Santa Cruz Paddle Festival 2012 Sunday
I got up early Sunday morning and got myself ready for the day. I knew that I had the potential to surf 4 heats and I really wanted to make sure that I was ready to do all of them. There was not going to be a lot of rest in-between heats. They were all spaced out enough that I would be able to paddle back and forth from Cowells with plenty of time, but I had to make sure I had the right jerseys for the right heats.
My day started out with the IC semi-final. I was in a heat with Geoff, Buck and Darren. All good, solid paddlers. If I was going to get by I really needed to make sure I got three solid waves. I couldn’t afford to be caught on the inside for most of the heat like I had the previous day. The waves weren’t as glassy as the day before, but they were really starting to show some size. There were a few sets that I would guess were 3x overhead, standing not sitting. I didn’t see much of the other paddlers during this heat. That really worried me. The only time I saw anyone was when I took a wave from Buck. I was further out and got up planning on the wave and he tried to sprint ahead of me but was too far on the shoulder to get on the wave. Since I was planning first it was my wave and I wasn’t about to give it up! :-p Talk about a big powerful wave. It was all I could do to harness the speed of the boat and do a couple of cutbacks. It felt completely wrong pulling off that wave after I got past the judges. I am quite sure it continued well past Indicators through to Cowells. I was a bit disappointed in where the judges were sitting this year. It forced us off one of my favorite sections of that wave.
Lucky for me, I caught a well-formed wave that wrapped to Indicators at the end of the heat and was able to get back on the beach to get ready for my next heat ASAP. The wind was starting to pick up and I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to paddle my little short boat out to Cowells. I changed my skirt and jersey real quick, downed a good amount of water and Gatorade, ate a banana, and was back paddling out to the lineup. Getting out to my heats early gives me a chance to watch the heat before and see where people are sitting to get their rides. With a long paddle like there is at Santa Cruz it also gives me a bit of time to rest up and stretch a bit before the heat. My next heat was one of my toughest heats at the contest this year. The way the seedings were, this heat was stacked with people who have all made the finals before. I thought about following Galen but he immediately went for The Slot and I wasn’t about to get caught on the inside the whole heat. I didn’t see him at all during the heat and later found out that he spent a majority of his time getting the crap beat out of him on the inside.
Back at Cowells I chatted with Galen and Eric. They were both beaming. Really with the excellent waves we had just surfed there was no reason we all shouldn’t have been. There was not much time in between that heat and the finals. I had no way of knowing if I made the finals down at the beach though. Luckily Viki, who is a WAY awesome volunteer, and Danielle (my AMAZING girlfriend) were up there to give me the results. After hearing I edged out Buck and Darren in IC and that I made the finals, I decided I was just going to eat some food and sit in the car with the heater on. Shortly after, I found out that I had also made the finals with ANOTHER first place in HP. I wasn’t expecting this at all. Needless to say, I was excited to make it to both finals!
IC Finals always comes before HP. I gave myself plenty of time to paddle out. I love taking on beach breaks in my Salsa. It just slides right off the beach and gives me plenty of hull speed to race out in the lull. The beach today was unfriendly but I skimmed right out past the beach pound. Paddling out I chatted with people from the previous heats. Everyone was wishing me good luck and telling me to be careful on the sets. When I got out to the break I could not stop smiling. Sure there was a healthy amount of wind, but the wave size was quite large and the wind wasn’t from the south (which was the most important thing).
IC finals were an interesting heat. There was Stefano Bellotti who was surfing almost exclusively at The Slot. Along with Jim Grossman who seemed to be just about everywhere. Darren Bason seemed to have the same idea as I did and was looking to catch the reform from 3rd reef. With such a spread out pack I didn’t feel much pressure to be right at the most vertical part of the wave to take off, which was really nice. I was able to do a couple of sweet faded take offs and not worry about getting thrashed if I was too deep. The only time I saw Stefano was when I was paddling back out and he had just caught a wave. Jim disappeared for most of the heat and I only really saw him right when I got back out and he would be dropping in on a BOMB slot wave. At one point I was having too much fun and had a nice steep wall form up in front of me as I was paddling out. Of course I didn’t want to let it go to waste so I powered up the face and rotated as hard as I could. A bit of air off the back and a full 360* rotation was the result. No points since I was not on a wave, but heck, it was fun! I feel Darren and I traded off waves the whole heat. I would be a bit inside of him most times and would be able to catch the things he was chasing quite easily. I would always see him on a wave as I paddled back out so I don’t know if my strategy there was the best one. During that heat I quite often found myself on a steep fast wave barely in control of the finless IC boat. I feel like I need more practice in bigger conditions. I would love to be more fluid on the waves and do a lot more edge to edge movement. Which is what the judges are looking for.
Getting back to Cowells is the easy part. You just pick the right wave, and surf it for days. With really only an hour in between heats I had only enough time to switch boats and get a quick snack/drink before I paddled back out. Danielle was kind enough to have my Valley Rush Mk2 demo waiting for me on the beach. Since she was wearing a rain jacket I was able to snag a quick hug too! The beach was still quite unforgiving and with the finned boat it took a bit more work to get out onto the water. I had a decent amount of time to paddle out so I didn’t rush out to the main peak. There were a couple of steep waves that formed up by Indicators and I couldn’t help but wave wheel up off of them. So much fun!
I didn’t know what to expect of the HP Finals heat when it started. I was able to catch an early wave right off the bat and I knew that put me into a good position for the rest of the heat. We all seemed to be taking waves like clockwork, so I never really stopped paddling. Dave was way out on the outside looking for some bomb sets. I know he caught at least one of them but I was sure that he got mowed down by a few too. For some reason Eric didn’t arrive right until the start of the heat. He looked tired and stayed more out on the shoulder from what I saw. Another reason that I give myself plenty of time before the heats. Can’t let little things like that trip you up. The inside reform was really where you wanted to be that day. The only problem with it was that you HAD to take a whitewater takeoff to get to it. Otherwise the wind was just going to blow you off the top of the wave. I took several whitewater takeoffs and was loving the choice of using the MK2. The fuller rails trip up less often and really allow you to take some sloppy drops. My drops were probably not all that pretty, but I got onto the wave and was in prime position when it reformed and I was quiet thrilled by it.
Coming out of that heat, I really did not know what to expect for results. The way back was quite enjoyable and I really tried to take my time, surfing the whole way back. Conditions were still super fun out there and I totally do not blame Eric for staying out and scoring some sweet rides. I was tired though, so I worked my way down to the beach. Four heats in tall surf and cross-shore wind will really take it out of you.
At the end of the day I ended up taking 3rd in IC and a 2nd in HP. I tied Jim Grossman in IC for 2nd actually but he had the higher scoring wave so he took the higher placing. I am quite happy with the results. At first I was really a bit disappointed. I had my heart set to take home one of those sweet 1st place Wave trophies, but that is because I set high standards for myself. The past 6 months that I have been surfing I kept telling myself that I wanted to win Santa Cruz. Being in the right mindset, wanting to do well, and being focused on goals really did help. I was able to keep my cool when getting destroyed and make my way back outside as fast as possible. I didn’t chase many waves, which was a big thing that I wanted to avoid. I had fun. This was a huge thing about the contest. Last year I was more scared and at the point of my limits than anything. This year I won most of my heats and podium’d in two events. I am more than happy with that.
There are a few people I would like to mention that have helped me to be the paddler that I’ve come to be:
Rob Avery of Valley Kayaks. He has been kind enough to loan me a sweet Valley Mk2 for the past few months and it really made the difference in this competition. Having a light boat that I could rely on to take the drops and not stall in the flats helped get me on that podium.
I really would like to thank Buck Johnson for all his coaching and time spent looking at footage we’ve put together. The crazy old guy had a goofy grin on his face the entire weekend. The waves were just that good. Buck, you are amazing.
All the other paddlers that have taken me under their wing at some point- Rick Starr, Dave Johnston and Sean Morely to name a few.
MBK for getting me into a sea kayak and teaching me the basic foundations for what I now have come to love.
But most of all I really want to thank Danielle for putting up with my surf habits. Getting up before dawn and fumbling around could really make someone cranky if they were trying to sleep, but she manages to put up with it. Thank you for being legen…. wait for it because you’re too awesome… dary!
I plan on being in even better shape. I could have been paddling more to be in better positions but I was tired… I’ll be working with flat-water paddling a lot more to help with that. Especially since Worlds will be soon after the next Santa Cruz. I’ll really need to be in shape to keep up with the Basques. Before the next SCPF I would really like to get my back deck roll so if anyone is down for some practice, hit me up! There is a long time until next year’s contest and I can only imagine how much more progressed I will be. I plan on taking at least one first place!