Water Skiing From Long Beach to Catalina And Back Is Biggest Stationary Boat Party in Southern California
It’s the annual Catalina Ski Race, a 56-mile race from the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, to Catalina Island and back again. On water skis. In the open ocean. Most complete it in less than an hour and some travel from as far away from Australia to compete in the event.
The 2019 race is Saturday, July 20 and it’s the 71st annual event.
Why do they do it? There’s no prize money. Just a trophy and a checkered winner’s flag.
Simple: The glory of doing it and bragging rights to the #1 water skiing event in the world.
“It’s the Wimbledon of water skiing, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, everything,” said Mike Alvia, one of the boat drivers for a skier.
As as special as it is for competitors, it’s equal to that for spectators. Nearly 100 boats of all sizes – big powerboats, runabouts, Boston Whalers, sailboats, skiffs, dinghies and even a kayak – converge on the finish line at the Queen Mary’s stern in the waters off downtown Long Beach. On them, people from a few to a dozen are on board with the atmosphere of the event. And they make it a party. In fact, it’s the biggest stationary boat party in all of Southern California.
The spectator fleet starts to gather about half an hour before the start at 9 a.m., and by 9:30 are floating so close to each other it resembles a boat tie-up party. They cannot be on the course or in the way of the media boat at the finish line, so they gather all around the channel in front of and past the finish. It’s hardly the same scene at Lake Travis in Austin on a holiday weekend, but people are drinking beers, Bloody Marys and champagne on board. When the competitors roar past them at the finish, they honk their horns and yell out big salutes.
By 11, most of the competitors have finished and are partying it up on shore at the Hotel Maya (this party is open to the public). Proctor showed up for a post-race TV interview with a beer in his hand (he put it down for the interview) and 10-time winner Todd Haig of nearby Redlands, CA (he finished second in 2012 and in 2011 set the course record with a time of 50:13:90) asked the event’s PR guy to no longer book them for live in-studio interviews at TV station KCBS. No now, Channel 2 conducts its interviews on the Victory Dock.
The spectator fleet starts to break up around 11 a.m., which means they are on a boat and have the entire rest of the day to party. They may hang out in Long Beach, go down the coast and tie up at Woody’s on the Wharf in Newport Beach or perhaps go over to Catalina themselves. A Wiki Wacker at Luau Larry’s certainly would be a nice way to salute this day on the water.
If you’ve got a boat – or better yet know someone who has a boat – this is a highly recommended party activity. It annually takes place either the second or third Saturday each July.