California Race Preview - Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge

[This series of race previews is an unaffiliated* effort to share experiences from races that comprise California's various 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!]

Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge



Overview: In its 25th year, this race is perhaps one of the biggest Winter Series races in Southern California. From a craft standpoint, you can expect a full field of talent in SUP, prone paddleboard, surfski outrigger and kayak. Located in Mission Bay, there is plenty of free parking, (get there early none-the-less), grass and sandy beach to lay your craft on, oh and a ton of vendors to pass the time before and after your race (come visit Cali Paddler booth and say hi!).


  • Kids Race 1000m. A great chance for juniors to conquer their first race and get the stoke. Kept in the Bonita Cove area for plenty of great viewing and cheering from the beaches, and minimal, if any, boat traffic concern.
  • Short Course (4.5 miles, All craft, staggered start). This course has a long initial straight-away (1) that will help stretch the field before the first turn, however that doesn't mean there won't be a pile-up at the first 90degree (2) turn so pick your line, and get of to a good start! After you leave Bonita Cove you will enter the main part of Mission bay and begin the loop course. After going under he first of two bridges (3,4), (watch those pilons!) you will head down to South Shores where you will then turn back (5). In the morning during the short course time there is usually minimal wind, but this area can sometimes be a real wind-tunnel, so if you are not heading down, anticipate a headwind coming back, or vise versa. Just mentally and strategically prepare for that return stretch. Tides can also flow here very quickly. (Tide Tips every paddler should know)! You will then make a counter clockwise loop around Vacation Isle. Things to keep in mind here, as you head north (6), boat traffic (well to your right) can be moving fast so watch for long developed wakes. As you make the turn from north to west, this area of the island (7) is the first of two shoals (a very shallow and long stretch of coastline. If you cut too tight you will run aground or get into sticky water. Cross under the 3rd bridge (8) as you head west, and make a turn south (9). Here is another shoal. Locals have this dialed in pretty well but those from out of down get suckered into taking the turn tight. Due to the course however will not benefit greatly from a tight turn so don't risk getting stuck in shallows. Look ahead to the final bridge (10). You will go under the original bridge for a second time (your 4th and final time under one). As you head south you should realize you are close to finishing. Once you make the right turn (11) hugging the rocks to head back north you are on your final straight away and putting in your finishing sprint. That said, it is always a longer straight away (12) then I remember since its at the end. :) I suggest on your warm-up you get familiar with it.

Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge Short Course

Community. Conservation. Connection. Cali Paddler!

  • Long Course (~ 9 miles, Surfski, Kayak, and Outrigger Canoe). As many outrigger paddlers will recognize, this is the same course as the Iron Champs race and your tried and true triangle course, which means at least one of the legs should offer some conditions if they exist (hooray). Race will start at the mouth of the jetty. So take into account your time to paddle there which is ~1+ miles from the beach where the event takes place. Don't miss the start or show up exhausted and stressed. If the beach looks suddenly empty, get on your craft and go. :) Also, use this paddle out the jetty to pay attention to currents and waves as it will be your return stretch home! Once the starting horn sounds, you are heading north with the swell on your left or in front of you based on the swell direction. If you are adept as maximizing ground swell, you might zig-zag the backsides of waves here but more than likely just beeline to the pier (2) where you will make a turn out to sea. In theory the 2nd buoy turn is at the Yukon wreck scuba-dive site. However on occasion I think the turn buoy (3) is arbitrary to help the paddlers maximize the conditions on the third and final triangle leg. So don't use this map as perfect (never do). Wind usually is onshore in the afternoons so expect if it exists that this second leg gives you a dose of head on wind and swell. The third triangle stretch is a straight shot to the entrance to Mission Bay jetties. Use the Sea World Tower and OB Pier to the south as your landmarks on either side of where it will reside. Enjoy whatever conditions you have here, and make the turn into the jetty. The turn (4) may be around a buoy slightly to the south to keep paddlers on the south side of the bay entrance (to be in line with correct boat traffic right of way). Or the lead canoes might just assert their independence and hug the north portion of the entrance which will cause the rest of the racers to follow suit like sheep. Local paddlers make this jetty their playground and often do 'Jetty Runs' up and down here in their canoes or surfskis when there is surf, so if you see a local, pay attention to what they do. Or don't do. Here again I want to urge you to KNOW the TIDES! This stretch will make or break a paddler as you are now in flat water and this straightaway can really wear down the weary. Taking a middle or rock line can make a big difference on big tide/swell days. TIP: the water at the tip of the north jetty (entrance) and south tip can break and get silly or fun depending on your definition. Pay attention here and hopefully score some 'help'. Get to the end and make a left turn (6) which may or may not be by the rocks (pay attention to race course info at meeting to see where turn will be). BEWARE FISHING LINES, GO WIDE OF ROCKS! Now you are on your entry back into Bonita Cove and the finishing stretch. Get ready to red line your effort and finish strong. Congrats!

Hanohano Huki Ocena Challenge

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  • 2020 NEW - Due to renovations of bathroom and park, the site location has shifted east slightly. Parking more towards Bonita Point and the more inland bathrooms.
  • 2020 NEW - The awarding of awards for categories have been changed.

    ***Numbers required per category based on PaddleGuru Registration

    Number of racers                                Awards Presented

    1-4 participants                                    First Place Only
    5-8 participants                                   First and Second Only
    8-14 Participants                                 First, Second, Third
    15 or more                                             First, Second, Third and Fourth 


    OC-2, SS-2                                               No Age Categories
    V1 short course                                      No Age Categories
    Kayak                                                       No Age Categories
    SUP -2 +                                                   No Age or Gender Categories

  • NEW Hazard to be aware of - Watch out for fishing lines! Over the last year more fisherman have lined up along the course on any given day. Their cast lines can be long. As you cruise around the rip rap rocks throughout the bay, pay special attention to possible fishing lines. Don't be a "catch!". You will have some angry folks.
  • Pre-register! Don't be running around the morning of your race trying to dial in extra steps. Plus you actually save a few bucks when you pre-register. Yer welcome. ;)
  • Be sure to communicate your race number to the finishing officials (seriously it makes their life so much easier when you help them out). Plus you don't want to be listed as DNF after such a great effort.
  • Leashes and PFDs are not only highly encouraged, but just a heads up, the life guards are zipping all around the bay on this day to make sure paddlers and boat traffic are co-existing nicely (thank you!). So don't be the one to not have your safety gear and risk their raised eye-brow...or a ticket for no PFD if your craft requires one by law.
  • Excellent viewing for the long course along the south mission jetty. But if you are on foot, probably too far to walk if you want to catch the finish too. Car/Bike/Scooter best for spectators who choose to go there.
  • Parking is free but fills up quick! Get there early and wander around with coffee, even if you are the later race. In addition to the 2 lots directly north and north east of the staging, there is also parking to the west by the roller coaster off Mission Blvd. East in the dirt area of Mariner's Point. And north on Gleason Rd by Santa Barbara Cove.
  • GET RAFFLE TICKETS! The amount of vendors, and the fact this race is sponsored by California OC and Surfski maker Huki, means you will have TONS of chances for epic raffle prizes. Including a OC1 each year for the grand price!!!

Usually the weather is sunny and summer like. But for those times where a storm times itself or giant surf is pounding, expect both the long and short course to possibly be run inside the confines of Mission Bay.

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. ]

Team Writers Wanted - Share your paddle adventure

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, Surfski and Dragonboat.

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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