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Aron Bosworth | 03.05.2019

When professional surfer and Santa Cruz, California native Autumn Hays won $10,000 for placing first in the 2018's World Surf League Qualifying Series in Iquique, Chile, it was the first in the organization's history that a female surfer was awarded equal prize money as her male counterpart. For the 19-year old Santa Cruzan, the milestone victory was just as rewarding to honor her hometown. "Representing Santa Cruz, especially as a woman, is awesome," she exclaimed. Hays is frequently on the road--her jam-packed competition schedule has her in far-flung locales such as Australia, Japan, and Tahiti--yet she's always happy to return to Santa Cruz, the birthplace of mainland surfing. You're most likely to catch her surfing swells at Steamer Lane, the city's iconic break popularized by the classic surf flick "The Endless Summer." Fortunately we were able to catch up with her in a rare moment outside of the water.

When was the first time you hopped on a surfboard?

The first time I went surfing was with my dad at Cowells when I was six or seven. But, I didn't try shortboarding until probably 7th grade. I joined my middle school surf club because a bunch of my friends were in it, and I ended up really liking it. Once a week, we'd go surfing after school at Cowells or Indicators. That's what really got me into surfing. By 8th grade, I was competing on the surf team, and was surfing every day.

What would you tell young girls picking up a surfboard for the first time?

Don't be afraid to surf. Even through it can be really intimidating when the water is full of older guys, and there's not as many girls. Just get some waves, and prove to them that you can surf.

What gets you stoked about Santa Cruz?

Our waves are insane! Nearly every day of the year, there are good waves to be found. Surfing is the official lifestyle of Santa Cruz. Plus, you can go to mountains and hike amidst the redwoods. I've always been geared toward the outdoors, and love mountain biking local spots like Wilder Ranch State Park. But mostly, I'm surfing!

Where do you encourage visitors to go?

Go north to Davenport where you'll discover gorgeous, uncrowded beaches. It's also home ot my favorite spot to eat, Whale City Bakery. Their berry croissant is amazing. I'll enjoy that and some coffee before I hit the waves!

Autumn Hays is part of a legacy of surfing in the Santa Cruz area, and embodies its breezy outdoor lifestyle. Flanked by 29 miles of shoreline and lush, ancient redwood forests, Santa Cruz is a mecca for outdoor adventures. This spring, you can enjoy the surf, shores, and redwoods with a free, custom-tailored vacation in Santa Cruz County. As part of the Let's Cruz Vacation Giveaway, enter to win a Grand Prize which includes:

This customizable vacation getaway begins Friday, March 1, 2019 and continues through Friday, May 31, 2019. Be sure to Enter Here!





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70 miles south of San Francisco, 35 miles north of Monterey, and unabashedly left of center, you'll find great surf, sandy beaches, redwood-covered mountains, laid-back towns, organic farms, and a burgeoning beer and wine scene. It's impossible to pick one place to visit in Santa Cruz County. Take a quick cruz of them all!