While competitors and fans were treated to many fun activities throughout the weekend, it was again the ocean that will remain the star of the 4th Annual Surftech SHOOTOUT and Surf ‘n’ Sand Duel-athlon.
Last year was the inaugural year for the Duel-athlon, and the 40 knot winds, sideways hail, and overhead shorebreak created an experience which was not soon forgotten. A similar forecast this year scared off some competitors that had heard the tall tales, while others were motivated to want to challenge themselves in this years contest. The 2011 Duel-athlon undoubtedly set the benchmark for a Northern California competition that is outside the norm, and the 2012 SHOOTOUT reinforced that notion. We were fortunate to receive more than our fair share of swell at the world-famous Steamer Lane. Up to double overhead bombs with only four people out is basically a dream come true, and 28 lucky SUP surfers from all over the West Coast lived that dream for three days. The highlights of the weekend are as follows:
The good times kicked off on Thursday at the Covewater Happy Hour and Q&A with Candice Appleby (2011 Womens Duel-athlon champ) and Anthony Vela (2011 Third Place Mens Duel-athlon) at Covewater Paddle Surf in Santa Cruz. Special guest Matt Becker, 2011 Duel-athlon Men’s champ, showed up and was peppered with questions alongside Candice and Anthony. The crowd was hanging on every word as Candice and Anthony gave them the full rundown, as they do for their Performance Paddling clinics. They discussed paddle technique and equipment, nutrition, safety/etiquette and more. Then the Infinity boys showed up with Dave Boehne, and well as Joe Carberry from SUPmag and Andre Niemeyer of SUPconnect.com, two leading SUP news media outlets. A Q&A that was supposed to last an hour and half turned into a three hour shop party, with Covewater owner Scott Ruble going out for more beer as revelers talked story and got hyped for the weekend. Thanks for opening your doors, Scott!
Day One at the SHOOTOUT saw lingering 6 foot South swell, which would only get better as a big Northwest swell showed up the next day throughout the weekend and changed the whole nature of the wave at the Lane, keeping competitors on their toes in the changing but incredible conditions. The early South offered right and lefts that hugged the cliff wall, with a little bit of refraction that kept you on your toes. Notable goofy-footers Anthony Vela and Brennan Rose were stoked to make some use of the lefts, but were certainly not afraid of surfing on their backhand as consistent rights shaped up nicely. All 28 competitors surfed Day One and Day Two, but only the top eight moved into the Semi-Finals on Day Three. We all finished up Friday night with another party, this time hosted at the delicious Pono Hawaiian Grill. Live music, good eats and drinks, a video highlight reel from last years contest kept the energy high, and competitors got another chance to mingle and enjoy some of the best grinds that Santa Cruz has to offer.
Day Two started in the morning with the 2012 Duel-athlon! Calmer seas than last year prevailed, so we were able to run the full Surf ‘n’ Sand course, testing the racers paddle skills, ability to navigate shorebreak, and running endurance. Candice Appleby, Anthony Vela, Matt Becker, Brennan Rose, Joe Carberry and several other hearty competitors participated in both the Duel-athlon and SHOOTOUT, proving that their athleticism is truly elite and water abilities quite well-rounded. One particularly exciting aspect to the race was that Andre and Eric at SUPconnect launched a brand new media initiative for the SUP world, hosting the first ever fully LIVE broadcast with commentary, from the Surftech Suite overlooking the race course from the beautiful Dream Inn.
Throughout the day, the world watched live via SUPconnect.com as Andre and various guest commentators like Dave Boehne gave play-by-plays of the action as it unfolded. Already, the plans for the live broadcast will be even more robust, and watch for the same awesome live broadcast in this years Jay Race…
Racers launched off the beach around 9:20am, punching through the shorebreak and heading out to the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, where they would make their first turn south, heading to the right shoulder buoy that would mark the halfway point. Candice held back for a minute, getting the timing of the sets right before heading out to sea, and gave herself catch-up some work to do as others crashed headlong into the waves and got right through. Once through the pounding shorebreak, she put her head down and sped off on her new 12’6 Pro model BARK raceboard, quickly passing people and making up ground as she took the lead over the women’s field. Team rider Alison Riddle was hot on her tail, but Candice held on to a lead that took her back to the beach first about 100 yards ahead of the pack, and never relinquished that gap.
The men’s race was exciting throughout, with Anthony Vela holding the lead for the entire race, followed closely by a chase pack of Ben Sarrazin, Brennan Rose and Matt Becker. Racers were afforded an up close and personal view of the local sea lions, whose loud barks cheered paddlers on as they battled each other, and the clock. Lap one saw Vela sprinting through the turn arch with Sarrazin at his heels, under the wharf and along the beach to the turn marker. It was apparent that his lifeguard training gave him endurance and secure feet for the beach run, as he pulled away heading in to the second lap.
The second lap stayed close for the men, and Vela widened the gap again on the beach run to come in 23 seconds ahead of Sarrazin with a time of 1:00:00 flat. Candice came in a minute ahead of second place finisher Alison Riddle with a time of 1:08:05, beating a full half of the Mens field. Open course (1 lap) winner was David Meyler, with a time of 29:47, followed by Dino Wilson and Olivier Guincente. (See full results on Results page). With ASP-style flair, Surftech had a VIP zone where certain people got to go directly from the race course up into a hot-tub overlooking the beach to warm up, recount their race tactics, and get ready for their heats in the SHOOTOUT in a few hours.
As Day Two at the SHOOTOUT continued, we saw the Northwest swell fill in, and the prime takeoff zone shift a little away from the cliff wall. More macking Middle Peak sets were coming through, and surfers had a great time dropping steep faces, throwing in a few cutbacks, and following the wall into Indicators where it reformed into a high performance face in front of the judges booth. Spectator’s numbers grew as the day continued on, reenforcing that one reason Steamer Lane is such a great venue is that is is so spectator friendly because you are literally feet from the action at any given point. Day Two saw Matt Becker continue to absolutely RIP waves apart, and everyone score incredible overhead surf, delivered on a silver platter.
Local talent John Griffith consistently posted high scores, and would end up advancing into the semis for Day Three with seven other skilled surfers. Candice Appleby, despite having the flu, put together a strong score that put her in first place over Joe Carberry and Brennan Rose. Competitors were having so much fun that as soon as their heats ended, they paddled to shore, tossed their jerseys onto shore, and paddled back out to surf all alone in peeling waves for another two hours! Post-contest, Dave Boehne others were seen around the world surfing epic Lane as SUPconnect set up their live broadcast right there on the cliff and were streaming the killer freesurf session!
We finished off the night at the Cocoanut Grove, where a live band and slyly ordered pizza helped competitors boisterously ring in St. Paddy’s Day with plenty of Guinness and race awards. Open race winners received beautiful new Quickblade paddles, and two partygoers had a chance to answer ocean/other trivia to win two custom St. Paddy’s Day Shamrock QB paddles! One lucky winner was 2011 SUP Movie of the Year filmmaker Chris Aguilar of Soul Surf Media, who was in town filming the entire weekend. Can’t wait to see the video! Another lucky raffle winner walked away with a Surftech Laird 11′. After closing the Cocoanut Grove down, some went across the street to the local bowling alley and karaoke bar and kept the party going til the wee hours of the morning.
Day Three kicked off with double overhead+ sets at the Lane, and frothing competitors could hardly wait to get into the water at 10:20am for the beginning of the Semi-Finals. Semi #1 saw Anthony Vela, Avery Dinauer, Josh Sleigh and Candice Appleby competing, with Vela and Dinauer taking places 1/2 to advance to the Finals at noon. Semi #2 was comprised of John Griffith, Brennan Rose, Christopher Chandler and Matt Becker, with Becker and Griffith advancing. In the finals, Becker basically put on a clinic that could have been called “How to SUP Surf Good, We Mean Really Good.” He smacked the lip, pulled floaters, cutbacks and challenging moves with such wave-riding skill that there was no doubt that he would be crowned the eventual winner. Griffith all put up a strong showing, putting his 8’10″ Surftech Gerry Lopez through its paces and impressing both judges and spectators with his skill. In a battle to the end, Vela came in with just one less point than Griffith for a solid third place. Pretty impressive for winning a race just the day before… Dinauer could be seen smiling the whole way up the stairs from the water, realizing that not many people get the opportunity to score pumping Lane for three days in a row, with only three other guys.
As things wound down approaching the late afternoon, it was apparent that both surfers and fans experienced something special March 17-18, 2012 in Santa Cruz. They came, they scored, and stoke was omnipresent. We couldn’t be happier with the fun, the camaraderie, and conditions and can’t wait to do it again next year. Congrats to all on their performances and special thanks to sponsors SUPmag, Clifbar, Covewater Paddle Surf, Maui Jim, Quickblade and SUPconnect.