Last year I competed in the SUP surf event which was part of the Kayak Surf Festival in Santa Cruz at Steamer Lane and the waves were knee to waist high, making it very challenging to really showcase the sport of SUP surfing. This year’s event had a solid swell forecasted to hit during the event and build on the final day.
I had spent the last couple weeks training for the Catalina Crossing SUP race where I was going to team up with Byron Kurt and paddle our new Hobie Unlimited board, but after looking at the forecast I made some last minute arrangements because I really wanted to get the chance to SUP surf Steamer Lane with some solid size and really give a good showing for the sport.
I drove up early Thursday morning and arrived in Santa Cruz at 6 am and took a short 3 hour nap. Restless, I ate some breakfast and picked up some new race and SUP surf fins from The Rainbow Fin company which has been my sponsor since the early 90′s. I always love going in there and talking shop and seeing what new creations Schad has designed for me for SUP, tow surfing and kiteboarding.
Shortly after, I drive up to the event site at Steamer Lane to test out a couple of my new short Hobie SUP surfboards and make sure I have everything dialed before contest time the next day. The waves were double over head on the sets with a spread out crowd, making it easy to catch a couple waves and get warmed up. Later that evening I drove back to the Broome’s house where I was staying and enjoyed a nice home cooked meal, hot shower and passed out within seconds of hitting the bed.
I woke up super early and drove up to the event site to secure a parking spot and see what the swell was doing before my heat. The swell was still holding double over head, but there was a slight bump in the water from the high tide and the waves refracting off the cliff walls. I wanted to ride my Hobie 8’8 but decided at the last minute to ride my 9’9 mini gun, for stability and the ease for catching waves. We had to wear helmets because of liability reasons, which took a little getting used to because of the muffling sound on the ears and if you fell and had to punch through a wave, your head felt like it would just float off your shoulders.
We had 20 minutes with 5 guys in a heat, so it was important to get a good solid opening ride to set the pace and then keep building on that as fast as you could. The waves were pretty perfect and every now and then you could catch one that would have a South bend to it that would race all the way around the corner for over 100 yards through to the inside. At the blink of an eye the heat was over and you always wished you had one more wave, but when its almost perfect you just have to go with the flow.
The first round of the SUP division was over for the day, so I drove up the coast with good friend Peter Trow and met up with photographer Jarrett McPeek to take advantage of the swell and get some shooting in. We found a nice Right hand point break that had a couple big set waves rolling all the way to the inside with no one out. We suited up and paddled up to the top of the point to see what we could find. The swell was a little raw and unorganized, making it slightly challenging to connect one all the way to the inside. Peter and I traded a couple fun waves along with several close outs which made for some fun paddling. A couple hours later the wind started to work its way down the coast, so we called it a day and got some lunch.
After a small nap, I met up with Dave Broome and a couple of my good friends who own and run Caution kites out of Santa Cruz and went up the coast for a kiteboarding session. The wind was blowing a steady 20-25 mph with good waves and a pretty big crowd: but when your kiting with the local boys, the crowd seems to always disappear. I have to admit that my kiteboarding was a little rusty, but after an hour of battling the crowd in the waves, it slowly came back. I always love changing it up on the water, no matter what the conditions are.
After a full day of nonstop adventure, I went to a BRBQ at one of Dave’s friends house up in the Santa Cruz mountains where they had built an insane mini moto dirt bike track in the front yard. It was pretty awesome to watch the boys terrorize each other as they raced around the track and every couple laps one of them would come flying off the track just short of taking themselves out. Dave let me try out his new 110 around the track. It has been a long, long time since I last rode a dirt bike and after a couple laps, I was hooked. That’s all I need, is another sport to escort me to the hospital even quicker. ha ha. Much respect, I will stick to the water for now…..
The next day our heats started mid morning with a slight drop in swell, but great conditions. I rode my Hobie 8’8 Stinger swallow tail quad which worked insane for driving down the line with speed and doing quick round house snaps in the pocket. Riding this board makes me feel like I’m surfing my short board. I worked my way through that heat, just milking every wave to the inside with as many tight turns as possible. Everyone was surfing really well, which made for some stiff competition.
The next day, they ran the semi finals and then the finals. I was super stoked I made it to the finals. The swell started building and just before our final heat, sets were hitting the outside middle peak with 10′-12′ ft faces pealing perfectly through Indicators. The tide was on it’s way up, making it great conditions for a good final. Everyone was surfing out their heads and with only 20 minutes, every second counted. After each wave, I would kick out and paddle as fast as I could back to the top of the point. The waves would peal so long that you had to force yourself to kick out. It was really tough to tell who was going to take it because everybody kept getting really good waves. The horn sounded and the heat was over. We all congratulated each other with big smiles on our faces. Sharing waves with 3 guys at the Lane was pretty sweet.
I was very fortunate that all my hard work paid off and I was able to defend my title one more time. Congrats to Zane Schweitzer 2nd, Michael Roberts 3rd and to Peter Trow 4th for really pushing the level of competition in the event. It was really great to see guys like Zane Schweitzer, Sean Pointer, and Dan Gavere pushing the short board style to the next level. Everyone has such a unique style and it will be exciting to see where the sport is next year.
I want to thank Surftech for another great event at the Lane and to all the competitors for pushing the sport. I want to thank Dave and Sarah Broome and Rainbow Fins for a great weekend in Santa Cruz and a huge Thank you to all my sponsors Hobie, Ocean Minded, kialoa paddles, Dakine, Rainbow fins, O’neill wetsuits, Reactor watches, Watermans sunscreen, H2o Audio, OnIt extreme cream, Monster paint traction and my family for your support in making this trip possible.
Photos by Jarrett McPeek