Rock to Rock race organizer Joe Bark congratulates Joe Friedman, the day’s big winner

Porpoises, sharks, freighters greet Catalina to PV paddlers

Rock to Rock race organizer Joe Bark congratulates Joe Friedman, the day’s big winner. Friedman won raffle for a new Bark paddleboard. Photo by Kevin Cody

Fifty nine paddlers and their families celebrated Father’s day with a 22 mile race across the Catalina Channel, followed by an barbecue served by Mexican Riviera Bar and Grill.

The Fourth Annual Joe Bark Rock to Rock race began at 6 a.m. at the Catalina Isthmus and ended at Long Point on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Palos Verdes stockbroker Sean Richardson averaged just under seven miles per hour to win the race in 3:41, nearly 18 minutes faster than last year’s winning time. But his time was still short of lifeguard Tim Gair’s record 3:26, set in 1999.

Lifeguard Kyle Daniels of Hermosa, who finished second last year and in 1998, placed second a third time this year, finishing seven minutes behind Richardson.

Richardson, who paddled without an escort boat, maintained a 300- to 400-hundred yard lead until the final few miles and then pulled away by nearly a mile.

Conditions were close to ideal except for a light bump on the water and a light north wind that required the paddlers to make regular course adjustments.

Freighters cutting across the course and frequent shark sightings were also credited for the generally fast times.

Race organizer Joe Bark said he and fellow paddlers in his pack saw several mako sharks, but the sharks were too small to raise concerns.

Others who saw dark fins were not so cavalier. Tim Nelligan of Palos Verdes, in his first channel crossing, said he heard a thump and felt a bump that turned the stern of his board in mid channel. Not seeing anything, he assumed, the cause was a passing freighter’s wake.

Jane Cairns, one of two women paddlers in the Rock to Rock race, won the stock board division in 4:38. Photo by Terry Petty

Not until a half hour later did the crew of his escort boat tell him that had chased off an eight-foot shark.

Nilligan’s escort boat, a 16-foot Boston Whaler skippered by Pete Navarra, was following 500 yards back, trolling for fish when Navarra spotted a dorsal fin.

"We had seen a lot of porpoises and I didn’t think much of it until I saw the tip of the tail. I yelled shark and hit full throttle," Navarra said.

Troy Barry, who was crewing for Navarra grabbed a Hawaiian sling and moved to the starboard bow.

"The shark was a little ahead of us, heading at an angle toward Tim, who was 30 yards ahead of the shark," Barry said.

Navarra drove the boat between his paddler and the shark, but he and Barry decided against trying to spear it.

"We didn’t want any more blood in the water," Navarra said. Instead, Navarra circled the shark, which dove when the boat approached. Navarra continued driving in ever widening circles until he was confident the shark had left the area.

Evidently it did. Moments later, an estimated eight-foot shark cruised by paddler Phil King, who was mile behind Nilligan.

"We think Blanford’s chumming’s what attracted the shark," Navarra said. Crewman Chris Blanford had been heaving over the side for most of the race.

Top finishers in the Rock to Rock were: Unlimited — Sean Richardson 3:41; Kyle Daniels 3:48; Tony Hotchkiss 3:50; Kevin O’Connor 3:51; Danny O’Connor 3:52; and JP Cruz 3:56. 14-foot — Grant Curry 4:12; Ron Erhard 4:19; Matt Streeter 4:24; Jon Loren 4:24; Parker Dunbar 4:38; David Yudovin 4:45. Stock Jane Carins 4:38; Lee Barneson 5:12; Kim Spalding 5:52.

The next local paddleboard race is the Hennessey’s race on Saturday, July 28. The race is an in-and-out from the Hermosa pier to the R-10 Buoy off of Lunada Bay, and back. For information call 316-5652. ER