The Surftech Duel-athon in Santa Cruz had to be the craziest race I have ever done….not exactly the conditions I was looking for after spending a week in bed with the flu! When I arrived at the beach on race day and saw the huge surf, 35mph winds, overhead shore break, steady rain, and uneasy lifeguards I was sure they would call it off. We all decided we wanted to give it a go, so the race directors shortened the course and cut out the run portion. As we lined up to begin the race, it even began to hail….a new experience for the Hawaiian athletes! They sounded the horn and we all began our battle with the shore break, which some racers never got through.
I charged through the surf zone quickly without a fall and paddled closer to the wharf to catch the rip, and was welcomed by angry sea lions snapping at my paddle. As I rounded the wharf, I followed the leading pack of men back in to the beach in search of the first buoy. It wasn’t until we were almost in the surf zone that the lifeguard pointed us in the right direction-back out to sea! As if the conditions weren’t already tough enough, we just added an extra up winder to the race! The other women were lucky enough to hear the guidance from the event staff at the end of the wharf, and as I battled out to the buoy I watched them take a commanding lead…bummer!
The race was a test of determination and mental strength. The rain was pelting my eyes, my legs were starting to weaken under the choppy conditions, and at times I wasn’t sure if I was moving. It was so cold that even in my 3/2 wetsuit and booties my limbs were numb. I thought to myself ‘Why didn’t I go to the race in Mexico instead?’ As I finished my final lap, I surfed some nice down winders back in to the beach, but before I could have too much fun the ocean destroyed me in the shore break. I ditched the board, body surfed into the sand and ran to the finish line. I made it! Besides the grueling conditions, it was a great weekend in a cool town with the other Starboard team riders. Everyone who surfed or raced in those conditions was a champ!