3/19/2008 – Jeff Moag,Managing Editor
We knew right away we were in for a special weekend. The C&K crew had arranged a rendezvous at the 22nd Annual Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival, and as we rolled into town the boomers were stacking up at Steamers like a multi-layered birthday cake for kayak surfers from around the world. We climbed out of the car and just stared at the perfect 10-15-foot faces standing up in the offshore breeze, foam flying in the perfect afternoon light.
Back at the beach, the man we call RZ Creative-C&K art director-slash-photographer Robert Zaleski-pulled out his big Canon glass and slipped straight into the photo zone. We couldn’t resist posting a few of his primos here, and there will be more of the good stuff in the glossy pages of C&K the magazine soon.
Meanwhile I moved into the crowd to find the mastermind behind the longest-running kayak surf contest in America (and probably the world, but this is blog-land, and we don’t have time to fact-check everything).
I found Dennis Judson right away, talking to current and former world champs Sean Morely and Rusty Sage over at the Valley Sea Kayaks tent. Dennis was rocking Sorels and a one-piece winter coverall over a bare chest, his gray ponytail still damp and his smile supercharged from a recent wave-riding session. And he was holding a bottle of amber liquid that had aged and matured almost as long as the contest itself. It was a gift from one of Scotland’s best surfriders, Neil Baxter, and Dennis wasted no time in offering me a pull of the mono-malted elixer. This is the surf-kayak way: Share the love and the joy, or as Dennis explains it, “Give a wave, get a wave.”
Problem is, a few of the local board surfers weren’t giving. Thanks to the efforts of Dennis and many other tireless volunteers, kayak surfers get Steamers to themselves for one weekend a year. That’s one reason the contest is so popular, and why half the C&K staff had converged from SoCal and Seattle–to get a taste for ourselves. As the contest wore on and the swell continued to improve, though, the board surfers began crowding around the edges of the contest zone, horking the occasional wave and growing bolder as time went on. The encroachment from an agro minority of boarders was the worst it’s ever been—largely because the waves were some of the best in recent memory. Keeping a surfer off of waves this sweet is like cutting an auditorium full of Phish fans off from the mota, all at once. Some people are bound to be cranky.
At least the rain and hail kept the dilettantes away during the Saturday heats. It didn’t keep Dr. Robert Scott, a/k/a Doc of Doc’s Proplugs, from making the rounds on his bike, sporting knee pads and a red windbreaker with his company motto: Stick it in your ear. Doc practiced medicine for 30 years and has been surfing for twice that long. He’s had 26 operations and a long litany of surfing carnage, but at 80-1/2 years old, he had ridden his bike down to Steamers to watch the surfing and see some old friends. Doc’s earplugs have saved countless kayakers and surfers from exostosis (hearing loss from prolonged exposure to cold water) and saved generations of kayak magazine editors from trying to spell exostosis, which isn’t even in the Microsoft Word dictionary. Doc is a give-a-wave, get-a-wave kind of guy. He knows how to share the love.
It was a good thing, too, because C&K ad exec Nick Hinds was in need of a little boost, after signing up late for the competition and learning he’d have to slum it on the little waves with the intermediates rather than shredding the epic rollers reserved for the expert class competitors. A chat with Doc and a couple of good sessions brought a smile back to Nick’s face though. Our man has just moved out from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where the only surf comes on mountain rivers. But Nick has roots in the islands, where he’s done his share of surf-yakking, and come contest time he poured on the secret Barbadian sauce. By all accounts he scored some great rides, and there was even some talk that he might emerge victorious and win a brand new surf kayak from Valley.
Unfortunately, young Nick had been schmoozing it up with his newfound surfing buddies and missed the competitor’s meeting–the one where they tell you which heat you’re in. Seems that when you paddle out into the wrong heat you get disqualified, even if you do catch a half-dozen good rides and call out a boarder who dropped in on a fellow competitor. “I thought the guy was going to find me on the beach and punch my teeth in, but it’s cool,” Nick said. “I’ve got the C&K dental plan.”
When he got the news that he’d been DQ’d and would not win a surf kayak this year, Nick went to the tent of famed shaper Dick Wold and bought himself one. There are waves in western Washington, and Nick is not about to let them roll onto the beach unsurfed.
World Cup Men’s
- Christopher Harvey UK
- Matt Radis CA
- Rusty Sage NV
- Dave Johnston CA
World Cup Women’s
- Kate Smith CA
- Gina Troiani CA
- Ailsa McDougall UK
- Miss Mega
World Cup Junior’s
- David Speller , UK
- Christopher Hobson , UK
- Graham Meese , CA
- Sam Davenport , UK
See the complete results at Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival .