Moms and dads paddled their kids out for the first time, kids dragged their parents out on boards and wives and husbands got to taste what keeps their significant other out on the water day after day.
Great surfers are great paddlers. This age old adage rang true at the 6th Annual Surftech Jay Moriarty Memorial paddleboard race as professional surfers and paddlers alike came to Santa Cruz to test their skills on the rigorous 12 mile course. The course usually associated with a range of challenges from dense fog to harsh ocean wind and waves turned abnormally friendly with sparkling clear sky, light winds and warm water temperatures, at least by Santa Cruz standards. Even Santa Cruz's most temperamental local sea lions seemed unusually friendly, barking halfheartedly while fighting for sunbathing space on the mid race buoy. Yet regardless of the relatively pristine conditions, the race was no picnic as locals and visitors put their skills to the test in the frigid, kelp forested waters of Monterey Bay.
Despite local knowledge of everything from kelp bed locations to potential shortcuts, there was no way to keep 2006 winner Gary Fortune from claiming the title for an impressive fourth year in a row. Taking a strong lead he finished with a time of 1:54:38 followed by fellow L.A. County paddler Kyle Powers who came in second. Rounding out the top finishers was Joe Beek one of Santa Cruz's most recognized paddlers who just missed slipping under the 2 hour mark finishing with a time of 2:01:35.
Coming in to help support the women's side of race this year, ROXY upped the ante offering female competitors cash prizes. Their involvement and the option to make some cash prompted an unprecedented number of women competitors to show up from as far away as Florida. Even with the new competitors, last year's winner, Santa Barbara native, Jane Cairns would not be surpassed as she powered ahead of the competition once again taking the title and a first place check. Following right on her heels was 18-year-old Santa Cruz surfer Savannah Shaughnessy who put her many winters of surfing in the heavy Nor Cal conditions to the test and came in second. Perhaps more than any other competitor, Savannah truly embodied the spirit of Jay. Relatively inexperienced from a competitive paddlers standpoint, Savannah is dedicated to riding big waves and proved that her training for surfing in testing conditions crosses over to competitive paddling, emphasizing how the sport of paddling is an important facet of being a true waterman. She was followed by Miami Beach lifeguard Cynthia Aguilar who flew out from the East Coast to finish in third place.
But the "Jay Race" is not just about the best testing their mettle. From the men's and women's two mile sprints to the super grom six year old category, surfers and paddlers of all ages and levels got a chance to paddle out into the bay. Standup paddleboards, 12', 14' and Unlimited paddleboards and little nipper boards (super small kids paddleboards) littered the beach, up for grabs to anyone ready to give them a go. Moms and dads paddled their kids out for the first time, kids dragged their parents out on boards and wives and husbands got to taste what keeps their significant other out on the water day after day. With the Santa Cruz Lifeguards carefully monitoring specially laid out courses, the next generation of watermen and waterwomen got some of their first taste of what the ultimate playing field has in store for them.
With the great turnout this year and the resoundingly positive response from all the participants, lookout for next years event to offer even more excitement. Thanks to the Santa Cruz State lifeguards for their support and efforts during the event as well as all the company's and individuals who donated their time and expertise to making this the best Jay Race to date.