Competition in the 2013 ISA World Junior Surfing Games got underway at Playa Santana today in perfect 3-4ft conditions. Easily the best surf we have experienced since arriving in Nicaragua almost a week ago. When we arrived at the beach in the morning, the team was pleased to see that the large swell from the previous two days had finally calmed down and turned into the dream forecast for ISA contest directors.
The scale of the event site at Playa Santana is huge, with large grandstands, numerous refreshment areas, a fantastic athletes village and two contest peaks to hold all the action. We arrived at the beach early following our team breakfast, keen to make sure we had everything in place to provide a comfortable environment for everyone surfing to be able to perform at their best.
The day’s action took the team through a roller coaster of emotions. There were definitely some nerves, lots of excitement, at times frustration and on my part immense pride to be at my first World Surfing Games with such a great team of athletes and coaches. Despite a late night following the opening ceremony in San Juan Del Sur, I was wide-awake at 4am psyching to have the honor of leading the team into battle alongside Head Coach Lloyd Cole and Assistant Coach Gwen Spurlock.
Rhys Barfield in the boys under 16 division was the star performer of the mornings early heats. Rhys surfed an extremely mature and professional heat. Always keeping his cool, he achieved his two wave scores within 15 minutes. Rhys always looked in control and once there were only a few minutes remaining in his heat, he protected his lead with a dominant defensive strategy to secure his progression into round 2.
Max Payne followed immediately after in the under 16 boys division. Max was able to find a reasonable scoring wave early on and had the experience to catch a small inside wave immediately after he started to paddle back out. Although he wouldn’t quite achieve the score he would have been hoping for, having two waves gave him a slight advantage over his opponent in 3rd place. Holding a stronger position, Max was able to push his opponent into the rip and out of position. It was an extremely tense affair, but Max got the job done and was able to hold on to his slender lead to remain in the Progression rounds of the draw.
While the under 16 boys were doing battle on podium 2, over on the main podium webcast, team captain Miles Lee Hargreaves was in action. Surfing against a top Hawaiian seed, an Argentinian and a local Nicaraguan on his home turf, Miles had an extremely hard job on his hands. With a huge local crowd in the grandstand cheering on their compatriot, Miles didn’t get off to a flying start. The waves didn’t come Miles’s way, and it wasn’t until he made the decision to paddle onto a different peak with 5 minutes to go, that he was able to achieve the score he required to progress into second place and a spot in round 2.
Harry De Roth in the Under 16 division was the last Team GB surfer to paddle out on the first day. Watching all your peers in action and having to occupying your time through the day whilst remaining focused is never an easy task. Harry was also the only under 16 surfer to have to compete on podium 1 in front of the large crowd and webcast. Early on in the heat, all of these external factors seemed to be having an affect on Him. However, although he gave the rest of the team cheering from the shore a slight scare, Harry was able to find his feet towards the end of the heat. Drawing on all his experience and ability, he secured himself 2nd position to progress into round 2. Ending the day with a victory was a huge boost to the team and everyone on the beach raced down to the waters edge to congratulate Harry before packing up to head back to the team hotel on a high.
If we were to have been given a report card at the end of the first day for our performance, it would probably read “Good, but at times could all do a little better”. The good news is that all our surfers are still in the competition due to the Repercharge rounds. When talking to Lloyd at the end of the day he said “Hopefully tomorrow more of the British Bulldog mentality in everyone will come out and we can push through all our heats over the next couple of days to progress as far as this talented British Team deserves”
Over and Out….