Sunday was the first ever Round the Rock paddle race for stand up paddle surfers, a sport grabbing hold in our area. I had the chance a couple of weeks before to visit with the co-organizers, Jeff Underwood and Dan Eberhardt to learn about the sport and the race in general. Their enthusiasm for not only the race, but also the sport was contagious and I just had to check it out.
It was billed as the largest SUP event north of southern California, and Jeff and Dan didn’t disappoint. I headed out on Sunday afternoon, a perfect day to hang out at Luther Burbank Park, and found myself feeling like I was at a California beach event, rather than in Western Washington. Paddle surfers of all ages skimmed the waters just off shore, as people milled around waiting for the first full course racers to make their appearance at the finish line. Local surf shops and industry booths were set up so people could learn about the sport, where to get boards and even give the paddle surfing boards a try, something I took advantage of.
When I had spoken with them earlier both Jeff and Dan said it was easy to learn to paddle surf, but having never done anything except bogey board occasionally I was a little skeptical. I’m happy to report, however, after a quick explanation from one of the ladies manning the Perfect Way Surf Shop (located in Kirkland) booth I was kneeling on a demo board and before I knew it, stand up paddle surfing on Lake Washington!
The 13 mile race around Mercer Island had 73 entries, while the short sprint race later in the afternoon of 2.5 miles had 57 people sign up that day to take part. According to Dan contestants ranged in age from 9 to 61-years-old.
Shortly after I arrived the first racer headed in, posting an unbelievable finish of 2 hours and 35 minutes. Originally, Dan and Jeff told me they expected the racers to finish in about three hours.
Beau Whitehead, 40, of Bellingham, Wash. paddling for the Urban Surf Shop team claimed the victory in the unlimited class, while Dan Eberhardt, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., came in second with a 2:56 finish time in the 14 feet class, paddling with the Riviera Paddle Surf team. Rod Parmeter of Hood River, Ore. was third overall with a time of 3:04 in the 14 feet class.
On the women’s side of the race Heather Nelson finished first with a time of 3:12 in the 14 feet class. Cindy Hales, of Seattle, paddling for Cheka Looka finished in 3:49, in the 12.6 feet class and Jean Anne Dobrowolski, also of Seattle, was third at 4:53.
In paddle surfing the unlimited division means there is no restriction on the board length, and fins, rudder and foils are allowed on the boards. In the SUP 14 foot class the maximum length for boards is 14 feet, fins must be fixed in place, and foils and rudders are not allowed. The same rules apply to the SUP 12.6 foot class, expect the maximum length is 12 1/2 feet.
Dan said the temperature and skies were perfect for a race, but that it was a bit windy out on the course.
“The entire west end of Mercer Island had some serious head wind,” he said. That section represented about 60 percent of the overall course. The Coast Guard clocked the wind at a steady 18 to 20 miles per hour, according to Dan, including gusts up to 30 mph.
“Making it around the north end of Luther Burbank had a great tail wind – for good speed!” said Dan.
Overall, the event was definitely a success. Dan did say next year they plan to have a full automated timing system for results. This year paddlers finished after giving their number to an appointed boarder who sat on a board by a buoy just off the park’s beach.
Congrats to all the finishers!