BY JODI WILMOTT – WAIKIKI, HAWAII — When defending Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle champion Danny Ching (Redondo Beach, CA) returns to Waikiki this weekend, his mind will be on the prize but his eyes will be on his long-distance training buddy and toughest challenger, Travis Grant. The Californian and the Australian have shared a training friendship and competitive rivalry for the past seven years. Grant held the lead over Ching for the entire Elite race last year before losing it in the final lap.
The $25,000 Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle, presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection, will take place this Saturday & Sunday, May 14 & 15, Duke Kahanamoku Beach. The Battle will be webcast live and broadcast around Hawaii on Oceanic Time Warner Cable digital channels 250 & 1250HD.
For the past six months, Ching has been immersed in the one-man outrigger canoe racing season, bagging a host of wins and a runner-up finish in the world championship. Last week he hung up his outrigger paddle in exchange for his stand-up paddle and says he’s in top shape and ready to do battle in Waikiki.
As extra incentive, he’s brought his family and sponsorship team from Simple Mobile to celebrate his 28th birthday on day one of competition: Saturday, May 14. It will be even sweeter if it turns into a victory celebration.
“I have no doubt it’s going to be a battle with Travis,” Ching said with a laugh. “I’ve been racing that guy every time we’ve lined up for the past 7 years, whether it be on a surf ski, OC1, or stand-up. We know each others strategies well! It’s like having a practice buddy on the other side of the world.
“Having just come off an intense outrigger season last week, I’m in great shape and I’m feeling confident.
“Right now I have an inflated expectation of speed; I’m trying to go 8-10 miles an hour like I do on an OC1, when a SUP usually maxes out at around 7.5. The biggest thing to me is to get a clean (start), don’t make any mistakes – or you open the door for everybody – and let your paddling do the work.”
Live, global, start-to-finish coverage of the Rainbow Sandals Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle, presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection, will be delivered May 14 & 15 from historic Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki.