Santa Cruz Downwind Ryders Cup

Race Date and Start Time: 5/17/2014 @ 1:25pm timer started scheduled start time 1:30pm

Race Start: Davenport Landing

Race Finish: Main Beach in Santa Cruz (south side of wharf)

Distance according to GPS: 14.15 miles

Time: 2:29

Conditions: Windy 15-25mph

Board: NSP 14ft DC Ocean Race (101 SurfSports lent me this board for the race, Thanks 101)

Wetsuit and Hydration: Yes

Having never done the Downwind Ryders Cup in the past I really did not know what to expect other than it was 14 miles and the conditions looked to be perfect NW 15-25 knot winds blowing at the perfect angle toward Santa Cruz. Let’s set the stage for the day first as we had a bump in the road on the way from Sausalito to Santa Cruz as there was a car fire on Hwy 17 Southbound putting us in a bumper to bumper log jam. After we got through the traffic we (Jen Fuller and I) met the Bluerush boys (Steve Pugh and Dino Wilson) in Santa Cruz so they could drop their van at the finish of the race. Then a mad dash with the whole crew up to the start at Davenport Landing. On arrival at Davenport Landing the frenzied process of getting registered, numbered up, boards out of the van and dressed gave us barely minutes to spare to put on our leashes before the start of the race at the beach. Race started a few minutes early, as the start was from the beach, estimating over 100 paddlers (prone, sup,OC and Surfski) hitting the water  with the OC’s and the surf skis 30 mins after that.

I took a wide line away from the coast thinking that being further offshore would provide cleaner wind and better bumps, I also saw a number of other folks going further out so I just followed. Again never having done this race before I was not familiar with any of the landmarks along the way or what to avoid. I just knew that staying outside would keep me away from hitting anything close to shore. Since I was riding the 14ft NSP DC Ocean Racer for my first time, it took me a good hour to get the board dialed into the conditions and yes a fell in many times. But then it all started to come together, I relaxed and stopped forcing the board to catch bumps.  I am no downwind racer and for 14 miles I determined that there is an art to catching bumps. Paddling hard and often only makes you more tired, its sort of a finesse of sorts to catch bumps and get a clean glide. Oh and its really addicting. In looking at my Suunto Ambit 2 race data, I can see my heart rate calm down as I put more mileage down the race course, relaxing and finding my groove in the bumps.

Highlights this downwind race were the kiter, Ron Born who came flying past me carrying  a camera taking pictures, thanks Ron, impressive that you could fly a kite and carry that camera. Followed my old friend Mike Dillon downwind was pretty cool, Mike and I know each other  from the windsurfing days, he looked like he knew where he was going so I marked him for pretty much the whole race until he just took off. Passing the Natural Bridges beach from the water is spectacular, more kiters and some windsurfers looked to be enjoying the building breeze. And at last the Santa Cruz Wharf was in sight and the wind had gone almost calm. It was all about picking up the pace and avoiding the kelp. Steve Pugh and I duked it out to the finish, always fun to finish knowing that you can’t slack for the last mile.

Ghostryder’s Crew was there at the finish line taking numbers and making sure everyone was accounted for. Hats off to all of the racers, this race is not a walk in the park its long, fun but very challenging.

What would I have done differently:

  1. Probably not worn a wetsuit, maybe a short long john but I got really hot towards the end of the race.
  2. Practice run prior would have been helpful.
  3. Leave lots of time to get to Santa Cruz the day of the race or better yet got the Santa Cruz for the whole weekend, the weather was spectacular.
  4. Always race a board that you are familiar with, while the board I rode was almost perfect for this race, I had never ridden it before.
  5. Get to a race with plenty of time to get prepared to race.

Here is my data Suunto data from the race.

Photos from Rob Born

Top Finisher Results are below, final results will be available shortly.