By Conor Mihell
Published: March 25, 2011
The weather may have dropped a bomb on the 25th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest but longtime competitor Vincent Shay says it couldn't spoil the festivities for the surf kayakers and standup paddlers who came to the infamous break at Steamer's Lane last weekend to paddle and party.
Though Shay, a boat designer and outfitter based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., admits the paddling wasn't anything to write home about, he was inspired by the participants' willingness to take to the water despite the "really cold, windy and ugly" conditions. In the end, Shay says the stoke at Santa Cruz was much the same as when he started participating in 2000.
"I think surf kayaking is unique because the people will go out and have fun in stuff like that," says Shay, who dropped out of the men's high performance competition after Friday's sufferfest. "As a board surfer I'd take one look and turn around and leave."
For the first time in event history, the gusty, 40-50 mph winds and jumbled waves were nasty enough to cancel Sunday's portion of the competition. Top performers on Friday and Saturday were Galen Licht and Kate Duncan in the men's and women's high performance class, Dan Crandall in the master's open, and Rachel Krugman in the women's international class, while overall SUP winners included Frank Knight (surfing) and Zane Schweitzer (shootout).
Meanwhile, Shay says he was most impressed by the efforts of veteran surf kayaker Jim Grossman, who claimed the men's international class title. For Shay, Grossman's "fearlessness" sums up the Santa Cruz experience. "[He] was on fire," says Shay. "I have so much respect for that guy. He's been in the sport as long as anyone and he still goes out and has fun."
Complete results here.