Santa Cruz Paddlefest Invades the West Side

All words and photos by Mike Fields

2Pac would have been proud of the SUP community today. Participants in the Santa Cruz Paddlefest ganged up on the West Side (and the best side, according to Pac) to kick off the 2015 event with Round 1 of SUP surfing competition at Steamer Lane. Competitors held it down. They tossed it up. They went toe-to-toe and they represented, hardcore. All things Mr. Shakur fervently endorsed in his music. And perhaps the best part: it was 70+ degrees with glassy conditions all morning. I ain’t mad atcha, Santa Cruz. Not one little bit.

Yes, the California Love was clearly laden in the briny, sea lion-scented air today, but beyond the correlation with 2pac (it’s a stretch, I know) and the rare summer-come-early conditions, today’s SUP invasion of West Cliff Drive represented an even rarer phenomenon for Santa Cruz. A phenomenon where, contrary to the town’s historical pecking order, SUP predominated all the way from Cowell’s Beach to First Peak at the Lane. For as far as the eye could see, whether competing or freesurfing, the majority of surfers in the water were standing up. And that’s something to celebrate, which we did this evening in animal style at the Paddlefest party at Olitas Mexican Restaurant on the Santa Cruz Warf.

Few shockers took place in the opening round, with predicted favorites like Giorgio Gomez, Mo Freitas, Dave Boehne, Noa Hopper and Brennan Rose all championing their heats. On the ladies side, Izzi Gomez topped friend and mentor, Candice Appleby, with the tied-highest heat total of the day, a 51, which in terms of the Paddlefest’s unconventional judging method, means a very excellent score.

Tomorrow we’ll see Round 2 of the Elite Surfing competition, along with the Covewater Surf City SUP Race and the Cowell’s Classic. Stay tuned to for more photos and exclusive contest coverage from the 2015 Santa Cruz Paddlefest.

Check out the Heat Scores and Round 2 heat draws on the Santa Cruz Paddlefest website.

For more from 2Pac, check out his profile on Grooveshark.