Santa Cruz-raised surfer and waterman Jay Moriarity was a legend.
Once a dedicated student in the art of big-wave surfing, the Santa Cruz-native became the youngest person to surf Maverick’s when he was only 16 years old, and later gained international notoriety after starring in the big-wave surf documentary, Chasing Mavericks. His abilities as an avid waterman were widely respected, but it was his infectious personality that made him a beloved figure in the Santa Cruz community.
After a tragic freediving accident in the Maldives led to Jay’s death back in 2001, the surfing world was left in shock. But while others moved on, his hometown friends made a point to remember and celebrate Moriarity’s life on a yearly basis.
Thus, the Jay Race was born.
This year marked the 16th edition of the grassroots event that encompasses the true spirit of both paddling and Jay. The main event is a 12-mile prone and standup paddleboard race that takes paddlers past the coast, harbor and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
While the pride from winning this memorial race is more than enough motivation for paddlers, this year the stakes were raised even higher. The prone race doubled as the 2017 USA Paddleboard Championship Event and Team Trials, which meant a trip to the 2017 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships in Denmark was on the line.
After a hard fought battle, it was Abby Brown and Jack Bark who would triumph to earn berths on the US national team.
Meanwhile, Annabel Anderson continued her hot streak by dominating the women’s SUP division and winning by nearly nine minutes. After a streak of impressive results from around the globe including wins at the Carolina Cup, the Devil’s Isle Challenge in Bermuda and the GoPro Mountain Games in Colorado, the Kiwi decided to head west to experience the Jay Race for herself.
“I love Santa Cruz, Kim [Moriarity Wildey] is a very special person, and any excuse to come up to this part of Northern California is a good one,” Anderson said after her victory. “This year I was able to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Toby Cracknell was able to hold off an impressive effort from 52-year-old Bojan Bernard to win the men’s SUP division.
But it’s not all about who won or lost. The event’s motto is to “Live Like Jay” and if the sight of weary paddlers laughing and sharing stories is any indication, the Santa Cruz legend would be proud.
Check out this touching video to get a glimpse into the Jay Race and what it’s all about.