Report by Simon Bassett
The 2011 BSUPA National championships were held at the usual venue of Watergate Bay in Cornwall. This year the forecast was looking good at 2-3 foot on Saturday with light offshore winds and Sunday a increasing swell 3-5 feet with a better period. When we got there Saturday morning we weren't disappointed –the sun was out the the swell had arrived were set for a great weekend of paddle surfing.
50 competitors were divided up into heats of 4 or 5 and each had 15 minutes to cut some shapes on the wave face. A panel of 3 judges would then score each wave ridden the best two wave scores added to get maximum points.
All the top seeds were spread across the the first round heats and the double reportage format meant the losers in each heat would get another chance.
The heats started just after 10 am, after the judges had made the criteria clear, big manouvers, linked turned and maximum use of the paddle – then the action started!
Right from the first heat it was clear the standard of paddle surfing had really moved up a gear. There were plenty of unknown riders ripping. Groups of riders had travelled from all over from the UK for the event; the boys from Jersey: Arran, Jon, and Tim. Joe, Nick and the men from the North. Simon, Ollie and Kingsbridge crew. Scotty and Neal From the Isle of Wight, Finn who had come across from Northern Ireland. Ryan and Mark and the Bournemouth posse, myself, Matt and Holly had come from the Witterings. Matt Smith, Jim, Mia, Abi and the others from Wales and the locals Adam and Alex. John and Marie had come from Bantham, Jock from Brighton and Gareth had made the journey from Surrey.
Through out the heats it was clear wave selection was critical with only 15 minutes, and later in the day 12 minutes, per heat- some heats had good sets others its was harder to get decent waves. Seeded riders Neal Gent and former fellow champ Jock Patterson lost their first round heats and had to battle back through the reportage. Mark 'Da Bull' Slater rode well, John Harvey from Jersey had some good bottom top turn combos. Finn Mullin constantly kept the pressure on through his heats. Arran Rowe aged 14 impressed everyone with fluid wave riding and looks a real contender for British champ in the future. Power surfer Matt Smith looked very strong, Gareth looked very solid through his heats making all the close sections with ease.
The ladies took to the water mid afternoon, as the first heat went into the water the waves picked up and almost immediately Abi suffered a snapped leash on the savage sandbar. There was enough ladies to run two rounds and a final, which is great to see, maybe next year even more ladies will enter. Holly Bassett, aged 13, decided to enter the ladies event instead of the juniors, the waves were powerful at this stage, breaking over the sandbar, but this did not phase Holly who took off on some great waves and charged them. Maria Buchanan was a strong contender from the start, riding the waves down the line as fast as she could. In the final all the ladies worked hard in the challenging conditions, but Maria took the win.
There was one heat for the Juniors which was the final, it was great to see younger SUPers coming into the sport. Arran Rowe had already impressed in the Men's event, so he went in as the favourite, but Robert, Max and Louie fought hard and Arran had to pull out all the stops to take the win.
As the men's final came at the end of the day 4 riders were left Scott Gardener Adam Zervas, Neal Gent, and Gareth Grant all had a good chance to win this so it was close final. Adam had the local knowledge, Neal the sheer determination and two previous British titles, Scott the hard charging big wave surfer and Gareth who so wanted this title. As the final started the light was fading it was touch a go whether it was going to be postponed and random sets made it tense for the riders. As the light faded the heat finished with Gareth as the well deserved winner.
Gareth Grant, Watergate Bay Waterman 2011.
Rich Marsh Event Organiser and BSUPA Chairman
"The standard of competition was world class and showcasing SUP Surf at its best, not only to the other competitors but to spectators on the beach. It also showed how the sport has developed in the space of a few short years. We also have some great up and coming talent in the Under 16's. A couple also entered the Open Men and rode to a high standard pushing some of the more established competitors and making them up their own performance.
Although there was a high level of competitiveness, the one thing that came across from the weekend was the camaraderie amongst everyone. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but it was also about taking part, watching fellow competitors and sharing experiences with one other after each heat. For many even when they were knocked out they just got back in the water and carried on enjoy the conditions."
Sunday morning brought a different weather choppier with with slight on shore breeze and bigger sets were rolling in. The distance course was set by the lifeguards for 6km across the bay with a start and finish through the set waves and a side on chop for the length of the course.
The start was brutal with some good size sets taking a few down, snapped leashes meant a couple of the riders didn't get off the beach, and the rest struggled. John Hibbard timed it perfectly and got out back with the minimum of fuss, but pretty much the whole rest of the field got taken down by a large series of set waves, once out back the next battle began.
Ryan James dominated the event and took a early lead. Recently back from doing well in the Battle of the Paddle events in California he had a 400m lead on his rivals and was clearly the winner of this event in the 14 ft class. John Harvey came in second place. Mark Slater powered his was into 1st place in the 12.6 class followed by by John Hibbard in 2nd place. You could see the carnage on the way in, big close out sets would fire through taking any one with them. Marie did well and came in 1st lady in tough conditions for a distance event.
The surf had picked up and there was some decent big closeouts coming through this didn't deter the riders from going out. Some of the heats the competitors would share one or two per wave to make a move because of the close outs, if you got it wrong you got washed back to the beach.
Some of the guys who had completed the distance and surfed the day before must have just been running on adrenaline. There were some rides into big close out sections i saw John Harvey and Jim Richardson hit some good sections. Scotty and Finn were going for every set wave.
In the final heat the closeout sets turned into a water meat grinder even from the top of the beach you could see the guys getting totally beaten in the close out sets. Apparently on the water the finalist there was a lot of great banter on the water, with the competitors shouting each other into bigger and bigger close outs, the bigger and uglier it looked, the more they went for it - it certainly looked impressive. Although most of riders only got to ride two waves each during the heat. All the finalists Jim, Matt, Finn, Neal and Gareth had a chance but Jim Richardson clinched the pole position with a fully committed off the lip on a close set.
It was a real pleasure to be in this event the competitive and friendly spirit here was amazing - riders were extremely respectful to each other before and after heats it was a great atmosphere on and off the water.
This event was also the largest turn out of SUP riders in UK this season!
BSUPA chairman Rich Marsh had pulled off a top event and all the signals are there that UK paddle surfing has turned a corner of higher performance from many individuals in surf and distance. The emergence of many new junior and youth riders is testament to this fact. Just goes to show, competitions can be so much fun!
Thanks to the BSUPA event team Rich Marsh, Phil Sangar, the Judges, Anton and Alison from Watergate bay, RNLI lifeguards, Photograhers Rob Jewell and Bob Berry, Matt Argyle and Neal Gent for Technical Advice during the event. BSUPA Claire Blacklock for sorting the trophys out.The sponsors Extreme Academy, Watergate Bay, Nalubeads, Power Balance, Circle One, Prosport Sunscreen, Curve, X-Paddle, Nah-Skwell, Indo Board, XM, Victory, SUPGlobal, Whiskey Jack Paddles, Lifeboat Tea, Westcountry Watersports, Falmouth Marine School & R.N.L.I
2011 BSUPA Mens National Wave Champion Results
1st Gareth Grant
2nd Scott Gardner
3rd Adam Zervas
4th Neal Gent
2011 BSUPA Womens National Wave Champion
1st Maria Buchanan
2nd Abby Ekingood
3rd Mi Richardson
4th Laura Williams
2011 BSUPA Under 16 Boys National Wave Champion
1st Aaran Rowe
2nd Robert Williams
3rd Max Wilson
4th Louie Harrow
2011 BSUPA Under 16 Girls National Wave Champion
1st Holly Bassett
2011 BSUPA Mens National Distance results 12'6" Class Champion
1st Mark Slater
2nd John Hibard
3rd Jim Richardson
4th Gareth Grant
2011 BSUPA Mens National Distance 14ft Class Champion
1st Ryan James
2nd John Harvey
3rd Dan Harlott
4th Tim Rowe
2011 BSUPA Womens National Distance 12'6" Class Champion
1st Maria Baucannan
Wave Expression - Sponsored by Westcountry Watersports, Truro
1st Jim Richardson
2nd Finn Mullin
3rd Gareth Grant
4th Matt Argyle
2011 Watergate Bay Waterman