Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hobo Queens and Surfing Princes

Santa Cruz's Main Beach and Boardwalk, where the San Lorenzo River enters
the Pacific Ocean.  Venetian Water Carnival floats ended their journey here.
Photo by Madeline Horn

Santa Cruz’s 1895 Venetian Water Carnival featured a mock battle by the Pacific Fleet, a Rose Regatta with flower-draped floats on San Lorenzo River, water sports olympics, a bicycle velodrome on West Cliff Drive, a masquerade ball, burlesque, a floral pavilion for costume balls, and the coronation of a carnival queen. Unforgettably, a male “Hobo Queen” in a dress paraded in the street, then floated down the river on a garbage barge, where he was pulled to his throne by ropes. The event occurred annually through 1912.
Norman Bates house from Psycho film - Alfred Hitchcock, Santa Cruz
 resident, in front.
The Venetian Water Carnival was funded by Victorian businessman James Phillip Smith, who lived in a mansion on Beach Hill called Sunshine Villa, where my 96 year old grandmother now resides, with a view of the ocean from her assisted living apartment. Sunshine Villa was dilapidated through the 1980s, before the assisted living company renovated the old mansion. The house is said to have served as inspiration for the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Hitchcock was a Santa Cruz local. He had a home for over 30 years in Scotts Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Scotts Valley redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Photo by Madeline Horn
Santa Cruz is flanked by the Pacific Ocean and giant redwoods. While smelling the ocean, you can look up and see the tops of the redwoods just outside town, visible over the buildings. The cool ocean climate draws a flood of tourists from the hot surrounding valleys in the summer. The most popular tourist spots – the Boardwalk and Capitola Village both started as tourist tent camps. In the 1890s, a family could rent a tent on the main beach for a month for ten dollars, including four pillows, and three logs to use as backrests. Today tourism generates over $500 million per year for Santa Cruz. Agriculture and Education are the town’s two other primary industries in this city of 60,000.
Capitola Museum's historic beach cottage.
Photo by Madeline Horn
Life revolves around the ocean for many Santa Cruz residents, which has been the case for over 100 years. In fact, Santa Cruz was the first place that anyone surfed in the Americas! In 1885 three Hawaiian princes who were attending boarding school in nearby San Mateo surfed on the main beach on 100-pound 15-foot surf boards crafted from Redwood from the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was such a spectacle that it was reported on in the Santa Cruz Daily Surf newspaper. The great surf breaks on Cowell’s Beach, at Pleasure Point, and at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River soon inspired others to take up the sport. The Santa Cruz Surfing Club was established in 1936.
West Cliff Drive surf statue,
 dedicated to all surfers, past, present, and future.
Photo by Madeline Horn
Jack O’Neill opened a surf shop on Cowell’s Beach in 1959, offering his new invention – the wetsuit – allowing surfers to brave the chilly Pacific Ocean year round to catch waves. When surfing boomed in the 1960s, so did the O’Neill brand. Internationally-known O’Neill, still based in Santa Cruz, is the top selling wetsuit in the world.
O'Neill Coldwater Classic 2012, West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz
Photo by Madeline Horn
As Jack O’Neill said, “The ocean has been very comforting to me through the years. When you get all screwed up, and you jump in the ocean, everything’s alright again.” I think Santa Cruz’s many visitors would agree about the regenerative power of both the ocean and the redwoods of Santa Cruz.

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