By Malcolm Mclaws
It might be no accident that the first day of this year’s weeklong CruzFest in Santa Cruz, California, was on 4/20. Like most edgy underground festivals you need a theme.
This first time event in the NorCal area was the initial stop of the six event Fest Series. Now in its second year, the Fest Series events have grown quickly in Europe with a mystic, not-open-to-the-general public and only invited riders can participate vibe. No big sponsors, TV coverage or prize money, just riders wanting to hang and shred together for a week and media there to document it.
A low key, super chill style suits those that come out: no pressure to win for sponsors, just ride with your friends and check your ego at the gate. Invited riders are from all styles: Top FMB names like Brandon Semenuk and Crankworx New Zealand winner Brett Rheeder rip alongside big mountain names like Kurt Sorge, Graham Agassiz and last year’s Rampage winner Andreu Lacondeguy. The Euro contingent also consisted of Nico Vink, Makken Haugen and Nick Pescett. It even included World Cup downhill racers when Bas van Steenbergen showed up with his brother Tom.
CruzFest was the brainchild of Kyle Jameson, Ryan Howard and Jeff Herbertson, all Rampage riders and locals, after attending the Hillbilly Huckfest in Norway last year as part of the initial Fest Series. All they needed was a location, so motocross rider Arik Swan was contacted. The Swan family’s compound is a huge chunk of land in the hills above Santa Cruz complete with a motocross track. After doing their event pitch and walking the site the seed was planted.
The course was laid out in a hidden valley with two drop-in points leading to major features. Skidders along with a backhoe and lots sweat from local riders created huge jumps out of the black earth. Berms were sculpted and a ghetto car jump was moved into place. In the end they had a 30 foot step-up to hip that led into a massive 42 foot double. After landing, options included a shark fin into a 60 foot stepdown table or turn and jump the “Deity Car”, rail a berm and hit a 30 foot hip to table.
Soon after starting it became clear that this was no regular event when Supercross racer Tyler Bereman fired up his motorcycle and joined in with Lacondeguy on a bicycle hitting up the big line.
CruzFest also contains a festival vibe with klunker rides, mini-moto races and dirt track shenanigans. Barbeques and beers added to the scene to make this first time stop in the U.S. an epic event within the international series.