From SUP racing and surfing to coaching, announcing or race directing, Anthony Vela is such an important person for the SUP world and has done so many different things in SUP racing and SUP surfing, it is a true honor for us to chat with him! Today, however, we are talking specifically to the event producer of the 3rd Annual Dana Point Harbor Hoot presented by Infinity SUP, an exciting SUP race event which is precisely a lot more than a mere SUP race event. Thought-through to be fun, spectator-friendly, and accessible to all, you’ll all want to join the paddle fun in Dana Point on Saturday October 9, after reading our interview with “AV”. And this year, local-international brand Infinity is supporting the event even more than the previous years and we want to know about that too!
Hello Anthony, how would you describe yourself in relation to the history of Stand Up Paddling?
I’ve worn many different hats in the industry. On the race side, I’ve been a sponsored athlete, announcer, race director, event producer, and international coach. I have also been involved on the sup surf side of the sport as well as a sponsored athlete, announcer, contest director, rules judge, and international coach.
What is a hoot exactly? How did you come up with the idea of creating your own event?
A “hoot” is something that is fun. The Haven Dana Point Harbor Hoot presented by Infinity SUP is a paddling event for all ages and abilities. It’s not a race. People will be going fast and racing, but it’s also an entry-level event for people to just cruise. Imagine someone running a 5K race that’s not usually a runner. You can walk a 5K. For the Harbor Hoot, you can “walk” the course or you can “run” fast. I came up with the idea due to the lack of events in the area. SUP events are huge around the world, but here in Dana Point where the sport was born, races are fewer and fewer. I wanted a place for people to enjoy paddling.
Can you tell us about each different event within the event? Why do you propose short and technical races only?
There are 3 events in the Haven Dana Point Harbor Hoot presented by Infinity SUP. The 3K Channel Scoot, the Haven Harbor Hustle, and the Board & Brew Baby Beach Bolt team relay. The names were chosen to create an atmosphere of fun. The distances were designed to be spectator friendly, and new paddler friendly. Pretty much everyone can paddle a 3k in Dana Point Harbor with little to no experience paddling.
Infinity SUP is the presenting sponsor of the event. How exactly are they involved in the event?
Infinity SUP is just a short stone’s throw away from Dana Point Harbor. This year Dave Boehne from Infinity wanted to support the event at a high level because it’s basically in their backyard. Dave also trains with the Performance Paddling Training Club so we have been talking about this event for a while. Infinity has been one of the brands to continue to support athletes and events for the last 10+ years. We are stoked to have them involved as a presenting sponsor.
What’s your history with the brand and the nature of your friendship with the brand’s CEO, Dave Boehne? Can you tell us about your different working cooperations and other fun stories over the years?
I’ve been riding Infinity SUP boards since 2012. Dave and I have been friends since about 2011. We have had many fun training sessions, races, sup surf contests, sup surf sessions, and an awesome trip to Taiwan back in 2013 I believe.
For 10 years and until the PPG stopped, Dana Point was the epicenter of the SUP Race world, thanks to two consecutive annual events, the Battle of the Paddle and the Pacific Paddle Games as well as being the home to top international brands. Is this still the case in your eyes?
Back when the Battle of the Paddle created the sport of SUP Racing, there were no other races. So it was the epicenter because it was the only one. Over the last ten years, races have popped up all over the world. Dana Point is still an epicenter of SUP paddling, maybe not the racing side. On any given day there are hundreds of paddlers enjoying the harbor. It’s an awesome place to paddle. But there are also many other amazing places to paddle. We all owe the Battle of the Paddle a huge thank you for unknowingly creating the sport!
Is it your ambition to turn the Harbor Hoot into a new PPG on the long run?
No, it’s quite the opposite. The Haven Dana Point Harbor Hoot presented by Infinity SUP is a paddling event for all ages and abilities. PPG was an amazing surf race. In my opinion races in the surf are the most thrilling and exciting. It would be awesome if some non-endemic company would want to bring back a PPG or BOP style of event at Doheny. It’s the perfect beach to showcase the surf side of sup racing. We can make the race happen, we just need the funding.
For many years you were one of the top paddlers in California and have been more busy coaching, directing races or organizing events recently. Are you done SUP racing yourself?
I wish! And I miss racing. It’s so awesome to push your body to its limits. I participate when I can, but only once or twice a year am I able to participate because I’m mostly working at the races. Last year I did the Virtual Molokai 2 Oahu and enjoyed training for the 16-mile race. A few months ago I participated in a team relay with my Training Club. We had 5 teams paddle 40 miles from Catalina to Dana Point. I enjoy racing, and hope to do more races again someday.
What’s your quiver? What can you say about your choice of boards in relation to the local ocean conditions?
I love the Infinity Whiplash 12’6″ X 25″ custom raceboard that I have. Also I have a 14′ x 24.5″ Blackfish that is awesome. For surfing, I have a 7’10” B-Line, and a 8’0″ Round Nose Blurr. These boards are perfect for the local conditions. I’d like to buy like 5 more boards though! And I would like to get into foiling. So many boards, so little time. The cool part of Infinity is the progression of the boards. Dave designs and makes board for some of the best sup surfers and racers in the world. I mean, Kai Lenny has been riding Infinity SUP boards since he left his old sponsor. And I’m sure Kai can pick any board he wants, but there is a reason that he chooses to ride Infinity SUP surf and raceboards.