Tom Duryea

By Kimberley Graham

Tom Duryea was born into a very special Coronado family or shall I say a definite Coronado institution.  The Duryea family came to our magical kingdom by the sea in the 1960s.  They started the first surfboard shop on the island, called “Du-ray’s”, of course.  It became “the hangout” for generations of young surfers from all over the county and state.  It was also one of the first “smoothie” bars way ahead of its time.  Tommy was the only boy amongst three energetic and industrious sisters and mother, Chris.  His father, Bob, was an accomplished and renowned surfer as well as board maker.  All the great surfers of the time hung out at Du-Ray’s.  Everyone affiliated with the exciting sport of surfing knew this family.  So, for Tommy to take to water his entire life is no surprise.

Tom is now 45 years old and carries out the family tradition with professional paddleboarding.  Born in Santa Barbara, the Duryea’s moved to Coronado when he was just a young toddler.  He has lived on the island ever since and is definitely a product of his environment.  He has been surfing since he was four years old.  These days, Tom is paddling more and surfing less “– for one it is a great form of exercise.  The fact that you’re propelling yourself through the water solely by using your arms is a great feeling.  The camaraderie’s unlike surfing.  We welcome people.  The more the merrier.”  If you know anything about the surfing kingdom, the right to a wave can be quite competitive especially in overcrowded surf break locations.

For those of you who are not familiar with this exciting sport, paddleboarding is a surface water sport in which the participant is propelled by a swimming motion on a long surfboard close to the shore.  Paddleboarding began in the 1920s when a resident of New York, Tom Blake, witnessed a small boy drowning about 50 feet from the shore line.  Thinking quickly, he yanked some bark off a nearby oak tree and used it as a flotation device to save the boy.  As this was going on, a young entrepreneur witnessed the event and decided to market the “Red” paddleboard.  This is the same board used today in lifeguard tournaments on the Jersey shore.

In 1944, while restoring historic Hawaiian boards, Blake built a replica of the “olo” surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiian “ali’i” (kings).  This became the first modern paddleboard.  Two years later, using the same board, Blake won the first mainland surf contest which integrated both surfing and paddling.  Blake would go on to break every established paddling record available and can be thought of as the “father” of the enduring sport.  His original paddleboard design remains relevant to this day.

Paddleboarding experienced a renaissance in the early ‘80s after a Los Angeles lifeguard, Rabbi Norm Shifren’s “Waterman Race” (22 miles from Point Dume to Malibu) inspired surf journalist, Craig Lockwood, to begin production on a high quality stock paddleboard known as the “Waterman”.  Shortly after, surfboard shaper, Joe Bark and Mike Eaton (of San Diego) began production and soon became two of the largest U.S. paddleboard makers.  The idea caught on big in Hawaii as well as the mainland and paddleboarding has been consistently gaining momentum and popularity.

Today, there are five very notable events for competitive paddleboarding which include:  Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race, the Catalina Classic, Henessey’s International Paddleboard Championship, and the Hamilton Island Cup (Australia).  Some of the notable paddleboarders are Jamie Mitchell, Kyle Daniels, Michael O’Shaughnessy, Pierce Brosnan (James Bond himself), and of course, our local Tom Duryea.

Enter our Coronado champion paddleboarder:  Tom rides a stock board which measures 12 feet in length.  He is sponsored by and rides a Joe Bark custom board he helped to design.  Duryea continues his family’s legacy by working for Custom Surf in San Diego.  When not busy designing, building, and selling boards, he spends his time preparing himself for the races.  He recently won the Catalina Classic 32-mile race from the island of Catalina back to the Manhattan Beach pier in the stock board division.  The ocean conditions off Catalina were rugged and it was 32 miles of paddling across choppy, cold water.  He finished the race in 6 hours 14 minutes winning his division for the fourth time.  This is something that has never been done before.   When asked about the best part of the race, Duryea said, “The finish – It makes all that paddling worth it the minute you touch the sand.”  The rich history of this classic makes his win that much sweeter. Tom went on to say, “This race is the benchmark from what all other paddleboard races are measured by.”

In 2006, he won the Molokai to Oahu race in the stock division in just 6 hours 59 minutes.  This is a 32-mile race as well from the island of Molokai to Oahu, Hawaii.

Duryea will be competing in the Hennessey’s World Championship race on September 25.  There will be the best paddlers from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the United States competing.  It is a ten-mile course from Mission Bay to Pacific Beach.  Tom hopes to do well in this championship race but knows it will be a tough competition.  To prepare himself for the race, our own champion paddles 12 to 15 miles on Saturdays plus pulls 5-milers during the week.

The Duryea family and we at the Coronado Clarion are very proud of this fine sportsman.  So, mark the date and come down to support our champion Coronadan paddleboarder, Tom Duryea!  Good luck, Tom!

Custom Surf
Owner:  Mike Smith
5151 Santa Fe Street, Ste. A
Pacific Beach, CA  92109
(858) 270-1147
(Joe Buck paddleboards)

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