Santa Cruz Paddlefest, a History

Posted on Updated on

We are coming up to our 30th annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest. Three decades ago the Paddlefest was started by Dennis Judson of Adventure Sports Unlimited. Back then surf kayaks were still in their infant stage. They were very long and narrow with rounded bottoms and were mostly just modified whitewater kayaks. Overtime the kayaks evolved into shorter boats with a flat surfboard like bottom and fins!

Now we have three distinct classes of surf kayak. The more traditional style of surf kayak is the International Class Kayak (IC or long boat). IC boats need to be under 3.5 meters in length but no shorter than 3 meters, can not have fins, and are very limited on the amount of hull concavity they can have. These boats are seen to have a very flowing style and excel in doing long drawn out turns.

There are also High Performance Kayaks (HP or short boat) that need to be under 2.75 meters in length, can have fins, and can have any sort of contours on the hulls. These shorts boats are designed to be able to do radical maneuvers and will be able to execute tight turns and dynamic moves in the power pocket of the wave.

The third class we see is Waveski. These small craft have no restrictions (except in length, under 3.5 meters) and are of a vastly different style. Instead of sitting inside the kayak you are sitting on top of the craft. The advantage is greatly reduced weight and vastly increased maneuverability. The disadvantage is you are compromising the easy of paddling. Waveskis are seen to be the highest performing craft and also the most challenging to master. It is not uncommon to see these airing off a wave and smoothly re­-entering the green face.

Through the years the SCPF has held multiple World Championships. These events drew competitors from all over the world; Ireland, Scotland, England, Portugal, Basque, Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Australia, Jersey, are just to name a few! With such an epic venue even on non-Worlds years we still see a contingent from these countries coming to compete. The wave is just that good.

Eventually SUP was added to the SCPF. At first it was mostly just an exhibition event with some high caliber riders invited, but overtime it has become something much more. The SUP surfing competition at The Lane is now almost as large as the kayak contingent! Every year we see riders coming in from all corners of the globe

Soon after we added the SUP surfing category we added a race. Starting off of Cowells beach racers slug it out and around a course towards the fabled Steamer Lane and then looping back towards the Boardwalk. Every year we get more and more people signing up for this race and soon we may run out of beach!

In 2014 after many years of putting together a wonderful event the head organizer, Dennis Judson, decided that he was going to retire from hosting the event. With a world of expectations surrounding the SCPF, Dave Grigsby (owner of Kayak Connection) and Mathew Hoff (Local International Surf Kayak Competitor) shouldered that weight and decided to keep the contest alive.

Cross your fingers for conditions like last year’s and we will see you out in the line up!