Jay Race Celebrates Life of a Legend in Santa Cruz

It was a beautiful day for the 15th annual Jay Race in Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Duke Brouwer

It was a beautiful day for the 15th annual Jay Race in Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Duke Brouwer

Jay Race Celebrates Life of a Legend in Santa Cruz

This past weekend, the surfing and paddling community came together in Santa Cruz for the 15th annual Jay Race–a community paddleboard race that celebrates the life and legacy of late local surfing legend, Jay Moriarity.

While the California surf town has produced more than its share of world-class watermen throughout the years, few have or ever will reach the level of Moriarity. He was a Mavericks big-wave icon (you might know him as the main character in Chasing Mavericks) who began surfing the notoriously hairy spot at age 16.

However, he was more than that to the tight-knit surfing community of Santa Cruz. Moriarity’s infectious, fun-loving personality was welcoming to everyone he met, while his competitive spirit was second to none. When he died during a freediving accident in the Maldives back in 2001, it hit Santa Cruz hard.

After a massive paddle-out in Moriarity’s honor, SC locals decided they would start a paddle event to keep his memory alive. 15 years later, Jay’s Race is widely-regarded as a classic grassroots event that encompasses the true spirit of both paddling and Jay.

Good vibes were plentiful at this weekend's Jay Race. Photo: Duke Brouwer

Good vibes were plentiful at this weekend’s Jay Race. Photo: Duke Brouwer

The event features both prone and standup paddleboard races on a 12-mile course that takes paddlers past the coast, harbor and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The winner in the men’s SUP division was Santa Cruz local Keith McConnaughay, who finished the course in one hour and 58 minutes.

“To me, the Jay has always represented the sense of community that originally drew me and I’m sure many others in to this great sport,” said McConnaughay. “There is no money or big extravagant prize for winning, it’s just about having a great time, remembering why we all do this and celebrating the life of Jay Moriarity.”

Paddlers were pushing hard at Jay Race. Photo: Duke Brouwer

Paddlers were pushing hard at Jay Race. Photo: Duke Brouwer

As for the women’s SUP division, it was 15-year-old Kali’a Alexiou who put on a dominate performance to win by over five minutes. The victory completed a full-circle experience for the teenager who had first competed in the event five years ago.

“It was a personal goal to win the Jay Race,” said Alexiou. “It’s one of the best events of the year. The vibe is good, it’s a beautiful area and the course is iconic.

While many competitive SUP events these days are all about winning, the Jay Race is different. It’s about simply having a good time, laughing with friends, and embracing the true spirit of paddling–the same spirit that endeared so many to the man himself.

Full results

Another Santa Cruz race: The Santa Cruz Paddlefest