This Saturday, August 11th, something really big will be swimming in our Laguna waters.
All 32 of the Southern California Outrigger Paddling Clubs begin the most strenuous part of their summer season – the 9-man relay race – in the annual Whitey Harrison Canoe Classic sponsored by the Dana Point Outrigger Club.
This is the ONLY Hawaiian-style outrigger race all year long – on either U.S. seaboard, and possibly the world – that runs 20 miles, hugging the Dana Point and Laguna Beach coastline from beginning to end, making it quite a spectacle for onlookers standing on shore.
At least 700 paddlers participate in this race annually, making it one of the largest races in the world.
The 9-man outrigger relay is one wild race
It’s a cacophony of 40 to 60 outrigger boats (per race, with women’s race first and then men racing) racing neck and neck, each with an accompanying motorboat that travels nearby for changes of personnel in and out of the boats.
As the outrigger boats race forward, they’ll drop paddlers in the water, picking up incoming paddlers on the other side of the boat simultaneously. This is done while the outrigger boat remains at racing speed, which is pretty awesome to watch.
The race begins in Dana Point at Doheny Beach. Women race first, normally turning at Main Beach in Laguna Beach. Expect to see them paddling through our waters between 8:30 and 10 a.m.
The Men’s race starts between 10 and 11 a.m., at Doheny Beach and normally travels to Seal Rock just past Main beach in Laguna Beach.
Best Viewing Spots
Get out your binoculars for better viewing and pull up a chair at a great location for a rare Saturday morning event. My recommendations for the best Laguna Beach viewing options for the Outrigger Race:
- The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel – grab a coffee at their coffee shop and head up to their outdoor bar, 180blu
- West Street Beach and Aliso Creek Beach
- The Montage’s Cliffside grounds are always open to the public
- The Cliff (breakfast begins at 8:00 a.m.)
- The Deck at Pacific Edge (brunch from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)