Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ride of Your Life

Today, we welcome team paddler and Kokatat Regional Team Paddler, Kate Hives with her thoughts on the Santa Cruz Paddlefest - Kayak Surf, Waveski and SUP Competition in beautiful, sunny California.

            It all happened as any good epic does, with venturing into the unknown, saying 'YES' and jumping in with both feet. I have been a kayaker for over 18 years and have most recently found inspiration in surfing ocean waves and rough water paddling in performance sea kayaks, but never did I expect to fall in love with paddling all over again in the form of 'High Performance' surf kayaking. From the moment I took off down a wave and felt my surf kayak begin to plane and carve, gaining energy and momentum from the ocean's force, I knew that my quiver of boats was about to grow.

            Making the transition from sea kayak surfing to surf kayaking has been one of those both-feet-jumping epics. After surfing in Neah Bay, WA at Hobuck Hoedown and loving the festival vibe from years past, I have surfed my home breaks at Jordan River and Tofino, BC, Canada in a Valley Rush+ and have gotten my my fair share of big wave beat downs and cruzee faces alike. When the opportunity arose for the second year in a row, I decided I should repeat the pilgrimage to Steamer Lane and attend the Santa Cruz Paddle Surf Festival in California.

Kate - Steamer Lane 2014 Middle Peak photo: Mark Boyd

After having been in a surf boat only a handful of times, I knew that I had a lot to learn. Having the ability to transfer style and technique from my sea kayak and white water boats is handy , but there is certainly a learning curve to this small, hard railed boat, that begs both aggression and finesse. So I figured that the most efficient way to get into this sport was to watch and paddle with the best. I knew I needed to see bigger waves, so the decision to return to Santa Cruz was easy.

The event draws competitors from around the world to surf at this famous California point break, this year a solid crew came from Basque Country demonstrating big carves and dynamic moves on the waves! During the 3 day festival surf kayaks, SUP's and wave skis take over the lane and competitors have the opportunity to surf the break with only 3 other wave riders, which is remarkable based on how popular Seamer Lane is. This is the perfect recipe for paddlers to demonstrate their skills, share tricks and expand the envelope of what we, as paddlers, think we can achieve.
Kate - watching the break photo: Mark Boyd
            Remembering back to my first trip down to the competition last year, I truly had no idea what to expect. As I drove down the windy coastal roads through Redwood forests and along the Pacific Ocean, I imagined myself riding the face of a beautiful wave, visualizing the ride. I had seen some footage from surf videos and past kayak festival posts, but nothing ever looks the same on camera as it does when you are paddling along side a double overhead cresting face. So when we pulled into Santa Cruz on a warm afternoon and looked out at The Lane, imagine the butterflies in my stomach when I saw the crisp shoulder of perfect waves, against the steep California bluff. The wave peels off the point with stunning consistency cruising to the right with a beautiful steep shoulder and high potential for deliciously long rides. Perfect!

***Kate's PFD of choice is the Kokatat Maximus Prime  (in Navy) which you can not see under her competition bib in the photo above***

You will be hearing and seeing a lot of Kate this season, watch for her upcoming review of her CUSTOM Kokatat Women's Icon Drysuit.

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Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin