Swaggerjack Productions travelled cross-country to beautiful Santa Cruz, California last month to film the 26th annual Kayak Surf Festival aka Paddlefest. We have made the journey to California every spring since 2008 to cover this awesome event and look forward to many more years of excellent surf and even better people!
While covering an event, we are offered a unique perspective as the film crew; we work behind-the-scenes and gain a better understanding of what it takes to pull off such an event. Dennis Judson works harder than most at coordinating the annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest and also has a strong team of volunteers and committee members working to ensure no detail falls between the cracks. There are massive amounts of contestants, sponsors, photographers, spectators, and vendors who all need direction and supervision to ensure the Paddlefest goes off without a hitch.
It was our pleasure to assist by providing visual entertainment for the Friday and Saturday night parties and even getting our turn on the microphone to help announce the event. The role of emcee usually falls to Dennis himself, Mark Pastick, or any other kayak surf veteran who knows the sport and its players. My announcing skills didn’t even compare to the enthusiasm these men relay through the microphone as well as their extensive knowledge of the break, the sport, and the contestants. Not only did spectators learn about the tricks and the boats, but also gained personal insight for the riders.
Even though the Paddlefest has rented this surf spot annually for over a quarter of a century, there are still board surfers who didn’t get the memo. For the most part, they do a decent job staying out of the contest area, but there are stragglers who get yelled at by contest staff and regulators. Even the seagulls snub board surfers on this weekend…
Special thanks to Dennis Judson for granting us the opportunity to spend another year on the cliffs filming such a wonderful event and to Mark Pastick and Jason Kozun for being such amazing west coast family!
Sunday morning was a picturesque welcome for the final day of Paddlefest. Today was the competitor’s last chance to score points for the win, and the swell was epic! There were gorgeous sets stacking up left and right, with a beautiful off-shore wind making the waves look even more massive.
The last heat was scheduled for early afternoon, and the morning flew by with massive waves and impressive competition. Only the riders with the highest scores were even scheduled to compete today, and they did not disappoint! The SUP’s and kayaks did an amazing job showing the eager audience all the amazing stunts they could pull with their chosen crafts.
Santa Cruz was in it best form with warm sunshine and clear, blue skies. The weather had finally let the sun shine through for the finals after two trying days of cold and rain. This attracted more spectators, and it was an awesome competition!
The competitors gave it their all and put on a great performance for the judges and all of the gathered spectators. The winners for each division were announced as soon as all of the scores could be tallied. The results were as follows:
High Performance Men’s
1st – Darren Bason
2nd – Mathew Hoff
3rd – Eric Connor
4th – Dave Johnston
High Performance Women’s
1st – Kate Duncan
2nd – Devon Barker
3rd – Roberta Borsari
4th – Julie Mitravich
1st – Ken King
2nd – Dennis Judson
3rd – Ed King
4th – Dave Johnston
1st – Stefano Bellotti
2nd – Jim Grossman
3rd – Mathew Hoff
4th – Darren Bason
1st – Devon Barker
2nd – Kristie Koski
3rd – Julie Mitravich
Wave Ski Open
1st – Ken King
2nd – Tyler Lausten
3rd – Ed King
4th – Jason Kozun
Standup Paddle Surfing Shootout
1st – Matt Becker
2nd – John Griffith
3rd – Anthony Vela
4th – Avery Dinauer
Saturday morning greeted us with lighter skies and teases of sunshine. It was definitely shaping up to be a better day than Friday. The waves had more of a smooth, glassy surface and the winds were a bit more forgiving, at least in the earlier part of the day. This was the contestants’ last chance to score points in order to make it to Sunday’s finals. The high performance heats put on a great show, dropping in on massive waves and showing excellent control. When the stand-up paddleboarders had their turn, they didn’t disappoint. They braved the growing ocean, thrusting their boards over the incoming surf and scoping out the best spots to wait for the next set.
Even though these great competitors make it look incredibly easy and graceful to pull the stunts and tricks they do in the waves, there are times that they remind us they are human.
Through the day, we experienced sparse moments of sunshine and somewhat of a break from the rain. Low tide brought in slightly smaller waves, but that never stops kayakers or stand-up paddleboards from doing what they do best!
Directly below is Mark Pastick, a veteran kayak surfer, wave-ski surfer, and SUP-er. He has competed in the Santa Cruz Paddlefest for many years and never disappoints. You can always easily spot him by his bright red helmet with a happy blue star. Today is his birthday, so happy birthday, Mark! Thanks for everything!
Between all of the talented kayak riders and SUP riders, it was an entertaining day for all. We saw many close calls between the riders and each other as well as between the riders and the cliffs! As the horns signifying the end of the last heat blasted, remaining competitors headed back to their barracks for a warm shower and a little rest before the planned party at the Cocoanut Grove. We were treated to a “Cajun bluegrass” style band and the winners of the SUP race were announced. Shortly after the heat results and next-day schedules were posted, many rushed home for some much-needed sleep, as tomorrow was the finals; their chance to win it!
Nature greeted the Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2012 with high seas, dark skies, and chilling rain. Everyone attending the event was wet, including the spectators. Kayakers are known to not let an obstacle defeat them, and they owned the churning seas. Steamer’s Lane was doing its best to provide a good break given the conditions, and the competitors were still able to pull of some eye-catching cutbacks, awesome 360’s, and even the occasional backwards ride. 2012 was starting off dark and messy, but with such a great group of competitors, they were able to pull it together and raise the bar for competition.
The weather started to show improvement through the day and produced some clean, fun waves. Swaggerjack was there through the cold and the rain , filming and taking pictures the whole time. We were working as team non-stop through the day, but one man, Dennis Judson, ran full-speed the whole event supervising the entire event. He served as an announcer, coordinator, problem-solving extraordinaire, and as if that wasn’t enough, he also competed in the event!
Kayakers weren’t the only ones braving the turbulent ocean; Stand-Up Paddleboarders also had their turn taming the waves. SUP-ers have been a great addition to the Festival and are the future of the sport. They perform similar, yet very different stunts on their boards and have a different style of riding the lane. At the end of the last heat, the day concluded and everyone hoped for better weather the next day.
The Swaggerjack crew head out early on Saturday, March 10th for the Golden State, California. Along our way we encountered 15″+ of rain through Louisiana, terrible traffic jams due to accidents in Texas, and shockingly cold weather through New Mexico and Louisiana, but we made it safely on the 13th.
We came across some pretty cool Americana along the way…
The sun was setting as we crossed through New Mexico’s desert and the closer we got to Arizona, the more beautiful reds and oranges started to appear.
Soon into California, we saw fields and fields of beautiful Joshua Trees. You could really understand why Dr. Seuss was so inspired by them! Also, the mountains started to lose their reds and instead, show their browns and greens.
It was a long trip, but we had one day of rest before the first filming event for the Santa Cruz Paddlefest, the Thursday night BBQ and registration party. So naturally, we spent the day resting and reacquainting ourselves with the awesome town of Santa Cruz, California.