US Surfski Champs - one month to go

Saturday, 07 July 2012 13:42 | Written by  Kenny Howell
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Brilliant shot of the 2011 US Surfski Champs by Sean Gibson Brilliant shot of the 2011 US Surfski Champs by Sean Gibson

For 10 years, the US Surfski Championships has been held in the spectacularly windy waters of San Francisco Bay. From the very first event, it was clear to anyone that followed surfski paddling that was world-class venue, with all the ingredients necessary to entice international competitors and local aficionados alike.

Rough water, strange currents

Each year, tales spread of the rough water, strange currents, great downwind surfing, tough competition, gorgeous scenery, and beautiful people. Surfski paddlers returned to San Francisco to compete each year from across Oceana - Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii – and the continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Like the phenomenal ethnic melting pot that is the cosmopolitan wonder of San Francisco, the US Surfski Champs mixed up its courses over the years to keep it fresh, ever-changing, and always exciting. The 10th anniversary event in 2012 is no exception, with yet another new starting location in the Marin Headlands, designed to provide maximum downwind potential.

Strange Currents

Rounding the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge - in some very strange currents!

Make it downwind!

After the 2011 US Surfski Championships, Dawid Mocke and Barry Lewin of South Africa all but begged the race organizers to move the start up the coast for next year to avoid the laborious and objectionable upwind section to the Pont Bonita turn buoy. The non-Saffa world then learned the Boer epithet “kak” when one of the saffas let it slip out, describing his feelings for upwind paddling.

At the awards ceremony last year, Dawid and Barry stood in front of the crowd and announced that they would personally help each and every paddler launch through the dumping surf at Rodeo Beach, where it was hoped the race could start. This was met with a mix of incredulity and relief by many North American surfskiers that had never even seen a surf launch (other than the peculiar type demonstrated by Joe Glickman in his viral video sensation from the Surfski World Cup in Durban)! 

Lewin reportedly will not attend the US champs this year, so Dawid will have his hands full assisting approximately 99 paddlers get through the frigid northern California shore break. The race start will be in open water thankfully, so competitors will have time to sort themselves out and line up for the horn.

Misty weather

Classic view of the bridge in the morning - in the afternoons the wind comes up and blows the mist away...

Speculation 2012

Some intriguing questions around this year’s event: 

Will Mocke continue his utter dominance of the US Surfski Champs (winning in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011), even after helping everyone launch? He has seemingly mastered the vexing currents of San Francisco Bay, although the Coast Guard has him on a “watch list” for maneuvering too close to a freighter in the shipping lanes near Alcatraz in the 2010 race.  (Click here for the top ten finishers for the last nine years.)

Dawid Mocke v US Coastguard

Dawid Mocke v US Coastguard - 2010 US Surfski Champs (which Mocke won)

Just how fast will this new course be? At 14 miles, virtually all downwind, with a maximum flooding current of 4 knots predicted during the race, competitors could cross the finish line before their shuttle drivers ever make it across the bay bridges to Berkeley in notorious Bay Area traffic.

(Click here for the proposed new course.

Will author Joe Glickman be in fresh form for the race after giving 2 grueling talks in 2 nights prior to the race about his book on expedition kayaker Freya Hoffmeister? Racers wishing to compete with Joe should come to each talk prepared to ask questions late into the night, and make him sign books well past his bed time.


(Sorry Glicker - but this still cracks me up...!)


US Surfski Champs

Official Race Announcement

WaveChaser Paddle Series and Hui Wa'a Outrigger Canoe & Kayak Foundation are again proud to host the 2012 US Surfski Championships on August 4th and 5th.

We would also like to welcome a new Premier Sponsor to the 2012 USSSC races: Paddlesports International, LLC from Kailua, Hawaii.

After decades of world championship outrigger titles, veteran paddlers and watermen John and Jim Foti along with lifetime teammate Kalani Irvine formed Paddle Sports International to design, innovate, manufacture and sell paddle sports products of the highest quality. They will be sending out the Allwave CX Surfski that has been doing
so well in Hawaii.

We also would like to welcome back our long time Premier Sponsors:


Once again our media Sponsor is and we'll have another great video from the man himself, Rambo- 

10th Edition

This is the 10 year anniversary for this event and we have changed things up again.

New Start

The new start for the long course will be outside the World famous Golden Gate Bridge and start at Rodeo Beach, up the coast from our usual "turn" point off of Point Bonita. With the new starting point, this will be almost entirely a downwind course to fit the general requirements of the OceanPaddler World Series for 2012.

Short Course

The short course will again start from Fort Baker, the North end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Both long and short courses will finish in Berkeley. 


So far, the past two months here on the bay have had some great downwind conditions and we hope it continues at the 2012 USSSC races! With the strong
incoming tide for that day, this looks to be a very fast race.

Week of racing

For those of you coming from overseas and from across the country, we are offering a week of races. July 29th is the annual WaveChaser race that is a shortened version of the long course, a great tune up race for the following Saturday.

On Wednesday, August 1st, we are offering an evening race out of Coyote Point (San Mateo) to Bair Island Aquatic Center (BIAC). One of the most consistent downwind runs throughout the summer, conditions are very similar to the last 8 miles of the USSSC race that lead into Berkeley. This gives you a chance to "practice" for the August 4th main event.

In addition the Saturday, August 4th event, we also offer a doubles race on Sunday, August 5th.

Demo Day

We also have an awesome demo day on August 3rd, where all the Premier Sponsors bring out their skis and give you a chance to check out the newest greatest ski. Additionally we will be updating paddling clinics held by some of the top paddlers in the world. Check out for updates.

Calling all US Surfski Paddlers

For all of the US Paddlers, this is the can't miss race of the year. Your chance to paddle against some of the best in the World and your chance to race against Olympic Gold Medalist and perennial US Top Surfski finisher, Greg Barton.

Mark your calendar, book those flights and plan on being part of the 10 year Anniversary for the US Surfski Championships!

Registration and more info

For more info and details for registration, lodging, renting skis, transportation, demo days and race clinics, please go to

If you need any assistance, please feel free to send me an email or give me a call at 650.670.7108

We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones!

Thank you for your continued support.

Mike Martinez

Race Director

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