EVENT: Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2015

2015 was such an amazing year at the 29th annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest! The event changed hands to new organizers, saw many familiar faces and a few new ones. Check out the best photos and action from the event in the two stories I wrote for Canoe & Kayak Online; New Era of a Classic and A Kayak Surf Renaissance. If you want to get a great feel for all the amazing surfing action that went down be sure to check out the Facebook Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2015 Mega Gallery. Also be sure to watch the incredible official video from this year’s event:

For a little personal take on the the event check out the photos and info below.

(Photos by: Bryon Dorr & Sarah Blessington)

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Competitors fly from around the world with their boats to compete at the famous Steamer Lane. Shown here is Liam Thiern’s rental mini van and Random Kayaks, imported from Australia.

The competition was stiff this year, as it always is at this world class event. I entered both the HP and IC surf kayak divisions, being lucky enough to borrow a spare IC boat off of good friend and long time competitor Buck Johnson. I hadn’t been in any sort of kayak for quite some time before the contest, as my winter was spent in the mountains skiing and snowboarding this year. To say my surf paddling was a little rusty was an understatement, and my recently sprained wrist didn’t help the situation any. My first time back on the water was in my first comp heat on Friday, but I held my own and quickly remembered to smile and enjoy the waves. It was an IC heat and I managed to actually win the heat. Sadly my HP heat didn’t go so hot and landed me last in the heat. On Saturday I know I needed to step up my HP game in order to move on and paddle Sunday. I did and managed a 2nd in HP, as well as another 1st in IC. Felt really good, and just barely managed to squeak me through in HP. Sadly got knocked out with a 3rd in semifinals of HP Sunday morning, but advanced in IC with a 2nd. I was really stoked to be in my first SCPF finals, and even more stoked that it was in a borrowed boat, with a sprained wrist and zero training or practice leading up to the comp. In the end I managed a 3rd in IC and got my first SCPF medal. One of these year’s I’m going to podium in HP, but I think it’s going to require a lot more wave time to be competitive against the world’s best.

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The opening party, held each year at Adventure Sports Unlimited, always features quality conversation, great food, boat inspection, competitor check-in and a quick competitors meeting. This year it also featured tasty Ninkasi craft beer from Oregon, served up by the lovely Sarah Blessington.

I honestly didn’t have any expectations for my paddling in the competition, except to enjoy the amazing waves with good friends. I was however at the event to create media content, in the way of stories and photographs, that would help to showcase the event and the sport of surf kayaking. I bought 2 new lens in preparation for the event, a Nikkor 16-35 f4 and 70-200 f4. Both of these lenses worked great for the job, and were all I used to capture the action all weekend. Some of the best photos captured on my camera this year were when Sarah was behind the lens. She captured quite a few top notch action and lifestyle shots that really help convey the spirit of the event.

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There are always some cool beach rides in SC, but this Corvette Stingray with Wave Ski setup is pretty trick.

In the end the SCPF is all about celebrating a shared love of surfing waves while using a paddle. The bond between the members of the surf kayak tribe are strong, and it is a true pleasure to be a member of this accepting group. Some of these people I only get to see once or twice a year, but the friendships are always strong, and just like no time had past at all. I encourage any and all paddlers to to come out and enjoy the waves, camaraderie and world class competition found every year at the SCPF.

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Hungry competitors always rip through the taco buffet at the Friday night party at Olitas on the warf.

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Some early mornings produced some spectacular sunrises at the Lane.

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Event organizer Mat Hoff wore many hats throughout the weekend, including MC. The judges also had a grueling weekend discerning between the worlds best shredding the waves apart at the Lane.

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At low tide you can sneak out into the lineup from the beach just in front of the surf zone, saving you from a long paddle out from Cowell’s. Here Liam Thierns takes the time to get focused for his next comp heat.

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Some quality waves were to be had throughout the weekend. Here’s a glassy one that I got to enjoy, while J2Media was in the water shooting and Liam Thierns paddles out to catch another one.

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Morning light was the best to shoot, and the SUP surfers really put on a show for the cameras.

To keep up with all things Santa Cruz Paddlefest be sure to check out the event website (HERE) and follow along on the event Facebook page (HERE).

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