level of positive support? I cannot remember anything
moving so many people to speak so heavily in favor of an initiative.” Finally, the club thanks our members and supporters.
The South Bay Boardriders Club:
Established in 2009, the South Bay Boardriders Club (SBBC) is dedicated to celebrating the rich history of South Bay surf culture, being guardians of our local shoreline, and introducing families, youth, and our community to all aspects of ocean activities.
The Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race:
The Manhattan Beach International Paddleboard Race was started in 1955 by Los Angeles County Lifeguard Bob Hogan and members of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce and was the pre-cursor to the Catalina Classic. Many legendary watermen and waterwomen have taken the challenge and helped make the Catalina Classic the pre-eminent paddling event of the year. Paddlers leave the Catalina Island Isthmus at 6am and paddle 32 miles to the Manhattan Beach Pier on paddleboards between 12 and 19 feet long, using only their hands to propel them through the water. Swell, currents, and wind conditions play into what is notoriously one of the most grueling endurance events in the world.
The City of Manhattan Beach:
Manhattan Beach is a laid-back South Bay community popular with families and outdoor enthusiasts. The Strand bike path winds along the oceanfront between modern mansions and wide stretches of sand lined with volleyball courts. Manhattan Beach Pier features a quaint aquarium and views of surfers. There are several parks, and a small downtown area with boutiques, cafes, pubs & upscale eateries.
PHOTO & VIDEO GALLERY
RACE RESULTS & RECORDS
Race results going back 30+ years can be found on the CatalinaClassicPaddleboardRace.com website.