Faces of Surf-Marciano Cruz

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Lead by Example

Pleasure Point’s Marciano Cruz uses his experience as an immigrant to inspire others

By Neal Kearney

 

A young boy wanders outside of his neighborhood in San Pablo Huxtepec, in Oaxaca, Mexico, allured by gleeful noise of children playing in the streets. Before he realizes it, he’s walked straight into a large celebration. The six- year- old almost fled, but was halted by the hypnotic dance of a colorful, candy stuffed piñata tied to a tree, swaying in the wind. He sees the group of ten-year-old boys lined up in a row in the street. A man approaches.

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“Would you like to race?” he asks benevolently. The boy looks down. He’s barefoot, wearing hole ridden pants, tied together with a rope around his waist. He looks up at the other kids. They are all wearing new shoes and shorts. They are also all laughing. At him. He hesitates for a moment, but the thought of all that candy dancing around inside that purple and yellow piñata firms his resolve. He nods his head at the man and approaches the line. The man blows a whistle and the boys are off. The older boys blaze past the barefooted boy. But not for long.

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Talking over coffee in a quaint, yet hip Pleasure Point coffee shop, I listen to Marciano, “Chango”, Cruz recount this defining moment in his life. One that instilled a courageous approach to a living where the odds have been stacked against him his entire life. I’m transfixed by Cruz’s story, an intimate insight into the life of a man I’ve known for over twenty years.

“Little by little, I started passing everyone and before I knew it I had won! The man who got me to enter the race tried to grab me to celebrate my win and I got so scared (laughs). I was so shy that I got scared and I started to run away. So I kept running out of that place and didn’t even get any candy (laughs)”

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Cruz has been living in Pleasure Point for the past twenty years and is recognizable in the lineup by his dark brown Mayan features, loud laughs and piercing whistles of excitement. Despite learning the sport in his thirties, the Oaxacan native has honed his longboarding technique over the years, become a very skilled and valued member of the Point’s surfing scene.

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He’s also been serving the community at large for over twenty years, namely his efforts at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and organizing, “La Liga De La Comunidad”, an all-ages soccer league that is one of the largest in the County. Despite his successes in life, Cruz still must continually worry about assimilation into a country where people of color like himself are constantly up against the ropes.

Born in 1963, Cruz didn’t see his father very often as a kid, as he would head to the United States to work. Like most young boys, Cruz idolized his absent father, and Cruz missed him desperately while he was gone. One time when he was six, his dad brought home something that would come to signify Cruz’s life forever.
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“One time, he (Cruz’s father) came back from the States and brought a back a watch; one of the watches that when you push a button it lights up. At the time I couldn’t believe it, and I became so curious about all the things I’d never seen before in my land or my life”.

This fascination with the wonders of American life and a strong desire to not only be with, but to be like his dad, are the catalysts which prompted Cruz to join a large group of young men on an illegal border crossing. Cruz was 13. When he arrived at the border, he called his father. He told him not to come to where he was. He was afraid Marciano would face hardship because he was brown. Cruz was crushed, but with no money, he kept running North.

It wasn’t long before Cruz began working in Moss Landing. He lived in Watsonville, and it was there that he was exposed to the life of the streets for the first time. “We went to a dance in Watsonville,” Cruz recalls. “One of my friends got stabbed. That was the first time I saw little gangsters in the street or people that relate to the streets. I got attracted to the streets; because of the way they defended us a and gave us a way to survive”.

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In the late 1970’s, Cruz and some friends moved to the Beach Flats area of Santa Cruz. It was becoming a dangerous place, infested with crime and drugs. Yet it also offered sanctuary to the marginalized members of society; who felt strength in numbers and easier ways to make money than picking strawberries in a hot field all day, even if it meant crime or violence. Over the years, this affiliation caused Cruz trouble with the law, yet he continued to hang out with his trouble-making crew until 1989, when his world changed forever.

“I met a woman– a beautiful woman with red hair from Michigan. She became my wife and I started trying to change my life. I started to work in the Parks and Recreation cleaning up the Beach Flats because I got in trouble there, and she soon became pregnant with my first child, Anthony. Seeing my son being born changed my life because seeing this little guy made me look back on things and the way I lived my life– and I didn’t want him to go through what I did, so I started working hard to fit in this society.”

This community outreach started in the form of Cruz speaking about injustice in American society. Cruz caught the attention of Scott Kennedy, who was the vice mayor and co-founder of the Resource for Non-Violence. Kennedy would prove to be Cruz’s largest supporter and gave him the support he needed to turn his life around.

“Nobody believed in me more than Scott,” Cruz admits emotionally.  “He knew I wanted to survive and see my kid. He sent me through a lot of trainings to be different and to maybe learn more about living in our society. So, through that, the courage came to start doing things in the community.”
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Cruz started a Kids Club that was successful in the Flats; a place for kids to go on field trips and to do positive things to do in their community. Cruz began to volunteer at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and, along with his public speaking, he started a Kids Club that found great success. It was a safe place for kids to go on field trips and to do positive things to do in their community, as opposed to falling victim to drugs, gang life, and crime.

It was during this transformative time that Cruz moved to Pleasure Point and learned to surf. He was learning at the same time as his six-year-old son, Anthony, and soon became hooked. The healing powers of the sea became a new focus for Cruz, and he translated that energy by introducing his Kids Club participants to the sport as well.
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“Water is an extension of life,” contends Cruz.

“I believe the water heals the mind and spirit, and it allows me to help people as much as I can. It gave me the strength to be able to survive; to allow me the stability to help my family and help my community. To share this gift with the children of our community is a blessing”.

You’d think that for someone who’s worked so hard to change not only their own life, but the lives of countless others would be rewarded later in life with comfortable means to live. This is not the case for so many Latinos like Cruz in our country. The man must scrape by to afford to support his family, which now includes two more daughters, Esperanza, and Susana. He stays afloat by landscaping and selling some of his paintings, images that are based heavily around Cruz’s past and identity: La Virgen de Guadalupe, the Mexican Flag, Mayan statues, among others.

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Even with his own economic struggles, Cruz has selflessly sacrificed time and money for his community, especially with La Liga. If a player can’t afford cleats or jerseys, especially kids, Cruz will dig into his own savings to make sure that there’s enough resources for his players. He understands that meeting to play soccer every week and having the camaraderie of La Liga behind them, the Latino youth of the area will have positive alternatives to the streets to occupy their time.

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Resource Center for Non-Violence co- founder Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, can’t praise Cruz enough for his work—especially his efforts with La Liga de Comunidad.

“Cruz’s dedication, especially for the kids has been amazing. The league brings together people from different sides of town, of the county, different gang identified areas to play soccer.  I think it was an important means of violence prevention and community building among immigrants”, says Klotz-Chamberlin.
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Cruz knows both sides of being an immigrant, from the positive people who helped him assimilate like Kennedy to those who judged him for the color of his skin.

“I know it’s hard to change everyone, but this is the philosophy I live by; if you help just one person in this world, that person can help others. That’s what I believe. We have a lot of successful youngsters that I’ve coached who’ve ended up playing for Carmel and Salinas High Schools. The idea is to keep guiding, to keep encouraging others to be positive and do positive things in society around us, that’s what keeps me going”.

In 2008, the Mayor of Santa Cruz proclaimed May 12th, Marciano Cruz Day.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Resource Center For Non-Violence contact them at

831-423-1626
rcnvinfo@gmail.com

612 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA
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An edited version of this story was featured in Santa Cruz Waves

HOMETOWN HUCK!

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Who will win? All will be revealed come June!!!

Hometown Huck

Life At Sea’s Tim Ward Offers $$$ to the biggest boost!!

By Neal Kearney

Surf progression is fueled by many things: organized competition, bitter rivalries,  cross-training, and a deep pool of iconic influencers and paradigm shifters. Borderline mythical Earth-shakers, from the Duke to Dane, continually redefine the way we look at riding waves. Add in the continual evolution of surfboard and wetsuit design, advent of life saving safety vests and the utilization of jet-ski assistance, and you’ve got some strong forces propelling advancement.

How else can the limits be stretched? In the name of progression, Santa Cruz-based artist Tim Ward and his “Life At Sea” brand, are offering a $15,000 purse for their best-maneuver-caught-on-video competition called “Hometown Huck”. Waged between local Santa Cruz surfers and their respective filmers, this contest awards a honking hunk of cheddar to the craziest display of gravitational gymnastics.

A full $10k of that purse goes to 1st Place, and prize money has a partial split to the winning filmers. Bitchin’! The window started in 2017 and will end on May 31st of this year. With less than a month remaining to submit entries, this is a clarion call to all local punters to utilize the remaining days concentrating on corking out and submitting their clips before time runs out!

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Monsieur Ward

Life At Sea is a Santa Cruz influenced line of stickers, patches, keychains, and more.  Most visible locally, are the Monarch, Octopi, Mermaid, Shark, Poppies and other local flora-and-fauna bumper stickers. They are everywhere! Straight from the ever-inspired and creative Ward, the newest designs include a line of Surf Rat, Anchor, Black Flag, and other nautically themed designs.

Now, along with going global with various designs customized for many locales, the brand has donated nearly $50,000 to ocean cleanup and preservation so far, as well as donating toward our local Monarch Sanctuary at Natural Bridges. A portion of every Life At Sea purchase goes toward these honorable causes–which is fuckin’ dope!

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Ward’s iconic TR Productions logo

Ward is noted for his cartoon strips in the dearly departed Transworld Surf, as well as designing globally recognized graphics for brands like O’Neill and the Monterey Marine Research Vessel. He is also a stylish surfer, deep thinker, and great friend. With the Hometown Huck contest, Ward and Life at Sea are offering up $10K to the local Santa Cruz surfer who captures themselves launching the craziest air during the contest window, which started in 2017 and will end on May 31st, 2018.

This kinda aerial competition isn’t unprecedented. In 2008, Volcom announced they would award a ten-grand purse for a completed kickflip on a surfboard caught on tape, fueled in large part by team rider Ozzy Wright’s obsession and near-makes.

Zoltan Torkos, local Santa Cruz surfer and magician, sent Volcom an entry of him landing a, to be fair, “credit card”, kickflip. Volcom said no dice. Not above the lip, a condition clearly stated in the rules. The internet didn’t agree, and the Youth Against Establishment caved to public pressure ultimately awarding Torkos the cash.

The “Hometown Huck”, is basically the same idea, just on a local level and without restrictions on any particular type of air; much like the 50K payout won by Dusty Payne in 2008’s Kustom Airstrike campaign. Also, this aint’ no corpo publicity stunt, just a creative individual trying to pump out some flair and froth in a dying, core surf scene.

I recently chatted with Ward about his passion project and here’s what he had to say…

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Ward Floats the Boat

You’ve been fortunate to have such success with your Life At Sea bumper stickers over the past decade or so. Is this contest a way of bringing back the creativity that Santa Cruz surfers have long been known for?

Great question. I was just thinking the other day, that Santa Cruz has pretty much invented the air, more than once. Kevin Reed in the very beginning, on a single-fin no less. Then Ratboy many years later, in an amphitheater setting at the (Steamer) Lane, when he split the peak with Slater and stole the show with an epic, futuristic Backside 360. Both KR and Ratboy were mag covers. I love the fact that Santa Cruz has such a prominent role in progressive surfing.

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Ratty smokes Slates with the “Air Heard Around the World”

When/how did you decide to pursue this competition? Were there any specific inspiration or “Eureka!” moments in the brainstorming process?

Honestly, I feel fortunate to have had some of my art take off the way it has, and I simply came from a wave-sketching grommet-hood. The words, “Hometown Huck”, recently hit me as an event name, combined with a mental image of  Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn surfing on a fence post . That was it- I wanted to do something new, to give back to SC surf roots, and the Huck Finn idea/image was pretty damn fun.

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The Wily Bastard himself, Huckleberry Finn

What kinds of moves are you personally hoping to see? A twist on an old favorite, or one that you’ve never seen or knew existed?

It would be awesome to see a backflip in contention, but I have no preference. Any burly move is a burly move. If you rotate, great, but if you do a huge straight air, great!

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Without being too intrusive, how did you come up with the prize money. 10K is a considerable chunk o’ cheese!

The dough comes from the Life At Sea brand sticker/decal sales all over California, Florida, now in Hawaii and beyond. The purse was originally $5k, with a two-month shooting period, last summer (2017). That year was very flat, so I extended the window to an entire year–combining the money from that initial attempt with that of this year, 2018.

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Noah “Waggy” Wegrich

 

Who are some of the local surfers whose entries you are excited to see? Any solid entries so far?

I’m not one of the Huck judges, so I’ll just give my own personal viewpoint and nothing else. The standout to me, with just weeks remaining are: Waggy (Noah Wegrich) with a huge frontside straight air and Shaun Burns with a frontside full rotor. And if we’re being honest, the actual skill and dedication required to stick the kickflips Zoltan (Torkos) does, who knows who will be in the money.

Who makes the call for the winner, and what goes into the final decision?

The judges are Shawn Dollar, Bud Freitas and Kalu Coletta. Each will independently select their own top picks, which will then be merged for the final math.

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The “real” Santa Cruz is a distant memory, sadly. Is this an effort to shake up local rivalries and bring back the “core” or “nonconformist” reputation SC is known for?

I’d say it’s simply the result of an appreciation of progressive surfing- which does have a high degree of non-conformity. It’s purely for fun and for stoking some people out though…that’s it! Most of these #hometownhuck clips can be found on my Instagram @timwardart as well as Dave Nelson’s @nellysmagicmoments

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Artist Profile: Maia Negre

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Artist Profile-Maia Negre

If you live in Santa Cruz and you’re not an ocean lover, you should get your head checked…immediately. Other than scrooge-like land lubbers, it’s not a stretch to say that our local community has saltwater flowing through its collective veins. This affinity for the sea has produced countless Santa Cruz-centric surf films, brands, musicians, shapers, and artists. One such artist is the wonderful Maia Negre, whose dreamy oceanic artworks are truly are a sight to see.

Maia is a jewel in the Santa Cruz surf art scene, which includes artists like Tim Ward and F.J. Anderson. She brings a unique blend of photorealistic and abstract surfscapes to her art. The flowing lines in her wave paintings evoke a sense of movement, and much like a wave, they seem to carry you with them as you experience her artistry.

The following is an up-close and personal look into the world of an inspirational and sweeter- than- honey artist.

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Let’s start from scratch. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m an artist, and I paint. For most of my career I’ve worked on canvas or on paper. I’ve recently started painting on wood, which I’m really loving at the moment. I’ve also painted surfboards, done a large-scale glass mosaic, as well as a public mural project in Capitola.  I’ll hopefully be doing more mural projects in the very near future.

Very nice. How did you decide to become a professional artist?

I do it because I love doing it. Always felt like it was absolutely what I was meant to be doing.

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How do you work?

Mostly I paint indoors in my studio, where the lighting and environment is consistent, but the source of my inspiration comes from the outdoors – especially from the ocean.  I also usually work listening to music and drinking lots of coffee.

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Sounds like a good set-up. So, can you tell me a bit about your background and introduction to art?

My earliest training in art began at 5 or 6 years old, when I started playing piano and reading, writing, and composing music. Being born into a culturally diverse family (my mother is from Hong Kong, and my father is from France), some of my earliest memories were communicating non-verbally to my non-English-speaking grandparents and extended overseas family. Art and music bridged any cultural language barriers, so I’d play them music, sing, draw them pictures – mostly all expressions of love.

The reason my parents named me Maia, was because it was a name both the Chinese side and French side could pronounce.

In my late teens, I started surfing and taking college art classes. I later got my degree in Fine Art from San Jose State University and with a minor in business. I’ve been a full- time artist, pretty much ever since then.

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 In your eyes, what’s integral to the work of an artist?

Inspiration, time, and space to create.

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What about an artist’s role in society?

I think the artist’s role is to inspire and innovate. We are all artists on some level, and we can all remind each other how important it is to be creative and unique – in whatever field we might be in.

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How has your practice change over time and what art do you most identify with?

I think my practice has just gotten more refined and consistent over time, evolving with experiences and influences in my life.

I love art that evokes a sense of wonder. Art that is beautiful and inspiring – I think the world needs a lot more of that.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

Having courage, trusting the process, following your heart. Having the tenacity to keep doing what you’re doing and being true to yourself.

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What memorable responses have you had to your work?

The sense of serenity, joy and appreciation people have when connecting to my work, gives me a feeling I don’t even have the words to express.  It’s a beautiful cycle and inspires me to keep creating.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Not at all! My life, as an artist, has connected me with more people than I would have ever imagined, and on very beautiful and meaningful level. The time I get to create, when it’s just me, my brush and the canvas, is always a time I look forward to – and every part of the process.

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Note- Maia’s partnered up with Merge4 Socks, you now you can actually slide your feet into the tube in the comfort of your home, (and wear them anywhere! 😉 Merge4Socks are available at Santa Cruz Boardroom, SC Apparel, O’neill Surf Shops, Buell, Pacific Wave and more.)

Come meet Maia at her booth at the Capitola Art and Wine Festival, September 8th and 9th in front of Zelda’s on the Esplanade.

And follow her on Instagram @maianegre