SoCal Winter Series Preview - La Jolla Invitational

[note: 11/5/2019 3:05pm - updates were made in regards to the long course and SUP participation.]

[This series of race previews is an unaffiliated* effort to share experiences from each of the races that comprise Southern California's Winter Series of Races for OC1, OC2, Surf-Ski, SUP and Prone Paddlers. We would very much like to offer this for races in NorCal and invite anyone who might wish to be a regular contributor with knowledge of the races there to contact us. * If any information is not consistent with the race day setup, they have either changed it, or I am simply wrong. So consider this a friendly free guide, and please do not run up to the race organizers if something is different and say "Cali Paddler says it is this way" as we are not the ones putting on the race. They are. And we are grateful to them for that!]

La Jolla Shores hosted by San Diego Outrigger (Updated November 2019)
Be sure to see at the bottom about the welcomed eco-efforts and amazing opportunity drawing for an OC1 this year!

Nothing is as fun as the various Winter Race Series. We meet new friends, try new craft and try our hand as an individual paddler after enjoying a summer of dragon boat or oc6 paddling. I love this time of year as the logistics are simple. Show up. Drink coffee. Hang out. Race. Eat Food. Hang out. This race is a perfect example of why its fun to partake in all of these winter series events. Great vibes. Beautiful race course. Fun on the water. Oh, and rigging (assuming you have any at all) takes all of 3 minutes. Life is great.


La Shores Invitational Race PreviewOverview: This race typically is the start of the SoCal Winter Racing Series. Turnout is high, as folks are looking to extend the life of their hard-earned summer fitness, and it also is a chance for many to take their first stab at racing an outrigger canoe or surf ski or hop on a SUP before the winter comes. It is one of my favorites because it’s ALL in the ocean. AND has beach launch/return. Now, this might not be welcomed n­­­ews for everyone, but don’t let it scare you off. The ‘shores’ and the launch area are usually to the south where kayaks launch safely 99 days out of 100 and the waves are small. That said, always a good idea to practice something before the race itself so if you haven’t done beach launches before on your sup or canoe or ski, consider coming early or a few days before. Remember, timing IS EVERYTHING. Sit and watch the waves, where they break, where they don’t and you will increase your chances of a positive experience and be ready to race! (Tips for surf/beach entry can be found here!).

Staging - This is by far a great venue to hang out before and after the race. SDOCC does a wonderful job of having food, registering paddlers and presenting awards, while us paddlers just have to sit back, paddle, and hang out. The grass area is big and folks rig their craft there, then carry them a few hundred yards south to launch. Bring a blanket to hang out and drink your coffee while checking out the ocean with friends. The parking lot is next-door but fills up early so you may have to hoof your craft a little ways. Or you an park next to the park for a minute or two while you unload then go get parking. It might be a red zone tough so if you get a ticket, don't blame us. Also, the parking lot has may rows to go down, and are a little tight if you have oc1/2s on top so be careful as you turn into each on.

Courses - As with many of the SoCal Winter races, the course(s) are subject to change based on conditions for the day. Buoy drops might also be set based on how stretched out the racers are for safety. So in other words, nothing is set in stone as you will see with these. Which is actually a good thing because they will often times line us up for good wind. :) So go to the meeting beforehand for maps and markers.

  • Grom Course (Sup and OC) ~ New in 2019 for ages 8, 10, 12, 14, this race will be focused on the kids. SDOCC has started a new grom/Keki program and looking forward to the turnout! Distance is likely under 2 miles. Course is TBD based on conditions for the day to ensure maximum safety.
  • Short Course (All craft). ~4 miles. In the past this has been a triangle or square course that racers do twice before finishing. While its not far from shore, its not close enough to have breaking waves be a factor. Also far enough out though that spectating is not really possible without some solid binoculars. You might be accompanied by a sea lion or dolphin around here as it is a marine reserve. Pretty cool nature to see! Just be aware of sea weed. Start will be staggered for SUP. Times are TBD.
  • Long Course (Surfski, Kayak, Outrigger Canoe and SUP) –
    (~9 miles/~6 for SUP).
    Start will likely be same for all craft for SUP. However SUP will turn one buoy earlier, hence the shorter distance. But all craft will be finishing together.
    Times are TBD.
    Starting in 2017 they made an effort to line this up to work best with day-of conditions due to feedback from racers who wanted to hopefully capture any downwind possibilities the day provides. This likely means it will be a triangle course per race coordinators we spoke to for the 2018 course. For a review of past years courses when they went up north and then back, please read the following, as it might have some common themes (swell and kelp). Just note it will likely be different each year now that they factor in wind.

    [2016 and before:] In the past this race course only has a few landmarks, the Scripps pier at about .75 mile in, and a bunch of cliffs. That said, cliffs are pretty and there is always a little chance to scoot in north of the pier and ride some swell. Just not too far in however as the famed beach-break “Blacks” is there and it is known as the heaviest wave in SoCal when it breaks. So yea, enjoy the rollers if they are there but don’t push it if its big.

    As you trek north, there are a few kelp paddies to be aware of depending on the tide. My advice, watch the pack in front of you. If you see someone come to a stop, back paddle and pull some salad off their rudder, pick a different line. (I have some kelp secrets I will share with you all in a separate article so keep your eyes peeled for that.) As you get up towards Torrey Pines state park look for a parked boat that drops the buoy as your cue that the turn is coming up soon. Two 90 degree left-hand buoy turns and you are headed back south along the course you just paddled, just a little further out to sea. Hoot and holler for the paddlers you know heading the other way and enjoy getting to see someone’s front for a change instead of their back for once! Oh yea and get a good gauge on where your competition is now without doing the all-telling look over your shoulder.

    Now we head ~4 to 5 miles back south and boy do those beautiful high cliffs all look the same! This is an area that is very easy to zone out. I almost huli'd one year (it was totally flat) because I just lost focus for a few stokes. It's undeveloped and gorgeous coastline, so don't get me wrong, but make sure you stay on point and not let your eyes wander too much. The Scripps Pier will be your landmark to use and from there another mile so of racing. After the pier you trek south along the La Jolla Shores beachline and its time for you to do a left hand turn straight into the finish line. I really look forward to this last stretch because I am going WITH THE SWELL. Bump time, whoohoo. But don’t think it’s a short stretch by any means…in other words, its .25-.5 miles at least and you can blow through your reserve tank early if you aren’t careful. I personally always think its a short run, but after 9+ miles it feels a bit longer. Rev up your jet engines, sprint to the finish and have fun catching folks.


  • After your race, take some time to make sure those around you can get in through the surf ok.
  • Also be sure to enjoy the usually clear water where you can see little fishies, and leopard sharks (totally harmless bottom feeders so don’t freak out).
  • If you are really in no hurry to come back in, head south to the La Jolla Cove area and check out the sea life, Garibaldi fish (CALI State Fish!), and caves. Just don't get too close, and make sure you respect the swimming lane for swimmers. This is a very highly traffic swim area and they get the right-away!
  • Careful when you are walking your canoe back to the staging area. The beach and boardwalk will be more crowed now and its easy to whack someone with your craft with being tired and all. Enlist a friend to co-carry each-others craft on separate trips even, and retell your race stories. Because that's what paddlers do right? Talk about paddling?

Usually the weather is sunny and summer like. But one time it was rainy and big surf so they usually have a contingent location in ready if that ever happens and if the forecast is dangerous. That said, the last few years it has been sunny, with minimal conditions.

IMPORTANT updates for 2019!!!

Grom Race Added! - See above

Eco-Friendly - Guess what folks! SDOCC is joining the efforts with Cali Paddler to make sure the race is eco-friendly. For the second year in a row, look for the Blue Cali Paddler Buckets (#cpbluebucket) next to trash stations for your recyclables to go. We are so excited they understand that this is critical to paddlers and are making the effort to care for our waters and beaches. You are also welcome to pick-up a blue bucket at any time and start a little beach cleanup effort during the morning while you are hanging out. It's the blue bucket way!

Win an Ares OC1 and more! - Click for an opportunity to win some amazing prizes!!! Including the grand prize, a Ares OC1. includes some new items

  • 2019 Ares OC1 - $5,000.00 Retail Value
  • GOPRO HERO7 Black Camera - $330.00 Retail Value
  • Yeti Hopper M30 Soft Cooler - $299.99 Retail Value
  • RinseKit Plus - $115.00 Retail Value
  • G3PRO Percussive Therapy Device - $599.00 Retail Value
  • Yeti Tundra Haul Wheeled Hard Cooler (River Green) - $399.99 Value
  • Kai Ko'o Puhi 2.0 Hybrid Race Paddle and Protective Bag - $328 Value

Get your entry online before race day at that link or day of!

Race Registration and Info:

[ Got some tips to share on this race? Leave them in the comments below. Interested in sharing your own preview for a race? We would love to team up! Race-organizers, please let us know if additional info can help your racers enjoy the day. ]

Cali Paddler Team Writer Clarke Graves

Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone and Dragonboat. He can't wait to hop into the next craft he discovers.

One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!

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