By Brian Park
When it first began in 2010, the Mongoose Cup at the Dana Point Festival of Whales primarily drew adventurous watersport enthusiasts looking to catch the stand-up paddleboarding wave, recalls legendary surfer Mickey “Mongoose” Muñoz, the event’s inspiration and namesake.
Since then, as the sport has grown exponentially in popularity, Muñoz said there’s been a greater need and a more focused effort to introduce stand-up paddleboarding to newcomers.
“Now, because it’s probably the fastest growing water sport in the world, it’s definitely attracted more of the mainstream,” said Muñoz, a Capistrano Beach resident.
The Mongoose Cup has always served as a stand-up paddleboarding expo of sorts, a collection of activities to show off the latest and greatest in the sport through clinics, races and live demonstrations by companies and enthusiasts.
“I always wanted it to be very family oriented,” Muñoz said. “The idea was to make it non-intimidating, to help educate, to introduce stand-up paddleboarding and paddling to people who’d never tried it before.”
Safety education, too, has been a major focus at the event, and it remains so in its fifth year. In narrow and crowded waterways, novice paddlers and boaters can sometimes cross paths.
“I’m also a boater, so I can empathize with both sides,” Muñoz said. “There are a lot of naïve boaters and paddlers out there. We want to educate both sides and raise more awareness of the rules of the road and safety.”
New to this year’s showcase on Saturday, March 8 is the Mongoose Cup’s partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that supports veterans who have suffered severe injuries while serving in the military.
The Mongoose Cup will kick off with the Wounded Warrior Project Paddle, a recreational paddle that will take participants around the island at Dana Point Harbor.
“Since the Mongoose Cup is about educating and introducing paddling sports, what a great thing to help out these kids come back,” Muñoz said. “It not only becomes something they can do to physically help themselves, but it’s also very social—a lot of people involved, a lot of camaraderie.”
Proceeds from the Mongoose Cup will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as the Sport of Kings Foundation, a nonprofit organization Muñoz helped start in support of those in the Southern California surfboard-building industry. The organization was formed following the death of legendary surfboard shaper Terry Martin in May 2012.
This year’s stable of activities also includes an adaptive paddling clinic for disabled athletes.
“We noticed that the disabled community was very interested in stand-up paddleboarding but didn’t have an access point,” said Barrett Tester, the Mongoose Cup contest director.
The clinic will include demonstrations by experts like Pam Patterson, who teaches adaptive kinesiology at Saddleback College. Tester highlighted one company that will be bringing a double-haul canoe that allows wheelchair-bound individuals to experience the thrill of paddling.
Tester also said the Mongoose Cup will feature a demonstration of XSUP, a new game created in Orange County that combines stand-up paddleboarding with elements of hockey, lacrosse and soccer.
In addition, there will be board and proper stroke demonstrations for beginners, as well as a yoga SUP clinic, where participants can practice yoga while out on their boards.
The Mongoose Cup will take place at Baby Beach, starting at 9 a.m. Clinics will be held on the beach, from 10 a.m. to noon., and will be followed by races until 3 p.m.
Entry costs $25 and includes entry into the Wounded Warrior Project Paddle, paddling skills clinics, a “Luck of the Draw” relay and a barbecue lunch. For an additional $25, guests can enter into the Sport of Kings Foundation races and receive a commemorative Mongoose Cup T-shirt.