Mo Freitas, Fiona Wylde Win 30th Annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest

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No shortage of swell last weekend at Steamer Lane for the 30th annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest. Looks like El Niño is still alive and very well in the Pacific. Photo: Jim Brewer

Mo Freitas and Fiona Wylde Win 30th Annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest

For three decades, the world’s top paddlers have been flocking to the crown jewel of the Central California coast for one of the most iconic events in paddlesports, the Santa Cruz Paddlefest. Throughout the event’s 30-year history, faces have changed and industry has evolved—SUP came to be, came to be accepted and eventually became the most popular paddlesport of all—but with the exception of incorporating a SUP division somewhere throughout, the SC Paddlefest has remained immune to excessive adaptation.

A-frames at The Lane. Photo: Suzie Hopper
Outside A-frames at The Lane, and a whole gang of SUP surfers caught far from the sweet spot. Photo: Suzie Hopper

Once a year, every year, Santa Cruz’s most coveted, quintessential surf break—Steamer Lane—is closed for prone surfers and opened for paddlers of all persuasions, who then slug it out among their respective compatriots. The weekend sees surf competitions in SUP, wave ski, performance kayak and whitewater kayak disciplines, plus open events at The Lane’s more playful adjacent break, Cowell’s, and a SUP race that goes out around the Santa Cruz Wharf to the harbor and back. No matter what event was taking place, the action just kept coming this past weekend in Santa Cruz.

The Men’s SUP race provided some of the most thrilling action of the weekend with the top three racers separated by only a few second throughout the entire race. The Men’s front-runners found the homestretch neck-and-neck, but after a frantic sprint up the beach to the finish, last year’s Paddlefest winner, Hawaiian powerhouse Mo Freitas, prevailed ahead of runner-up Giorgio Gomez and hard-charging third-place finisher, Slater Trout. The margin between first and third place? A mere 3.4 seconds.

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Female competitors dig for fervor in the final stretch beach sprint of the SUP race at Santa Cruz Wharf. Photo: Jim Brewer

The Women’s SUP race also featured a tough race between teenage stars Fiona Wylde and Shae Foudy. The two stayed in each other’s tracks for much of the race but in the end, Wylde pulled away for a narrow victory. Rounding out the podium was 15-year-old up-and-comer, Kali’a Alexiou.

Meanwhile, the SUP surfing competition put forth yet another spectacular showcase of world-class, progressive SUP surfing at the West Side’s fabled break, Steamer Lane.

Men's SUP surfing finalists (left to right): Brandon Rambo (2nd), Mo Freitas (3rd), Giorgio Gomez (1st) and Dave Boehne (4th).
Men’s SUP surfing finalists (left to right): Brandon Rambo (2nd), Mo Freitas (3rd), Giorgio Gomez (1st) and Dave Boehne (4th).

The day of paddle surfing action saw heartfelt heats from passionate paddlers, throwing hay-makers and hail marys in head-high conditions and truly leaving everything they had at The Lane. When the final hooter sounded in the Men’s event, Giorgio Gomez claimed victory over Brandon Rambo and last year’s overall champ, Mo Freitas. In the Women’s event, an impressive showing from hard-charging dark horse Annie Reickert inspired a substatial upset among the ladies, defeating both Fiona Wylde and last year’s female SUP surfing division winner, current World Champ Izzi Gomez, in the final heat.

30 years come, 30 years gone and 30 more to come after yet another great year at the Santa Cruz Paddlefest. Congrats to all the winners as we look forward to next year’s event.

Check out our onsite coverage from the 2015 Santa Cruz Paddlefest.

Santa Cruz Paddlefest website