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HONOLULU - (Sunday, June 13, 2010) -- Stand-up paddling (SUP) came full circle back to its home of Waikiki, Hawaii, this weekend, surpassing every conceivable expectation with the ultimate combination of sport and lifestyle. Over 600 paddlers from around the world gathered for the inaugural Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle Hawaii, presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection, and thousands turned out to watch. When all was said and done, everyone had a story to tell.
The turquoise waters of Waikiki, and surreal backdrop of Diamond Head, were reminders of a time long ago, when the upright figure of Duke Kahanamoku riding a board first captured imaginations.
But it was Californian Danny Ching (Redondo Beach), 27, who captivated the crowd this time around, making a clean sweep of the 5-mile Elite Battle and the 10-mile Downwinder.
In Saturday's Elite race, Ching was embroiled in a 5-mile battle royale with dark horse Australian paddler Travis Grant (Gold Coast). Punctuated by 19 buoy turns and two 75-yard beach sprints, their race ended in a sprint for the shoreline that left them separated by just 13 seconds after close to an hour and a half of dueling. He then overcame Sunday morning's fatigue to go on and win the 10-mile distance race.
"I didn't expect that at all," said Ching. "I was hoping to win one of the days but luckily it panned out for me. I definitely felt fatigued (in the distance race). But once I got out into the surf I was able to build a bit of a gap. I was figuring that would hold them off at the end because if you raced (the Elite race) you were going to have a hard time making the final push the last two miles.
"Sparky's Rainbow Sandal races are the best," said Ching. "He puts up the biggest prize purse, the best competitors and the biggest event. Everything about it is amazing."
Ching crossed the Elite race line in one hour, 22 minutes and 42 seconds to take win $5,000. He completed the 10-mile downwind race in 1 hour and 26 minutes for an added $1,100.
Grant, 27, finished the Elite race in 1:22:55 for $3,500; and veteran Hawaiian paddler Aaron Napoleon, 43, was third in 1:26:30 for $2,500. Jamie Mitchell (Australia), the most dominant paddleboarder in the world, was fourth in 1:27:00.
In the women's division, San Clemente's Candice Appleby took out the Elite battle, earning $2,500 with her time of 1:35:25. Second was Australian Shakira Westdorp. In the distance race, Maui's Andrea Moller took line honors.
Beyond the world's best, paddlers who participated this weekend ranged from pint-sized, surf-savy kids, to mothers, grand-mothers, and 72-year-old Frank Perna (Malibu, CA) - the oldest competitor of the weekend.
The Battle of the Paddle also featured exhibits, booths, clinics for children, relays for families, fun races and plenty of SUP sampling. There were spirit-moving cultural ceremonies, impassioned volunteers and priceless ocean-based programs like Na Kama Kai. But beneath it all, there was the pure and simple fun that Waikiki has famously offered the world for centuries.
In some ingenious way, Gerry Lopez, Jay "Sparky" Longley, and the families of Rainbow Sandals and Quiksilver Waterman Collection tied together all the best elements of the stand-up paddle lifestyle and presented them in an exciting, easy to grasp, 21st century framework. The total prize purse for the weekend was equally stunning: $25,000.
It takes a community to raise a lifestyle: Mahalo to the SUP families of Rainbow Sandals, Quiksilver Waterman Collection, Patagonia, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, Kona Brewing Co., DaKine, Duke's Waikiki, and Surftech, for bringing a new dawn of SUP to Waikiki Beach.