Travelling all the way to Santa Cruz, California for a windless windsurfing contest sucks right? …Wrong!
AWT Santa Cruz VIDEO:
Daniel Macaulay was at AWT Goya Windsurfing Event in Santa Cruz and is here tell us why it rocked:
A few months ago, I decided to make the trip to Santa Cruz in North California for the AWT Goya Windsurfing Festival with my buddy Paddy. The American Windsurfing Tour has really been building momentum over the past few years and we loved the idea of mixing a wave sailing contest with the opportunity to experience some genuine Nor Cal culture. We knew that the past two AWT events in Santa Cruz had both scored good conditions but the wind was very dependent on a local thermal effect.
Unfortunately we got a good taste of what the locals call ‘the June gloom’; a thick fog that prevents the land from heating up meaning that ultimately, we got no wind for the duration of the contest.
In spite of this, it was one of the best contests that I’ve been to. Here’s five good reason why:
[part title="5. Surf "][splitpost intro="true" order="true"]
5. Surf - Santa Cruz is home to some of the best surf spots on the West coast such as Pleasure Point, Steamer Lane and Mavericks. Despite the lack of wind, we had no shortage of perfect glassy waves while we were there and the AWT were quick to capitalise on this holding an informal SUP contest every day.
Competing alongside top SUP World Tour competitors such Bernd Roediger and Fiona Wylde in perfect conditions was a real eyeopener as to how far the sport has come. Bernd’s board was absolutely tiny (70ltrs) and he was using it to devastating effect ripping every wave to pieces and eventually taking the SUP event win. It was also great to see the girls ripping so hard making all the finals in mixed heats.
There’s a lot of wildlife in the water at the event site in Waddell Creek and sharing an evening surf session with the local dolphins was definitely not an experience that I’ll forget.
[part title="4. Talent "]
4. Talent - Being a short plane ride away from Maui, the Santa Cruz AWT has always had a somewhat higher standard of pros in the pro devision than most national windsurfing tours. This event really was the who’s who of professional windsurfing though with many of the top professional windsurfers in the world in attendance including Marcillo Browne, Boujmaa Guilloul, Levi Siver, Camille Juban, Francisco Goya, Josh Stone, Graham Ezzy, Kevin Pritchard, and Kai Katchadourian. It was a unique opportunity for rank amateurs such as ourselves to meet some of the top guys in a relaxed atmosphere and a big part of what makes these events so special.
[part title="3. Culture"]
3. Culture - Santa Cruz is drenched in surf culture. The wetsuit, the surf leash, and the surf shop were all invented there. It’s also where many of the world’s leading skate and mountain bike brands are based. It’s a very cool place but in a very quirky way. To say that Santa Cruz is a little bit counterculture is somewhat of an understatement... the place is downright weird! I’m a big fan of ‘The Lost Boys’ so a ride on the wooden roller coaster that was used in the movie was obligatory. We spent quite a bit of time just people watching downtown. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed and definitely a must if you are visiting North California.
[part title="2. Scenery "]
2. Scenery - Santa Cruz and the surrounding area is absolutely stunning. It’s very rugged and completely different from the manicured Baywatch boardwalks that most people recognise from cities further south such as LA and San Diego. Santa Cruz is surrounded by Redwood forests that run right up to the beach and the area between Santa Cruz and San Francisco is largely undeveloped with endless idyllic surf and windsurfing spots just waiting to be discovered. If you want to do a road trip, hire a RV and head to Nor Cal.. you won’t be disappointed.
[part title="1. Sam Bittner"]
1. Sam Bittner - Sam is the driving force behind the AWT and a real breath of fresh air in windsurfing. What she has achieved with the AWT is truly remarkable. Now in it’s fourth year, the AWT is firmly established as one of the best national windsurfing tours in the world seamlessly mixing amateurs and pros while taking in world class down-the-line locations such as Punta San Carlos in Mexico and Pacasmayo in Peru. The events are about so much more than just the windsurfing. A great example of this was the event registration venue; an ancient windsurfing museum in the forest with locally sourced elk burgers on the BBQ.
As I write this on the plane back to the UK, I have good to cause to think about what it is that really makes a great windsurfing event. Of course perfect conditions every time is nice but so much also comes down to the people, the location, and the organisation. I can’t believe how much fun was fitted into five days at a windsurfing event without wind. I got my fingers crossed that it blows it’s tits off at the next stop for the AWT in Pistol River but wind or no wind, I have a feeling that we’ll be back for Santa Cruz next year.