By Mary Forgione
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Ever try crossing from Santa Catalina to Dana Point on a stand-up paddleboard? Don’t, unless you are with a pro. I ran into Terri Plunkett in Two Harbors on the western side of the island in mid-April. She and her team were preparing to do a relay-style 40-mile crossing.
“I have done countless SUP events around the world but, hands-down, this was the most challenging event I ever participated in,” Terri emailed me afterward.
Anthony Vela, a former L.A. County lifeguard, stand-up paddling coach and competitor, organized the event. Vela and his company, Performance Paddling, train intermediate and advanced paddlers. Sixteen students, ages 32 to 73, participated in the crossing. Anthony chatted with me about the logistics of open-water stand-up paddling. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
How fast can you go in open-water paddling?
Depending on conditions, you can paddle between 4 and 5 mph. Our paddle was 40 miles. We did it as a relay with teams. If each team averaged 4 mph, that would take 10 hours. If each team averaged 4.5 mph, that would take us nine hours. We all finished under nine hours 30 minutes. The fastest team finished under nine hours.
What does it take to put together a relay event?
The first thing is safety. Each of our teams had their own escort boat. You could fall and hit your head or your ribs, or, God forbid, have a heart attack. We had four Zoom meetings and one in-person…