photo Rob Casey

The Santa Cruz Paddle Festival has long been the kickoff to the paddle event season. Twenty-five years later, not much has changed. Except the party has gotten a whole lot bigger.

This year, along with the kayak and waveski contests, the third annual Surftech Shootout will go off at Steamer Lane March 18-20th, as the world's finest standup surfers duel it out at one of California's preeminent surf spots. An Elite field will be on hand including two-time Shootout Champ, Chuck Patterson, Zane Schweitzer, Candice Appleby, Peter Trow, Dan Gavere, Fletcher Burton and John Griffith.

In addition, the Surftech Surf and Sand Duel-Athalon Presented by SUP magazine will add racing to this prestigious event. Competing kayakers and standup surfers can enter the SUP race where their surf placings will be combined with their race finish to determine the King and Queen of the Beach.

The race on Saturday starts at Cowells Beach in front of the Dream Inn. Competitors leave the beach, round a buoy beyond the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, round a buoy at the Santa Cruz Harbor and back to the beach to end the novice race. The elite men and women competitors–vying for $300 in prize money–will hit the water after finishing the run and head to a buoy set outside the Lane, then race to the harbor buoy, back to the Santa Cruz Wharf, then to the beach with a final half mile beach sprint to the finish. "We designed the course to give the crowd the best possible view of the event," says Surftech's Duke Brouwer.

Saturday night, SUP magazine is hosting a bash at the Coconut Grove to celebrate Dennis Judson and his 25 years of organizing this fantastic contest. The party includes the race awards before whitewater kayaker, rapper and filmmaker Rush Sturges opens up on the mic for Santa Cruz's Ribsy's Nickel, a local favorite. Sunday is the finals for all surf events.

The pre-registration party is Thursday night at Adventure Sports Unlimited. Click here for more info.

Companies wishing to display their products at the event please call 831-425-4887

Check out last year’s contest:

The map to this year’s race sponsored by Surftech and presented by SUP magazine. The novice course is 2.7 miles and the elite is 6.2: