Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Maybe the skunk was an omen or just bad timing . . .

I've been looking forward to the Santa Cruz Paddlefest (formerly Kayak Surf Festival) since last fall when we made our 2011 calendar.

Jeff kept telling me about the magic of the Santa Cruz reef breaks. Spilling waves with great right shoulders and channels that were easy to paddle out. The attitude of Santa Cruz surfers though is world renowned so it is definitely a place to watch your P's and Q's. I was excited that the Paddlefest would give me the opportunity to paddle one of these fun breaks with minimal hassle.

We left for the contest a couple of days early to visit friends and family in the area and to get a day or two in of surfing. Our dogs, Bear and Aften, journeyed with us. Of course we left later than planned and enjoyed some lovely bay area traffic. It rained heavily for most of our drive. The rain lightened up when we reached the South Bay Area, and we stopped for beer and to let the dogs out for a stretch and pee-break in an empty parking lot.

Having had a good stretch and feeling thirsty, I called the dogs over to the truck. Aften trotted right over and I lifted her in. Instantly my nostrils were inundated with the smell of skunk. The only thing worse than your dog getting skunked is being on the road when your dog gets skunked. I too was pretty smelly. Fortunately there was a creek nearby and the grocery store was still open. I bought some vinegar and proceeded to give Aften a cold vinegar bath. It worked as well as could be expected.

At the time, I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to be an omen for our surf weekend.

Thursday, we made our way down to Santa Cruz and scoped out a couple of surf spots. It was warm and sunny with some nice surf. The peeling right handed waves were such a treat and I was a little remiss for not bringing my surf boat (I only brought my whitewater kayak due to space and because I was competing in the novice division which didn't allow high performance surf kayaks).

The weather forecast was for rain and high surf. Despite weather forecasts being consistently wrong all winter, Friday morning was as predicted - rainy and windy. Jeff was competing and my plan was to demo some boats and get a practice run in on the break that I would be surfing for the contest.

The surf was big and it was BLOWING. Quickly Plan B formulated. Dress in rain gear, watch a couple of heats, and enjoy a good book in the hotel room.

Saturday, I was to compete. I woke to the sound of the wind howling. A glance at the ocean showed whitecaps and thumping storm surf. I went to the prepaddle meeting and then looked again at the surf. Why was I here? To surf a fun break. Today looked anything but fun so I decided to scratch. It was a good decision but a hard one.

I watched what would have been my heat. Ugggg - no thanks. The wind was gusting. Most of the waves were storm chop and the main sets that came through were powerful. Hats off to the guys who paddled out there and tried to surf in our heat. They got a few foam pile rides but the green faces eluded them.

I was disappointed but wasn't totally skunked. Thursdays rides were so worth it and Jeff did well despite the conditions. Next year? We will see.