Lebec Man Takes Prize in Kayak Surfing Festival

  • Mark Radis, riding a wave (top) and kneeling (bottom) front row, second from left, with USA team in Costa Rica.

    Mark Radis, riding a wave (top) and kneeling (bottom) front row, second from left, with USA team in Costa Rica.

By Patric Hedlund

Long-time Mountain Community resident Matt Radis, 47 took second place in the 22nd Annual Santa Cruz Kayak Surf Festival March 16. The contest attracted contenders from around the globe. He won 35 points. The first place winner, Christopher Harvey Sampsons of the United Kingdom, won 36 points.

Radis has entered world competitions in Scotland, Ireland, Brazil, Costa Rica and, in 2007, in Spain.

"The main reason I took second place over world champions is that I caught big 15-footer waves and had long rides with big moves in the critical spot of the wave," Radis explained in an email interview on Monday, March 17.

He started kayaking 13 years ago. "Before that I surfed on a surfboard for 25 years. I was going to the beach and the waves would be too small to surf so I took a kayak lesson on the Kern River and I was hooked on river kayaking."

He said meeting friends on the river who surfed in kayaks and competed around the world got him interested. "I thought I could compete with them because of my 25 years of surfing background. It is really lots of fun. My friends design and make the ‘surf kayaks."

Radis says he keeps in shape by swimming three or four times per week and practices kayak surfing two or three times each week as well. Endurance counts, he said. "I had some big wipe outs and big hits from waves [last] weekend. I was able to take a pounding in the middle of the heat flip up and keep paddling hard to get away from a wave and back out into the line up. Without being in shape I may not have been as fast paddling and I could have been hit again and pushed into the cliffs," he said.

"Some of the best guys were not able to get the best waves of the heat and they got eliminated," he explained, adding that the Santa Cruz waves are tricky and "sometimes luck comes into play. During my first heats I almost got eliminated because I caught the big waves but they did not go a long way. The young guys from England were catching the smaller 10-foot waves and doing all the moves for a longer time and scored better. Later I was able to get the big ones and take them all the way. Sometimes the rides would be 300 yards and then I would have to get off the wave because I was going out of bounds."

Radis moved to Lake of the Woods in 1988, "it was the only place I could afford to buy a house at the time," he said. Two years ago he moved to Lebec, "where I have more space for my stuff."

He surfs in Ventura. "My family lives there so I can go Friday after work," he said. Radis has been working as grounds supervisor at Cal Arts in Valencia for 20 years.

This is part of the March 21, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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