A week since we started on our journey to Ecuador, the ISA World Junior Surfing Games commenced this morning. After a great five days of training and team selection, it was nice to finally be heading to the beach to compete in the contest. On the drive to the beach in the first van that left the team camp at 6, the atmosphere was electric. The tunes playing on the stereo were high tempo and energetic to try and kick-start our bodies into performing in the same way.
The majority of the work to set up our team base at the beach had been done the night before. While our guys headed out for a free surf, the coaching team completed a few finishing touches to the decor. Additional Union Jack flags were bound to every spare pole, banners got cable tied to fences and umbrellas and cool boxes got branded with GB logos using Posca pens. Assistant Coach Damon Beveridge even built board racks from bamboo and made washing lines and rucksack hangers from twine and drift wood. We couldn’t have had a better looking tent if Ray Mears and Bear Grylls had both come out of the bush to give us a hand.
Once the surfers returned from the water, it was straight to work and into the action. Team Physio Lisa Piper started individual warm ups and fitness checks as Head Coach Lloyd Cole and Damo started their pre heat preparations with the surfers. We were off to a busy start with 4 heats in the first hour and a half on both peaks. On Peak A Rhys Barfield would have the honor of surfing in the first heat of the games along with Jake Elkington on peak B.
Rhys had an unlucky heat and was unable to find the back up score he needed late on in the heat to hold on to second place. Over on peak B Jake made a great start to his campaign with an extremely mature and polished performance. Coming second to a strong Hawaiian surfer, Jake never put a foot wrong and progressed passed a high ranking and talented Costa Rican.
In the second two heats of the event for Team GB, Will Bailey surfed extremely well in the under 18 division over on podium A. Selecting good waves and surfing strong, Will unfortunately didn’t manage to ride out of his final maneuver on his best wave, which cost him a place in round 2 of the main draw. Over on peak B, Sonny Perrussel left it too late to start to gather momentum in the heat and didn’t have enough time to replace the scores when he started to find his feet.
By now the sun had started to get intense on the beach, so shade was at a premium. Lucky for Team GB we have our lucky Irish charm in the form of Gearoid McDaid. Having G Man in the camp means Team GB have an extra gazebo at our base, so there is plenty of space to relax and find some shelter. As Damo was starting to curse his own Gaelic genes as he practically melted in the increasing heat, G-Man arrived at the beach on the second bus, pumped to get in the water for his heat.
Having G-Man in the camp has been such a positive experience for our team. A great guy to have around, always up for the craic and an absolute animal in the water, every member of Team GB was on the waters edge to support Gearoid and cheer him on. His heat was the first to be held on the main left hand point as the tide dropped out enough for the wave to start to break. There were very few waves that came through the whole of the heat, but when they eventually did, G-Man didn’t hold back. He ripped the bag out of two waves, got first place and casually strolled back up the beach with the Irish flag around his shoulders. Job Done.
In an equally impressive heat over on podium B, last years highest ranking British surfer at the event Harry De Roth got his 2014 campaign off to a good start. Strong onshore winds and a tricky low tide bank didn’t faze Harry. He found the spot in the lineup to get himself on the corner of a couple of waves to link his maneuvers and maintain his place in the progression rounds of the draw.
By now the heat of the sun was enough to melt the pen on physio Lisa Piper’s clip board as she patrolled the podiums monitoring the running order of the heats. Due to lots of teething problems with the ISA’s operating systems, the contest was now over an hour behind schedule. Damo had adapted his Robie Robe into a handy sun protector, and employed me to follow his every step into direct sunlight holding an umbrella over his head like his personal Geisha. Not a role I thought would be in my job description, but I’d like to think of myself as a team player, so I played along.
In the final two heats of the day, Arran Strong paddled out on podium B while Angus Scotney surfed in the under 18 division against a high seeding Hawaiian and Costa Rican who came third in the event in 2013. Arran unfortunately got boxed out of the heat by the other two surfers and struggled to get away from them to secure the scores he needed. Angus on the other hand was putting on a stellar performance on the main podium. Securing set waves and utilizing his powerful backhand on the left hand point, Angus was only a couple of points off taking first place from the Hawaiian and sitting comfortably in second place over the Costa Rican.
Right at the death the Costa Rican managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and find two quick waves to advance into second place. Due to the low late evening sun and the noise from the large crowd on the beach, Angus struggled to see the lights being used by the ISA instead of a disc to mark the finish of the heat. He caught a set wave from the top of the point thinking the heat was over and rode it prone to the beach. Only needing a small score to advance, when he got close enough to the beach and realized his error, the wave died out. A tough thing to happen, but he will take huge confidence from his surfing and move into the repercharge rounds desperate to make amends.
Another busy day is scheduled tomorrow with more qualifying rounds for the boys and the start of competition for both girls divisions. I’m off to make sure Damo hasn’t got sun stroke.
Over and out…