The first stop of the 2014 O’Neill Tahoe SUP and Paddle Board Series, the Donner Cup 2014 was graced with optimal conditions and positive vibes. 75 degree air temperature, sunny skies, and a lake that looked like a mirror because it was so glassy.
160 positive paddles showed up for a 9am race time. Once everyone checked in and received their custom O’Neill 24/7 race jerseys they made their way to the lake and started to warm up. It was quite a spectacle to see 160 eager racers lined up at the start with blue skies and Snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Once the line was set, the horn blew and the 5 mile race around Donner Lake was on.
From the get go, O’Neill’s Rob Rojas took an early lead and continued to extend his lead from the rest of the pack as he stroked at each mile. As Rojas approached the finish line, the 300 lakeside spectators and fans greeted him with enthusiasm. He crossed the line two and a half minutes before the next paddler, winning the elite unlimited class and setting a new race record of 39 minutes and 29 seconds. “The conditions for this race were amazing! The water was so smooth, it felt like I was paddling on ice.” said Rojas. The next group of paddlers to approach the finish behind Rojas were the men’s elite 14 foot class, being lead by Brennan Rose, with Jay Wild drafting in his wake. At the finish line Jay tried making a last pass but was held off by Rose. Wild, a former Donner Cup winner and Tahoe home town hero, just missed the pass and took home a second place behind the winner of the 14’ class, Brennan Rose. For the next hour, racers crossed the finish line with pride in their strokes. These racers varied from 8 your old girls and boys, to women and men in their 70’s. “I was amazed to see how many kids came out for The Donner Cup. This event has turned into such a great family environment.” said Event Director Phil Segal.
Overall, the O’Neill Donner Cup was a complete success, and the smiles during and after the race were evidence. The buzz around the award ceremony was anticipation for the second stop on the O’Neill Tahoe SUP and Paddle board race series “The Jam From the Dam”.