Guzman, Isaiah. “Hundreds Pay Homage at Annual Jay Race.” Santacruzsentinel.com. N.p., 21 June 2014. Web. 23 June 2014.
CAPITOLA - The Jay Moriarity Memorial Paddleboard Race has always been more about honoring its selfless, joyous namesake than it has ever been about crowning a winner.
But if there was ever a person Jay’s loved ones were happy to see finish first, it was the young man who did on Saturday.
Capitola’s Aaron McKinnon, an apprentice of Frosty Hesson, the same man who mentored Jay, was the top overall finisher in the 13th annual race sponsored by Surftech. The 24-year-old McKinnon finished the 12-mile course from Capitola Beach to the Santa Cruz Wharf and back with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes and 1 second.
“Aaron is the epitome of what ‘Live Like Jay’ is. That guy always has a smile on his face,” said Kim Moriarity, Jay’s widow. She went silent for a moment, then smiled. “It makes me want to tear up. I’m so happy for him.”
Close to 400 people competed in 28 divisions and three separate events: the 12-mile race, the 2-mile race and the waterman challenge, which combined swimming and paddling. They came from all over California and even Hawaii to take part in an event that pays homage to the life-loving big wave surfer and all-around waterman depicted in the 2012 movie “Chasing Mavericks”.
“This is the race I’ve been wanting to win since I was a kid,” McKinnon said.
Coronado’s Carter Graves (2:11:04), 22, was the fastest women’s stock paddler. Other top times included Santa Barbara’s Matt Becker (1:54:15), 19, in men’s standup; Honolulu’s Morgan Hoesterey (2:08:38), 33, in women’s standup; Santa Barbara’s Ben Brewer (2:11:41), 16, in 18-under boys stock; Monterey’s Heivarii Atamu (2:18:26), 16, in the 18U boys standup; Soquel’s Kali’a Alexiou (2:19), 13, in the 18U girls standup; and Santa Barbara’s Abby Brown (2:31:49), 16, in the 18U girls stock.
Jay wasn’t the only person honored this year. Saturday’s race was dedicated to Frosty’s wife, Robin Janiszeufski “Zeuf” Hesson, who lost her 20-year battle with breast cancer in December. Zeuf, like Jay, was beloved in the waterman community for being a person who made others feel cared for and appreciated.
“I was definitely thinking of her the whole time,” McKinnon said, “not the competitors, not anything else. Just knowing how much love she had for all of us. This race helps spread that love.”
Frosty explained that “Live Like Jay,” to him, was about living with eyes for others.
“People forget that joy is such a precious thing, and you can find it in these little acts of kindness,” he said. “So when you say ‘Live Like Jay,’ to me that’s the meaning of ‘Live Like Jay.’”
McKinnon, Frosty said, embodies that.
“I’m very proud of him,” Frosty said. “He’s learning to accept how great he can be.”
Indeed, whatever good vibes Jay and Zeuf left were present on Capitola Beach, as the morning’s events segued into children’s events, all back dropped by calm water, sun and reggae on the sound system.
“(Jay) and Zeuf, they were two of the most inspiring people,” said Aptos’ Suzanne Riedlinger, 69, who finished in 2:50:40 and became friends with Zeuf in the water at Pleasure Point in the ’90s. “It’s a real loss, both of them, real loss to the water community, community in general. But we get to honor them …”