From Training Group to Free SUP Circuit, SoCal welcomes the LBC SUP Racing Series

Long Beach, California – We caught up with Jake Graham and John Gabriel, two of the paddling buddies behind the LBC SUP Racing series (stands for Long Beach Challenge), a new and free SUP race training circuit around Long Beach. When they realized there was a solid crew of paddlers of all levels in Southern California but just not enough races, the group of friends decided to take action. The result is pure pick-up style racing events at which anyone can show up, whether amateurs or pros. And there’s a bonus: FREE DONUTS AND BEER FOR ALL RACERS !

Check out first this great video introduction by Chris Aguilar / Fin Film Company


Hi Jake and John, please introduce yourselves. What kind of sporting background do you come from? What’s your history with SUP and how did you get involved in the sport?

Jake Graham: Hey Mathieu! My sporting background has been consistently inconsistent. I have played almost every sport available to me, but never really stuck with any one thing for too long. In high school, I found most success with swimming, but in college and beyond became more interested in endurance running and rock climbing… oh, and I’m always ready to throw down on some big mountains with a snowboard or some fat skis.

My entry into SUP was both unexpected and unintentional. I actually applied for a Trainer position at a workout studio in Miami, Florida (where I am from). Oddly enough, the studio was designed to teach members how to Standup Paddle. We would use SUP Ergs to teach technique and build fitness, eventually taking the members out on the water. Basically, I learned about the entire world of SUP racing on my interview for this job. Melina Cherry, the owner, actually taught me the basic techniques on an indoor SUP Erg at the job interview. The next day we were out on the water, and I was hooked. That was 2015, and I have been training/paddling on and off since then, although over the past couple of years I have become much more dedicated and am currently part of Team Flying Fish Board Co and Hippostick paddles.

John Gabriel: Growing up in Nyack, New York I was raised playing baseball, soccer and lacrosse. Once it was time for college, I decided to play both soccer and lacrosse at New England College, where I was named an All-American in lacrosse my senior year (2011). Shortly after graduating college and in the midst of deciding if I wanted to continue playing sports at the next level, I tore my ACL while training.  This was a huge setback for me and ultimately ended my lacrosse/soccer playing career. I was fortunate enough to move out to California in January of 2012 to pursue a college lacrosse coaching job along with a master’s degree in Education. 6 years later I am happily teaching Physical Education Grades K-8 in Los Angeles. My cousins who were born and raised in Dana Point introduced me to SUP in 2014 and I was hooked from the start!

So, what is the LBC SUP Racing Series and how did it start?

Jake: Long story short, I ended up moving from Florida to Long Beach, California a little over a year ago. Ended up meeting a few local guys who paddled in the area (John Gabriel, Rich D’souza, Kenny Kwong), and after a few months of paddling together we started tossing around the idea of forming a bigger training group in Long Beach. Eventually the idea turned into a free “training” race, basically just something that would keep us motivated and give us small goals to train towards. We only became more serious about it once the Pacific Paddle Games announced that it wouldn’t be happening in 2019. Southern California had some big gaps in the SUP racing calendar, and instead of watching the sport dwindle, we thought we could throw some life back into it by filling those gaps with our own races.

Why did you all decide to make the race free? And more importantly, why the free donuts? Also, who else is involved with making the race happen, and have you run into any legal issues?

Jake: So two reasons for the race being free. First, we wanted something accessible to every paddler. In the last year of the PPG’s, the race entry was over $100 USD, and almost $200 for both the distance and technical races combined. Most of the open racers were really thrown off by these prices, and probably a little intimidated by the extreme focus on the elite paddlers. So yeah, we wanted something that anyone could sign up for, with the focus being on racing just for the fun of it, and not so much the prestige.

Second reason we made it free, we honestly just didn’t want to apply and pay for a permit. I think this ties into your question about the legal issues ha. Basically, the second you start charging money, you need a permit. You then need insurance, water safety etc. By making it free, we can eliminate a lot of these things, although probably not entirely. Paddleguru (the race website and timing system we use) charges you based on a percentage of how much you charge racers. Since we charge nothing, we pay nothing for those services. It also allows us to have a liability waiver that racers must accept in order to sign up. Overall, having a free race makes it pretty easy to put on multiple races throughout the year. It just simplifies everything.

We have a spot on the beach that is basically empty year round, so we are never in anyone’s way. Also, the water is mostly protected from a break-wall, so conditions are always mild, and we encourage every paddler to lookout for each other while on the water. Most of the time we get volunteers out on the water on SUPs or OC’s to keep an eye on things as well. Definitely a team effort.

Speaking of team, John and I do a lot of the visible work, but behind the scenes it’s a solid group of our friends that make this race happen. Rich and Kenny (from our paddle group) help with setup, bringing bagels/bananas/beers/tables/etc. They also help provide a lot of ideas and input for improving each race (they also have a never ending battle on the race course, usually providing us all with the most epic sprint finishes). Riley, Rich’s teenage daughter, is in charge of our creative department. By that, I mean she’s an incredible artist and has made all of our insanely cool trophies and merch. Between her, our girlfriends, and a whole host of our friends, we are able to get the race sign-in and timing system done pretty smoothly. None of this would be possible without all of their help.

Here is a little souvenir from our visit to John Gabriel in Long Beach three years ago: 

As far as the donuts go, I think the better question is this: Why don’t all races have free donuts? But seriously, we wanted to promote a fun atmosphere. We wanted to have the races be more of a “hang-out” than a race. Everyone can compete, or watch the race, or help out, or cheer, or whatever, and after we can all chill, eat some donuts, and drink some beers. We all know the best part of racing is talking about it immediately after. We can hear about all the little battles that went down during the competition, all while we stuff our faces full of well-deserved fried dough.

So what is the format of the race? What kind of distance? Who is it open to?

John: So far we have only had one race format. Basically there is a short course and a long course. Both start at the same time. The course starts with a beach start. It quickly heads into two quick buoy turns, and then heads out around an oil island we have right offshore. After rounding the island, racers head straight back to the beach. The short course finishes here, with a quick beach run across the finish line. The long course follows the same line back into the beach from the island, but instead of finishing here, racers must carry their boards around a beach flag. After running around the flag, racers perform another beach start and head off on one more lap of the same course, finishing with a beach run across the line. Each lap is about 2.5 miles, making the long course just about 5 miles long.

Jake  and I have been discussing mixing up the format for the next race. I definitely like the idea of a spectator friendly race. That was the idea behind the beach flag run. The island is definitely a cool component, but maybe having a shorter technical lap close to shore, with multiple beach runs, might be really fun for those cheering from the beach. It would also make it possible to try a live stream of the race, and make for some great photo ops ha.

The races are open to anyone and everyone. It’s free to sign up on paddleguru, and we have had multiple first time racers of all ages. The best part is meeting new people who may have been hesitant to jump into a race, getting them involved, and hearing about how much fun they had after the race! Not to sound cheesy, but its probably the best part about the entire series (besides the donuts).

Ok last question, what’s LBC SUP Racing’s 2020 calendar look like? When can we expect the next race?

John: With our ‘training race’ outlook, we are always on the lookout for gaps in the local race calendar. We absolutely don’t want to overlap with any preexisting race on the schedule. We are here to encourage paddlers to get motivated to get out on the water, with the end result being that they sign up for these already established races. Most of the existing races in SoCal have been around for a while, and they are still around because they are genuinely amazing events. We always try to mention upcoming races in our pre-race meeting, with the idea being that our race is here to get us ready for the real ones!

Jake: All that being said, our next race will probably be sometime in May. We need to double check the calendar, but usually there is a bit of a lull around that time. Either way, we have our Facebook and Instagram pages called LBC SUP Racing (facebook) and @lbc_sup_racing (Instagram) respectively, that provide all of the updates with plenty of time to plan accordingly. For anyone interested in the races, joining the Facebook group is the best way to go. All of our videos, pictures, course maps, and updates are posted here first. It also provides a great meeting spot for our local community of paddlers. As soon as we set an official date for our second LBC SUP Race of 2020, TotalSUP will be the first to know!

To join the fun visit LCB SUP Racing on Facebook & Instagram :

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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