Santa Cruz is a dog town. Everyone always seems to be petting, walking, playing with, feeding their dogs. If you're on Westcliff Drive on any sunny afternoon - and we have been lucky with those these last few days - dogs compete with boogie board-carrying kids for space at waist level.
Even more than Santa Cruz is a dog town, though, it's a surf town: the original Surf City (with a History of Surfing museum to boot). Steamer's Lane is famous the world over, big-wave Maverick's is just up the One, and the Hook in Capitola is pure pleasure on a longboard. There are contests practically every other weekend, but there are always surfers in the water.
When I'm in the lineup, I forget that the people standing on the cliffs above can actually see us surfing and even hear what we are saying in the water. I imagine it's how animals in zoos feel: unaware of being watched. From their stand, the judges made announcements, interspersing commentary on the heats with warnings such as, "Noncompetitors: If you're close enough to talk with a competitor, you're too close to the contest." Weekends are crowded. The part of me that loves salt and doesn't mind fifty-degree water wanted to be out there on my longboard, but otherwise I was happy to watch the greatest show on the planet from a picnic table on the back of a flatbed truck.
It feels like summer, and it's a surprise when, at five o'clock, it begins to get dark.