Padding the Loop

“In 16 years, this was the best Loop ever,” said Dan Mann, of Mannkine Surfboardsand organizer of the annual Memorial Day weekend 11.4-mile paddleboard race around Coronado Island.

More than 70 paddlers enjoyed the finest ocean and weather conditions in more than two weeks with light winds, sunny skies and calm ocean conditions.

The ocean athletes paddled from Gator Beach at the south end of the Coronado Shores out to Zuñiga Jetty at the entrance to San Diego Bay. They then headed back down around the Naval ships docked at the North Island Naval Air Station, past the bayside homes and restaurants of Coronado, and the high rises of downtown San Diego.

The last leg of the endurance race had them pass through the Coronado Bay Bridge before arriving at Glorietta Bay, a grassy beach park, ringed by awaiting family members and friends.

Back in the 1940 and 1950s many surfers who competed in surfing competitions also raced paddleboards. Tom Blake is credited with developing the sport back in 1926 when he built a redwood board for the Bishop Museum that was a replica and ode to ancient Hawaiian “olo” surfboards.

Along with Blake, watermen such as George Downing, Pete Peterson, and Mike Doyle were as accomplished on paddleboards as they were on surfboards.

Today, the popularity of prone paddleboarding has been eclipsed by the trendier and more female-friendly sport of stand-up-paddling (both are great workouts).

Elite paddelboarders such as Jamie Mitchell and Kyle Daniels are famed for their athletic prowess and dominance of the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race and the Catalina Classic. Both 32-mile events require ocean crossings in rough conditions and are the ultimate ocean endurance paddle test.

Moloka‘i Paddleboard race

Additionally the Hennessey’s SUP and Paddle Board Racing Series offers up the U.S. Championships in Dana Point on June 2nd.

Paddleboards are long, sleek and built with traditional fiberglass or lighter carbon fiber or epoxy. A new custom board unlimited class board (over 18’) can cost over well over two thousand dollars and are outfitted with tillers, and small racks that hold water bottles and waterproof GPS devices. Shorter boards (12’ and 14’) are also raced.

Roch Frey of Encinitas dominated the Loop field winning overall and the unlimited division by more than three minutes. Sean Richardson and Dan VanDyck followed him.

Event winner Roche Frey.

Geoffrey Page of Imperial Beach placed first in the 50 and Over division with a time of 2.00.06. “I actually didn’t train enough for the race,” said Geoff. “I just had a good start and tried to hang on until the finish. I was really struggling at the end.”

Big wave charger Jim Montalbano, also of Imperial Beach, placed third in the Stock class. “I’m training for the Molokai to Oahu race,” he said before the race commenced. The Hawaiian event takes places on July 29.

My eldest son Israel, 16, entered the race the morning of the event. Borrowing a 12’ custom stock board from Jeff Knox, he started out the race fast ignoring dad’s advice to start slow and carry food and water.

Israel at the finish.

“Halfway through the race I began to fully realize my mistake,” wrote Israel. “My arms became harder and harder to move and I began to fantasize about fast food. I still had six miles to go. The only thing in my mind was the thought of eating incredibly large amounts of food that were waiting for me at the finish line. I passed the finish line and immediately started eating.”

The Loop perpetual trophy.

Coronado’s Dougie Mann of clothing company URT has competed in the Loop since its inception back when he was 12. “It is always worth getting in the ocean. It always makes your day better,” he said.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

The Loop 2012 Results

Unlimited

  1. Roch Frey, 1.51.17
  2. Sean Richardson, 1.54.35
  3. Dan VanDyck, 1.58.13

Women

  1. Shannon Delaney, 2.19.14
  2. Aimee Spector, 2.22.35
  3. Kristin Thomas, 2.32.52

50 and Over

  1. Geoffrey Page, 2.00.06
  2. Ron Nelson, 2.03.42
  3. Wally Buckingham, 2.05.04

14’

  1. Jay Scheckman, 2.04.40
  2. Reno Caldwell, 2.06.34
  3. Brant Bingham, 2.13.07

Stock

  1. Steve Schlens, `2.02.01
  2. Rodney Ellis, 2.05.27
  3. Jimmy Montalbano, 2.07.12

IB’s Mark “Kiwi” Fields. Kiwi had never raced a prone paddleboard event. He typically races SUPs.

Dan Mann and the Future of Surfboards

Dan Mann of Mannkine Surfboards. Photo: Mannkine Surfboards

This is from my Imperial Beach Patch Column of December 8, 2010

Dann Mann is the founder, owner and head shaper of Mannkine Surfboards. A longtime Coronado and Imperial Beach local, he is always one of the standouts in a lineup, whether he is on a shortboard, longboard or paddleboard racing.

Dan grew up in Maui where his dad Lance taught him to surf at the age of two. He moved to Coronado at the age of 10, competed professionally from 1994 to 2000. Dan started shaping Mannkine Surfboards in 1996. He has also shaped for Channel Islands, Rusty, Joel Tudor and Xanadu.

Until 2008, he worked as the head of Design, Research and Development for Firewire. Dan currently lives in Coronado with his wife Kara and children Lance and Lily. When he is not surfing IB and Nado, he loves to find waves in Australia and Mexico.

Q. Why did you start shaping surfboards and when?

A. I started shaping in 1996 because along with paddling a long distance, I feel it is something every surfer should do.

Q. What shapers influenced you starting out and currently?

A. Starting out, Mike Eaton and Stu Kenson.  Now, Matt Biolas and whoever it is that designed the Oracle trimeran

Q. What sort of designs are you are working on?

A. Right now there’s a board I call the Chum Lee for Mannkine. I did a similar design for Firewire called the Sweet Potato.  It is 6 to 8 inches shorter than the rider and is a 4 finner.  It changed my mind as to what really makes a surfboard work.

Q. How was it working on the new Firewire Taylor Jensen model?

A. It was cool.  Taylor was a good friend of my brother when they were five and up so I’ve known him a long time and like his surfing a lot.  He loves surfing and has an intense sense of what works and doesn’t work in his boards.

Q. Describe some of the innovative work you are doing on board design and development?

A. I feel like we are only now scratching the surface on what surfboards can and should be.  The first thing that needs to change is the process to make a board.   Processes need to change so surfboards can be made more cleanly (eco-friendly), easily and with more consistency so that surfers know what they are going to get when they buy it.  This will increase the surfboard’s value for surfers, inject more excitement and creativity into the industry and make it an inventive vibrant industry again.

Along with changes in surfboard manufacturing processes, we need to use more sophisticated materials in surfboards.  There’s nothing like the dynamics of riding a wave on a board, so the improvements made to surfboards needs to come from those who make them and more importantly, surf them.  I love my old PU boards with a wood stringer, but if we want to experience what a surfboard really can be, we have to use carbon fiber.

This doesn’t mean just make a board and have some sort of carbon somewhere on it.  The carbon needs to be the main force behind the structure and more importantly  the way the board is bending or flexing – the feel of the board. This is the difference between a magic board versus an OK one.

This must be done in a way that does not interfere with the shapers ability to design. I have spent most of my time since 2003 making boards with this sort of stuff in mind and have a patent on a technology I call ‘Incide’ technology that addresses these issues.

Q. Where did the collapse of Clark Foam leave the surfboard industry?

A. It left the industry scrambling in good ways, bad ways and every way in between.  Ultimately we are here (five years to the day!) with several other companies, occupying the void Clark left with essentially the same product with very little meaningful innovation. So, things are a bit flat in the industry.

Q. How do you test-drive your designs? Is it your own feedback or that of key surfers that matter?

A. I definitely love surfing my own designs and ideas but the best and most meaningful feedback comes from other surfers. I feel like the best ideas and interpretations come from the end users.

Q. Handmade vs. computer designed and machine shaped?

A. Depends on what the guy who orders the board is looking for. I find most guys are pretty serious about getting something they are REALLY going to like and for this I think you can’t say enough about a computer aided, properly designed, machine cut board.

Q. Is there a future for the small “handcrafted” surfboard shaper/manufacturer?

A. For sure. I think if young guys want to get into it they simply need to be better than the generation ahead of them. They will need to know about the ENTIRE board and board building process. They also will need to be more inventive and creative.  The big guys are definitely getting bigger though.

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