November had finally arrived and after winding down from a busy summer season and coming off the momentum of competing in the Tofino Paddle Surf Invitational right here at our home breaches, it was perfect timing for a little road trip to catch some waves (and sun! ) south of the boarder.
The paddle-mobile is loaded up, with SUP’s, surf boards, wetsuits, camping gear, and our crew Glen, Darren, and Emre. A quick hop on the ferry and we’re in the land of the free the good old US of A. Now it’s just a short 16 hour jaunt down to the sunshine state. Our destination; Davenport’s Landing just north of Santa Cruz for the annual Davenport Paddle Surf Classic.
Arriving with a whole day to warm up before the contest we’re greeted with clam clean conditions. We know that the anticipated swell will be much different then when we see on our prep day. But we’ll take it, no wind, small fun swell, we begin to explore the breaks of Davenport.
The set up; Davenport’s landing consists of a couple reefs making a variety of point breaks. The contest is to be held on the longer point to the right. But on our first day there’s not much of a wave there, especially not with the high tide. Glen scopes it out anyways (probably a good idea) as Emre eye’s up a different right the next reef over with some fun ripable sections. We spend the rest of the afternoon trading off waves with just a couple surfers.
The main event! The Davenport Paddle Surf Classic is on Saturday morning. Waking up at 5:30am to make the 7am heat start time we’re surprised to see that temperatures down here are cold on the morning as well. Putting on a wet wetsuit in 4 degree weather before the sun comes up with a slight tinge of a headache from the liters of cheep margarita we drank the night before is always a tough way to start. But it was the forecast swell that had arrived that really got the heart pumping.
“Moving mountains” was the quote Darren was told for the photographer that was setting up the day before, and that’s exactly what it looked like. Big fat rolling boomers with a mellow shoulder and closeout sections made for an exhilarating first day. The swell was filling in from the first storm of the season that had hit the coast of Vancouver Island just a day before. Solid 18 second period made for lots of great beat downs for kayakers and SUP’ers a like. Loosing boats, getting stuck in the graveyard area of the reef were all part of the game.
Competing in both the King of the Wave (SUPs Kayaks and all water craft compete against each other) division and Stand Up Paddleboarding Open meant that we got to surf 3 heats on the first day. Emre caught a couple wobbly bombs and Glen was able to line up some sweet shoulders, completing some nice carves and long rides. The day ended with a gathering put on by contest organizers. Watching the sun set with tamales and beer at the farm across the road, everyone stoked on an exhilarating day and anticipating the winds and conditions for tomorrow. It was great to connect with other paddlers from the area and hear all about the variety of waves and scene’s around the state.
Rain! California has been in the worst draught in its history. But during our brief stay we got some rain. Waking up to rainbows spurts of downpour, we got ready for our second day of competition.
The swell had peeked but it was the winds that made the challenge today. Gusting at 25 knots side shore, just getting into position was hard enough, much less navigating the bumps as you rip down the face of the wave.
Glen was able to hold on and make it to the semi’s for the stand up paddleboarding open which marked the end of the contest for Team T’ashii. Paddling big waves, and competing against some great talent from both the King’s and Infinity SUP teams was an inspiring experience and got us stoked to see the potential of paddle surfing’s growth.
So the contest was over but the surfing wasn’t. Time to check out the endless variety of point breaks that make up the world class surf town of Santa Cruz. We spent the next couple days sharing waves with friends we’d made during the contest. Such a different scene than the breaks around Tofino, endless point after point, but paddling out at 6am didn’t mean that you get to avoid the crowds. Still there’s waves for all as long as you give everyone their due respect.
It was tough to leave the sunshine, surf city vibes, and endless points of this amazing central California town, but we knew we’d discovered a special event coupled with amazing hospitality and good friends, and we’re ready to do it all again next year.