Cold Case: Santa Cruz Paddlefest

Matt Becker (left), riding his Bark, and Anthony Vella (right), his M2, during the first leg of the race. Photo courtesy Supconnect.com
Matt Becker (left), riding his Bark, and Anthony Vella (right), his M2, during the first leg of the race. Photo courtesy Supconnect.com

It may not have been pretty, but the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest went off big this weekend. Big waves, big rain, big weather. Despite Mother Nature’s onslaught, standup paddlers braved the elements, turning Santa Cruz into a world-class showcase of talent.

“It was pretty intense out there,” said King of the Beach winner Dan Gavere, who took third in the race and second in the surf event at Steamer Lane. He could have been referencing either venue.

Rogue waves broke everywhere at Steamer Lane as contestants constantly paddled to stay in position. And even if they were in position, random breaking waves would knock them off their boards. The incessant wind and choppy water made it tough to even stand.

At the race, Surftech’s Duke Brouwer changed up the format to accommodate the conditions, scratching the beach runs in between laps. But just getting out through the monster shore break proved challenging as the waves knocked many competitors down and out, losing equipment in the process. Santa Barbara’s Matt Becker finished first followed by Anthony Vela.

Organizers canceled Sunday’s scheduled surf finals, applying scores from the first two days of competition. Hawaii’s Zane Schweitzer took the title, with Gavere in second and Joe Rowan rounding out the top three.

The party at Coconut Grove was the highlight of the weekend (probably because it was sheltered from the wind and rain). Local Santa Cruz band Ribsy’s Nickel lightened the mood as attendees celebrated the event’s 25th anniversary and event organizer Dennis Judson.

CLICK HERE to read SUP Connect’s race wrap-up.