Huntington’s Greg Dunne Battles Strong Winds and Choppy Waves at Catalina Race
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
It was mind over matter for lifelong Palisadian Greg Dunne when he completed the 44th annual Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race for the second time on August 29. Started in 1955, it is the oldest and most prestigious endurance paddleboard event in the world. The historic 32-mile marathon starts at Catalina’s famed Isthmus Cove and ends at the Manhattan Beach Pier. This year’s race brought challenging, choppy conditions and the current was not in favor of the paddlers, yet Dunne still finished ninth in the Stock Division (12-foot long boards or less) and 36th overall in seven hours, 33 minutes, eight seconds.
“To give you an idea how much tougher it was, I did it in 2019 in six hours, 30 minutes and I placed seventh in the Stock Class, so that’s about one hour’s difference,” says Dunne, who lives on Chapala Drive in the Huntington. “That year the conditions were good. This year, they say was the worst conditions they’ve ever had. The times reflect that the current and wind was going in the opposite direction.”
Dunne estimates he has lived in 19 or 20 houses in various Palisades neighborhoods from the Alphabet Streets to the Highlands to the Riviera and now the Huntington.
“My parents are in real estate, they buy and sell homes, tear them down and remodel, so we’ve rented a lot of places all over town,” he says. “We’re Jonathan Club members. I love living in the Palisades!”
The 27-year-old went to Corpus Christi School, then Loyola High, where he played football for two years and lacrosse all four years. He has always loved the ocean and was an avid surfer at Will Rogers State Beach. He majored in economics at Santa Clara University and now works as a commercial broker for Colliers International.
“I’ve always been focused on fitness and exercising,” he confesses. “My cousin did the Catalina race in 2018 and I watched him. I thought I can do this! That Christmas, I got a board from my dad, found a group I could train with and that’s how my interest in the race started.”
The sport is not for the feint of heart. In preparation for the ultimate endurance test Dunne logs 30- 40 miles per week in the water, often at 5:30 a.m. He paddles 10-20 miles on the weekend and 6-7 miles Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning in May to build stamina.
“I’d definitely like to win it one of these times,” he says. “I paddle with guys in their 30s and 40s who have families. The youngest age is 18 but there are guys in their 50s—one guy did his 38th crossing this year. There’s a similar race in Hawaii called Molokai that I plan to do also. It’s a faster current there.”
According to Dunne, the mental aspect of the race is as hard as the physical, especially once fatigue sets in: “Every racer has to have a boat escort so I had my girlfriend and my boat captain handing me my seven bottles of liquid during the race to stay hydrated because you’re burning so many calories. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Twenty percent of the field didn’t even finish this year.”
There are two ways to paddle: on your knees and on your stomach.
“I try to spend 40-45 percent on my knees because you’re using both arms at the same time so you go faster but it’s also more tiring. I saw a bunch of dolphins and jellyfish this year and they’ve had numerous shark sightings over the years.”
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