Fiona Wylde: 2014 Overall Surftech Shootout Women’s Champion

Big Winds team rider Fiona Wylde brought us up-to-date on her latest exploits:

It Wasn’t A Win Without A Fight

Every contest has a different aspect; a different way of achieving an outcome; a different way of ending a contest. Sometimes I end contests earlier than I want to by not making it through a heat or placing as high in a race, but never am I going to give up and stop pushing my abilities to the highest place they can go on that day of competition.

fiona-cruz2I was invited to the Surftech Shootout back in January to surf the prestigious wave at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California. My Quatro teammate, Bernd Roediger flew in from Maui to meet me and my dad who drove down from Hood River, Oregon. With the van packed with multiple surf and race boards we were ready for whatever the conditions gave us over the weekend.

As most of you know, Santa Cruz is a surfing Mecca where much of surfing innovation began. Twenty-eight years ago the Santa Cruz Kayak Fest, now Paddle Fest, was created. Over the last couple years the Paddle Fest organizers have opened up the event to include stand up paddlers, which we are extremely grateful for.

fiona-cruz4The contest began on Friday, the 28th, with preliminary stand up surfing heats. Both Bernd and I surfed smart heats, catching head high set waves at the Point and riding them through to Indicators, which granted us wins. On Saturday we raced in the six-mile elite stand up race, leaving from Cowells Beach. I had a good start and lead the women and hung with Bernd until the first buoy, which was a mile into the race. Then Morgan Hoesterey, an extremely strong, incredible paddler came up and passed me. I did my best to hang with her, but she pulled away. Windy, choppy water and beach runs made the race more fun and interesting for all the competitors. I maintained second place, finishing fifty-nine minutes after I started. Bernd finished middle of the fleet, which is really good for the guys division considering he hasn’t raced in a flat-water race in over two years.

fiona-cruz1That afternoon the south wind kicked up even more and the waves were pretty small. I was a little skeptical paddling out to my second heat that afternoon, but my mood changed as soon as the horn sounded. Fun-size waves were coming through and it was way better than I imagined. I won that heat to secure my spot in the final. Bernd did the same with his quarterfinal heat and we were both looking forward to surfing the next day.

fiona-cruz3True to the swell forecast, Sunday delivered. We arrived at The Lane to eight foot, glassy faces, and were happier than two kids in a candy shop; only the candy was the waves. Bernd got to surf his semifinal heat in the glassy conditions where he put on a clinic. By the time the women’s final came around later that afternoon, the wind had picked up a bit, but the sets were bigger! I took my 7’8″ Quatro Step-up gun, rather than my shortboard, for stability in the wind and to get into the waves easier. I was frothing! Sitting in the channel I couldn’t wait to get my heat underway. The horn sounded to end the heat before me, so I had one minute to get in position. As soon as I was at the peak where the waves had consistently been breaking, a massive set came through that peaked way outside. I started paddling frantically. I thought that maybe by the time I got to the first one the heat would be underway, but I was four seconds too early. It would have been a late drop either way, so I paddled over and was confronted with an even bigger wave. Scratching to get over it in time, I rejected that opportunity when it peaked up even more and broke on my head. I had no option but to dive as deep as I could under the wave. As soon as I dove, I felt a pull then a release… my leash had broken. As soon I popped up, I signaled and yelled for the Jet Ski. They came in, pulled me up on the sled and drove me into the break to look for my board. For those that aren’t familiar with Steamer Lane, the “beach” consists of rocks and cliff. I did not want my board to get destroyed, and I still wanted to surf this heat. We drove through Indicators, just in time to see a California State Lifeguard pop over a wave paddling my board to safety. It was like a miracle! He handed me the board and an extremely generous water safety patrol surfer from the Santa Cruz Lifeguard took his leash off of his foot and gave it to me. I was ready for action! By the time I made it back out to the peak, I only had twelve minutes left. The heats were nineteen minutes, and since this was part of a kayak competition, they counted three waves instead of the normal two. I got lucky and a good set came through and I picked one off. Four minutes later I was back at the peak, ready for another. I caught another set wave and was making my way back out when another big set came through that broke way outside. Since I didn’t have much time left and I still needed another wave, I decided to go for it. I picked the second wave of the set and took off right as it broke. I made the drop, but when the whitewater exploded, I got worked. No sets came through in the last two minutes. The horn blew, and my contest was over.

I didn’t know if my two waves and drop were enough for me to take the win. The other girls caught plenty of waves from start to finish and were shredding! What I was happy about was that given the scenario, I did the most that I could to surf my best and make and use the twelve minutes to my full potential.

Bernd’s final followed shortly after mine. Sitting on the cliff, watching him, I felt like I was watching an ASP Professional Surfer that somehow got a paddle stuck in his hand. Bernd caught four waves in his heat, but he didn’t catch just four waves, he caught the best four waves. There were no doubts in our mind, and pretty much everybody’s on the cliff, that Bernd had won and owned the final.

fiona-cruz5My worries ceased when the announcer welcomed me to the stage to congratulate me for my Sup surfing Women’s Surftech Shootout victory! And my happiness went through the roof when they announced me as the 2014 Overall Surftech Shootout Women’s Champion from my race and surf result! With Bernd winning the men’s overall sup surfing, me winning the women’s and the women’s overall Surftech Shootout, it was an all around Quatro victory!

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Jackson, the California State Lifeguard who jumped off the rocks to save my board and the water safety surfer for giving me his leash along with the Jet Ski Patrol. You guys made it possible for me to surf the rest of the heat! A big thank you goes to Duke Brower at Surftech and the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest for incorporating Stand Ups into your event. And of course thank you to Rahel, Lexi, Jessie, and Buck of the Lyons family for hosting us and making us feel at home! To all of the surfers of Santa Cruz thank you for graciously sharing your wave and allowing stand up paddlers and kayakers to surf Steamer Lane for the weekend.

This event comes to a close on a high note. With both Bernd and me winning, both on Quatro, both loving our boards and enjoying Santa Cruz, we will always remember this event with positive memories. Not all events end this way, so when they do, we need to remember them and enjoy this moment! Cheers to fun times!

~Fiona