Water Skiers to Zoom to Catalina (and Back)

"The World's Greatest Ski Race" is ready to cover 62 miles of open ocean.

When The Four Preps sang about traveling those fabled "26 Miles" to Santa Catalina Island back on their 1950s hit, fans of the popular tune surely imagined that those miles, given all of the ocean water involved, would be covered in a fairly traditional and standard fashion: by boat.

And boats are usually how day-trippers and over-nighters and people who live on the enchanted isle reach it, with air travel, too, sometimes coming into play. (Surely the Airport in the Sky, Catalina's history-laden plane hub, possesses one of the most idyllic airport names ever devised.)

But around July or August each year, a band of hearty souls reach Avalon in a different way, and while a boat is involved, not everyone is actually in the boat. It's the Catalina Ski Race, "The World's Greatest Ski Race," and it involves a host of competitors heading to Catalina Island, and back, via the water skis beneath their feet.

That's a 62-mile trip, there and back, and yes, updated: That's different from the famous song title that puts the trip as 26 miles one way. 

The date is Saturday, Aug. 12, the mainland launch area is near the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and that's where the boats and skiers will return to after completing a truly epic journey.

The Maya Hotel, nearby? That's where a lot of the race action, and fun, will happen over the day. Wait, day? It's really a weekend-long affair with the Catalina Ski Race, a competition that will mark its 70th anniversary in 2018.

Athletes will compete in 20 different classes, so beginners and pros can both totally go for the glory. As for those start times? Smaller boats set out seven minutes ahead of the larger vessels.

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The Catalina Ski Race is "...the only open-ocean ski race regularly scheduled anywhere in the world," according to organizers. Which means, unlike a lake, skiers just might whoosh by a whale in the distance, or other residents particular to this slice of the Pacific. 

It's a splashy showdown that draws talented skiers and crews, for sure, but the on-the-shore cheerers also lend the stand-out event its own vibrant character.

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