The 32nd year of the annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest has just wrapped up! Originally a kayak surf contest at Steamer Lane, it is now a highly regarded SUP Surfing and SUP Racing weekend on the Stand Up Paddle calendar. With a weekend full of sun, wind, waves, rain, smiles, more waves, and an amazing roster of athletes participating over the weekend, Starboard Dream Team Riders Zane Schweitzer & Fiona Wylde sure weren’t gonna miss out on the action with the entire team putting on amazing performances!
“…that’s the moment my butterflies in my stomach turned to an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy! I felt super humbled for all the kind support and words of encouragement from my friends, competitors and supporters. There is no better feeling in competition when the others around you approve with the judges praise and I want to extend a big Mahalo for all who was apart of my success here and this win!” – Zane Schweitzer, Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2018 Winner.
Fiona Wylde gives us an inside view of what went down Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2018:
“People from all over the States, Hawaii, Canada, and even Puerto Rico come for this event. It draws Paddlers from all backgrounds and all ability levels – who doesn’t want the chance to stand up surf the hugely popular Steamer Lane with just 3 other people?! Yeah, you can count me in!
Bright blue sunshine and overhead waves greeted us on the first day. Despite it being chilly, heats started promptly at 7am. Once that heat clock starts, it runs non-stop until the final buzzer of the day. Talk about efficiency… heat sheets are sent out the night before telling you exactly what time you’ll be surfing and who you are surfing with. It made my mornings much more relaxing, and calmed many of the pre-contest nerves.
I️ really enjoyed my fish heat and after advancing through, I️ got to relax and cheer on my Dad who was up shortly after me. That is perhaps the best part about this contest, the fact that everybody competes, and gets at least two chances to surf and better their scores. It feels like a fun BBQ weekend, but at the same time attracts some of the top professional athletes in our sport. Everybody is out for a good time, while throwing down some pretty serious turns.
Saturday’s schedule includes a 10km & 6km distance race with riders completing either one or two laps, depending on your race, in and around the Santa Cruz wharf. Santa Cruz is a protected marine sanctuary, so even when you’re super exhausted mid-race, simply pick your head up for a second to enjoy an abundance of sea otters, sea lions, dolphins, and if you’re lucky – whales!
If you want to compete in the surf contest but don’t feel that you’re quite ready for Steamer Lane, you don’t have to worry! Saturday afternoon begins the Cowells Classic. Cowells is the break just inside Steamer Lane called Indicators. Long, clean lines run down the beach in super fun, rip-able waves! The heats run simultaneously at Steamer Lane and Indicators, with to separate judges for each contest zone. It really is a unique way to get twice the amount of people on the water with only a limited amount of time.
Saturday is definitely the most exhausting day with the race event in the morning and a surf heat in the afternoon – but the whole goal is to make it to Sunday. Sunday is finals day and the day that will decide the overall winner!
I️ made it through to Sunday and was really excited to surf my heat! I️ had an amazing time, and as it turns out, it was a tie for first! I️ ended up second in the tie breaker and therefor ended up second overall in the combined between the race and the surf contest.
Zane Schweitzer surfed amazingly and put on quite the performance to win the overall! A much deserved win for him!
“In the final heat I did all I could to prepare myself for a fun and comfortable heat, including timing the waves and sets, meditating and stretching, prepping my equipment and making sure to be in the right headspace. From start to finish I felt in rhythm with the waves and in sync with my equipment catching a lot of fun rides and making sure to be in position when the sets came. After putting 4 good scores on the board I decided to pick it up a notch, because I knew this is what I had to do if I wanted to beat Poenaiki’s smooth front side attack at Steamers Lane. In my following 3 waves I landed a backside throw tail reverse, a pop-shove-it body variable and a front side air mixed in with smooth turns and round house wraps. When the horn blew Poenaiki and I shook hands out in the water while getting tangled up in the kelp beds and paddled in to wait patiently for the award ceremony following in a few hours.” – Zane Schweitzer
Lara Claydon was ripping all weekend, surfing her way into the women’s SUP surf final finishing with in 4th position. We also saw Peurto Rican Dark Horse Dave de Armas having a storming final to land a solid 3rd position in the mens surfing.
After the awards ceremony, the Starboard crew met up with Plastic Tides for a beach cleanup of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It was a moment to chill, walk the beach, reflect back on the event, and to do something to give back to the community that welcomed us to warmly this last week. I️ was pleasantly surprised with how little trash we found!
So whether you’re looking for a fun family weekend, a highly competitive SUP Race and Surf Contest, or maybe to dip your toes in some colder water, I️ would definitely recommend the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest!
Big thank you to Patrick Alteri and crew at Starboard North America for all of the help and support this weekend!
Congratulations to all of the participants and to everyone who helped make this weekend successful!
Hope to see you next time!”
~ Fiona Wylde
Photo Credit : Sean Greeley