McLaughlins, von Coellns & Extended Family

Aquaplaning and Catalina

Aquaplaning course from Catalina Island to Hermosa Beach; this sketch/postcard (illustrated by Charles Owen of the LA Times)  was part of E.R. Pollok's ScrapbookWho came up with THIS crazy sport? A bit like water skiing (which was invented in the early 1920s), Aquaplaning features a rider, standing on a wide, flat wooden board, being pulled by a motor boat.

Starting in the 1930s, a 44-mile "across the channel" race between Catalina and Hermosa Beach on the mainland was started as a publicity stunt to boost Hermosa Beach, California's Ironing Board Derby. The postcard showing the course as well as a photo from the start of the 1939 race were in E.R. Pollok's scrapbook and displayed here.

From Time Magazine: August 12, 1940

Ironing Board Derby

Midsummer madness breaks out in various forms. One form, more noticeable each year, is California's annual August aquaplane race from Catalina Island to Hermosa Beach-44 miles of seesawing open sea.

Originally a publicity stunt to boost Hermosa Beach, California's Ironing Board Derby-said to be the world's longest aquaplane race-is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association (governing body of all motorboat races), is run according to strict rules, draws crowds of 100,000 or more to watch the winner get the checkered flag.

Aquaplaning is nothing more than standing on a broad, flat board, hanging onto a rope and being towed by a motorboat. But, at 50 m.p.h. hanging-on is no hay ride. Usually, less than half the starters finish (falling off, however, does not disqualify).

Despite padded shin guards and taped hands, those who finish invariably require first aid-for sprained wrists, numbed feet, bruises from flying fish as well as falls. Many are carried from the finish-line to a hospital.

Record time for the ride is 1 hr., 12 min., 54 sec., established last year by Vancouver's Dale Carpenter, University of Washington student. Last week young Carpenter tried to better his record. But the best he could do, after taking two bad spills, was finish fourth. Winner: 35-year-old Robert Brown, garage mechanic, winner in 1937 and runner-up last year. Of 20 starters, 14 finished-including beauteous Barbara Denny, daughter of Actor Reginald Denny, who streaked in last, sobbing hysterically.

Start of the 1939 Aquaplaning race as taken by ER Pollock

Additional History from Catalina Island Museum

Several years before the war, an aquaplane race was run on an annual basis from the isthmus at Avalon to Hermosa Beach, California. It was a race and a test of endurance for both man and boat and usually less than 20% of the field ever managed to finish. The remainder dropped out due to boat problems or because the aqua planer couldn't hold on any longer. The last race prior to the war, on June 20 1941, was won by Bob Brown, towed by Don Berry, in a time of 1 hr 51 min.

In 1947, the Long Beach Boat and Ski Club was formed and almost immediately took over sponsorship of the race, renaming it the "Grand National Water Ski Race". In 1949 the contest became a round trip run, starting at Hermosa Beach pier the skiers raced to the isthmus, circled a turn-boat and returned non-stop to the pier. A skier was disqualified if at any time they touched the boat or anyone in the boat. Ed Stanley of Orange was the winner of this first round trip race with a time of I hr 41 min.

Of course, this event is well known these days as Catalina, and just for the record, Chuck Steams first won the event at the age of 16 and he went on to win it a staggering eleven times over the next few decades.

This page last updated Saturday, 28-Oct-2006 11:34:06 PDT,

Catalina Island Home Early Avalon Photos The Casino Seaplanes Open Links to Avalon Cubbies in Catalina Big Bands Las Posadas Family Members Home