Santa Cruz Paddlefest: Jade Howson, Mo Freitas Claim the Pre-Season Points in California

2018 marked the 32nd annual edition of the iconic Santa Cruz Paddlefest, an event that started as a waveski contest in the late 80s. This year in the long distance the young Californians were on show to raise the bar for distance racing. The Paddle League sends this report to TotalSUP of this hotly contested race.

Young gun 15-year-old Jade Howson stunned some of the biggest names in the sport to win the ocean long distance race. In calm conditions that made drafting relatively easy, the prodigious talent broke free from the main pack early and paddled most of the race solo, while the next four women in line, April Zilg, Candice Appleby, Shae Foudy and Fiona Wylde  could only watch as the wonder kid extended her lead around the 10km (6.2 mile) course.

Photo Credit: Bryon Dorr @explorelements

The Laguna Beach, California native has shown enormous potential over the past couple of years but this is surely her biggest win to date. Known for her sublime race board skills in the surf and over shorter distances, to win a long distance race in flat conditions is a testament to Jade’s competitive maturity. With a beaming smile, the SIC/Quickblade team rider crossed the line almost a minute clear of the runner-up and two minutes in front of the pre-race favourites. “Beyond overjoyed!” was how the youngster described the winning feeling.

It was also an impressive performance from North Carolina’s April Zilg who would have created headlines herself if it wasn’t for Jade’s brilliance. The Hobie team rider finished well clear of the “big three” favourites Candice, Shae and Fiona and looks to be in great form ahead of her hometown major next month, the Carolina Cup. While the gaps were clear in the women’s race, it was a bit of a rollercoaster in the men’s as the top three stuck together all the way to the beach.

Photo Credit: Bryon Dorr @explorelements

Slater Trout, who had traded the lead with Mo Freitas most of the race, crossed first and looks to be in great form, however Team Infinity’s celebrations were cut short when he was disqualified for not carrying the proper safety equipment.  Slater took the DQ professionally but will no doubt be bummed to miss a podium and the points that were on offer. In the end it was a lesson learned and a good reminder that all paddlers need to pay close attention to race rules and regulations.

To add to the buzz, it was then a photo finish (literally) between 16-year-old name-to-watch Tyler Bashor of Infinity and the injury-hit Mo from Team Rogue/Quickblade, with the latter hobbling up the beach after getting stitches in his foot last week.  Mo got the nod on the official timing sheet and then moved onto the top step of the podium following Slater’s DQ, which gives a new-look Team Rogue their first big win after a couple of seasons on the sidelines.

Photo Credit: Bryon Dorr @explorelements

It was a very impressive performance from Mo considering most people wouldn’t even be walking with this kind of injury, but rather than focus on his victory, Mo was instead full of praise for the kids when The Paddle League chatted to him as he drove south on the Pacific Coast Highway with his dad Tony. “Great to see some of the newer kids coming up! Those juniors training down in Dana Point are getting so fast. It’s such a good sign for the future.  Some say our sport is kinda lagging but it feels like it’s thriving to me. Santa Cruz was a great start to the season. Looking forward to the big one in Carolina next month!”

Fourth-placed Itzel Delgado from Peru looked sharp in a field dominated by Teams Infinity and Quickblade, while dark horse Josh Riccio from the F-ONE stable was hanging with the lead pack most of the race as well.

Photo Credit: Bryon Dorr @explorelements

In addition to Tyler Bashor’s junior heroics, 16-year-old Elijah Schoenig snuck into the top 10 while 13-year-old Zeke Rose also showed talent beyond his years.  Abby Baker from Southern California won the girls race and snagged 8th place overall, while her fellow-14-year-old Belah Ellis was just outside the top 10 in a day where the next generation stood up.

With fun waves rolling through the iconic Steamer Lane on Sunday, Izzi Gomez claimed victory for Infinity in the hotly-contested SUP surf contest ahead of Fiona Wylde and Candice Appleby, while Zane Schweitzer styled his way to victory in the men’s competition to defeat Tahiti’s Poenaiki Raioha and Puerto Rican junior David de Armas and give Starboard top step on the podium.

With the pre-season finished, attention now turns to The Paddle League World Tour that begins on the island paradise of Tahiti with the Air France Paddle Festival.

2018 Santa Cruz Paddlefest RESULTS

Women’s 10 KM Long Course – overall

1st: Jade Howson (1:00:14)

2nd: April Zilg (1:00:58)

3rd: Candice Appleby (1:01:41)

4th: Shae Foudy (1:01:49)

5th: Fiona Wylde (1:03:37)


Men’s 10 KM Long Course – overall

1st: Mo Freitas (0:53:53)

2nd: Tyler Bashor (0:53:54

3rd: Itzel Delgado (0:53:54)

4th: Josh Riccio (0:54:59)

*DQ* Slater Trout (0:53:28)

Raw Results Click here

With the pre-season finished, attention now turns to The Paddle League World Tour that begins on the island paradise of Tahiti with the Air France Paddle Festival. The race will be livestreamed on April 7, and same goes for the Quiksilver Waterman Carolina Cup two weeks later on April 21.



About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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