In 1955, local lifeguard Bob Hogan, and Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Cliff Webster, joined forces to create the International Catalina Classic 32 Mile Open Ocean Paddleboard Marathon. The race began, as it does today, at Two Harbors Catalina Island, and finishes on the southside of the Manhattan Beach Pier. In its early years, this race attracted 50,000 spectators to the Manhattan Beach Pier to watch the finishers, and it eventually transformed into a 3-day event to entertain the crowds with volleyball, swimming, rowing, and other competitions (now known as The International Surf Festival). After treacherous ocean conditions in 1960, Pier construction in 1961, and the death of race co-founder/supporter Cliff Webster, the race went into hiatus for 20 years due to the lack of someone championing its annual occurrence.
Fortunately, in 1982, lifeguards Buddy Bohn and Gibby Gibson resurrected the race utilizing the same race guidelines and rules used in its original years. It has been going strong ever since and is known as the “grand-daddy” of prone paddleboard races throughout the world, with participants traveling from across the U.S. and other countries to complete this very challenging channel crossing.
To honor this iconic and historic race, along with the men and women who have dared to compete in it, The South Bay Boardrider’s Club has undertaken an initiative, in collaboration with The City of Manhattan Beach, to install a bronze statue near the Manhattan Beach Pier. Chris Barela, former Hermosa Beach resident, MCHS alumni, and Surfer Walk of Fame inductee, has been commissioned to build the sculpture. Chris is the sculptor who also created the Tim Kelly statue in Hermosa Beach, and the Meistrell Brothers statue in Redondo Beach.