PHOTOS AND STORY BY BRYON DORR
Waves, waves and more waves! The paddle-surf tribe composed of SUP, waveski and surf kayak enthusiasts had fun contestable waves all weekend at the famous Steamer Lane point break in Santa Cruz, Calif. The waves weren't very large this year, the wind played a major role in conditions and it was chilly all weekend, but besides a few passing rain clouds the sun shone bright for the entirety of the 32nd annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest.
Dennis Judson: This was the first year in the event's long history that its founder wasn't in attendance, as Dennis Judson passed away just last year. Even though he wasn't physically in attendance this year, all felt his spirit. Read all about the love and stoke legacy that Dennis Judson passed on to so many HERE. The flag at the lighthouse was flown at half-mast and a paddle-out after the final heat Sunday honored Judson's immense impact on the sport of surf kayaking and his continued legacy through the event. Paddle surfers of all types paddled out and gathered in the kelp bed, just outside the surf zone, to say a few words and have a moment of silence for a truly remarkable man. Then some party waves were surfed and stoke shared among friends.
Dennis Judson, event founder, epic waterman & #surfkayak pioneer passed away last year while attending the World Championships of #SurfKayaking in Ireland. This is the first year he's not at the @santacruzpaddlefest, in the event's 32yr history. He is missed by all that new him, but he's for sure looking over us all here at #SteamerLane for #santacruzpaddlefest2018. ---- Epic early morning #rainbow over the #SantaCruz #Lighthouse / #SantaCruzSurfMuseum. ---- I've been carrying this little reminder of Dennis in my PFD throughout the competition. ---- This is @explorelements reporting live from the final day of #santacruzpaddlefest 2018.
A New Era: Mat Hoff and Tiffany Hall have taken over where Judson left off, and are now running the SCPF, generally promoting the paddle surf stoke and helping organize all U.S. surf kayakers. The duo are now in their third year of creating the magic that is the SCPF. Hoff has an immense passion for surf kayaking and the tight-knit tribe of people who enjoy the pursuit of waves in kayaks. He manages a local paddling retail/tour/rental operation (Kayak Connection), is on the board of the world governing body of surf kayaking (WSKA) and helps organize the US West Coast Surf Kayak Team. Hall is the glue that holds everything together, working tirelessly to make sure that everything is in place for Hoff to oversee and run a smooth event each year.
The @santacruzpaddlefest 2018 is going off! Friday saw fun, but small waves all day. #SurfKayak heats start this morning at 7:20am, & it looks like the swell is building a bit, the wind is going to stay down & the rain in the forecast is now only a slight chance. It's going to be another stellar day of #surfkayking at the world class #SteamerLane! ---- This is @explorelements reporting live from #santacruzpaddlefest2018.
The Competitors: The international field of competitors is always in a state of flux, based on travel funds, other competitive events and life events. This year finances and new babies kept many international competitors from making the competition. Besides two competitors from the UK and two from Canada, the rest of the field was American. With an always-heavy California contingent, the Pacific Northwest contingent was lighter than usual. Quite a few of the regulars were also not in the lineup this year, as they had other family commitments to attend to. With only about 45 kayak competitors in total this year, it was a lighter than usual field.
Growing The Tribe: Growing the surf kayak tribe has always been a focus of the SCPF. With the lower attendance numbers this year it's all the more important to get new paddlers into the action. Surf Kayaking is a great way for experienced kayakers of all types to test their skills in a new environment. Whitewater kayaking and sea kayak rock gardening skills have a lot of direct crossover with the skills required to excel at surf kayaking. One of the ways that the event works hard to grow the sport is by offering up the B Site competition at the friendly Indicators surf break, just inside of the famous Steamer Lane break. This competition runs at the same time as the main event and offers a great way for less experienced surf kayakers to compete on some really fun and forgiving waves. The B Site is all about stoking the fire of new and budding surf kayakers. To help promote new entrants the cost of competing at the B Site is half of the A Site. At only $75 competing at Indicators is an absolute deal, and will hopefully prompt more people to try out competitive surf kayaking. Hopefully you'll come out and partake it all the magic that is the SCPF in 2019. The surf kayak tribe is diverse and inclusive, and is always stoked to share the lineup with new paddlers. Between the awesome people, world-class venue and professionally run event it's hard to come up with a reason not to be there!
Exciting finals today at the @santacruzpaddlefest! Dave Johnson, after competing for all 32yrs of the #santacruzpaddlefest, pulled off his first High Performance (HP) win. Talented all around kayaker @devonbarkerhicks took the HP women's win & local @seanamorley the #surfski title. Great competition on all levels! Stay tuned for the full story on CanoeKayak.com soon. ---- This is @explorelements signing off from #santacruzpaddlefest2018.
RESULTS : High Performance Open: 1 Dave Johnston, 2 Zach Boyd, 3 Mathew Lamont // High Performance Women: 1 Devon Barker-Hicks, 2 Kelly Henry, 3 Teresa Rogerson // Masters Open: 1 Kenny King, 2 Matt Radis, 3 Dave Johnston // International Open: 1 Zach Boyd, 2 Bryon Dorr, 3 Steve Hiegel // Wave Ski Open: 1 Sean Morley, 2 Ian Macleod, 3 Dennis StClair // Kayak Intermediate Men: 1 Dusty Trost, 2 Nova Love, 3 Victor Bezard // Kayak Intermediate Women: 1 Laura Zulliger, 2 Shelly Palmer, 3 Nina Frankel FULL Results can be found HERE.
-- Follow the rest of Dorr’s coverage from Santa Cruz on Instagram @CANOEKAYAKMAG, and see more stories from past years at the Santa Cruz Paddlefest, as well as look back at the history of the storied event, and its colorful founder Dennis Judson.