Emails from Ecuador #7

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After a long first day on the beach, it was a nice relief for some of the team to be able to have a lie in this morning. Some of our surfers wouldn’t have a heat at all today, and some of the others would be lucky to have an afternoon heat time so would be able to enjoy a precious extra couple of hours in bed. With the latest breakfast call since we arrived in Ecuador being 7am, this was quite a luxury to be savored.

For the team members that would be in action early or for anyone that wanted to free surf before the beach was closed for competition, the first bus departed for the contest at 6:30am. The mornings on the beach are fantastic as the temperatures are cool and its nice to watch all the other teams and competitors arrive and go through their routines to get prepared for the day. The anticipation builds leading up to 8am when the announcer comes on the PA to clear the water of free surfers to start the days action.

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Like on day one, our first surfer for the day was Jake Elkington. This time surfing on the main peak on the live webcast, Jake’s heat was a tricky one to call. With the point breaking, but approaching high tide, the previous heats had been split with surfers paddling to the top of the point or sitting on the beach break on the inside. Head Coach Lloyd Cole and Jake decided on a strategy of getting a couple of quick scores on the inside peak before paddling up to the point to try and secure a couple of set waves to try and build house.

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Jake executed the plan to perfection, getting two nice early waves on the inside peak before making the paddle to the point. Once out on the point Jake showed how good a surfer he is when wearing a competition vest. He held his position against the other surfers and found himself on a couple of good looking waves. Unfortunately with the high tide, the backwash off the cliff was making it really hard to read the wave and execute turns. Unfortunately Jake came victim to the backwash and fell on the wave that could have seen him progress to qualifying round 3. Jake was so unlucky to not progress, but just like yesterday he impressed a lot of people on the beach with his performance.

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Our second surfer in the water was Peony Knight in the first heat of the under 18 girls on podium B. Peony had been surfing really well in front of the podium leading up to the start of competition and would be able to draw on the countless number of waves she had ridden out there during the training for the event. Surfing against and Australian who she had beaten at last year’s event, Peony paddled out with confidence. Securing a nice early wave to work with, Peony was composed and waited for the right opportunity.  The Australian found a couple of the better waves to secure first, but Peony was always in control of second place and her place in round 2. Before the heat was over Peony had secured another couple of waves to be in a solid position and was able to breath easy for the last few minutes, keeping half an eye on the surfer in third place.

The next two surfers for Team GB were in the water at the same time. Harry De Roth was over on the point at Peak A, while team captain Ellen Harding followed Peony in action on podium B. Ellen was surfing against last years winner of the event, Tatiana Weston Webb from Hawaii and a high seeded Peruvian surfer. An extremely hard heat, but Ellen was focused and determined when she paddled out. As expected it didn’t take Tatiana long to impose her dominance on the heat, leaving Ellen to fight it out with the Peruvian for second. Both surfers went toe to toe and had similar scores in their exchanges. However, Ellen just failed to ride out of a couple of turns leaving the door open for the Peruvian to sneak through.

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Over on the point Harry was battling away in a four man heat to progress into qualifying round 3. Harry was the highest performing surfer in the event for Team GB in 2013 and was determined to stay in the main draw despite a tricky heat. Harry secured a couple of nice waves and surfed well to secure two scores in the mid two point range. Unfortunately for Harry, he failed to find himself in position for one of the better set waves off the top of the point that would have given him the opportunity to get the score he required to progress into one of the top two places in the heat.

By now the intense heat had kicked in and the team took shelter in our tents to hydrate and wait for our lunch to arrive with our team members coming from camp at midday. Once everyone had smashed their spaghetti and Gatorade it was time to venture back out into the heat for consecutive under 16 girls heats on podium B. Surfing in their first world championships, Ruby Breadon and Bethan Lewis were unfortunate to have their heat on dead low tide on podium B. The waves were closing out on the shallow bank with consistency and there were very few corners to be found on the long walls that would offer any opportunity to perform maneuvers. There were very few waves ridden by all surfers in both the girls’ heats and they were both equally unlucky to go out needing low scoring waves.

Always one of the hardest heats to surf is the last one of the day. Having to wait and watch everyone else surf can be frustrating and when you have to wait through the midday sun it is a challenge to stay hydrated, fresh and focused into the late afternoon. Team captain Taz Knight was the surfer that had to do exactly that today and would bring the action to a close on the webcast on the main podium. Focused on trying to give a captains performance and be able to end the day on a high to boost team morale, Taz paddled straight out to the point to get in the thick of things and try and take off on a bomb.

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Like everyone that had surfed before him for team GB, Taz performed to a level more than capable of getting through the heat. However, he was unlucky to miss securing a set wave on one good set and leaving the door open for his opponents. Taz did ride a couple of strong waves, allowing him to apply his unique fast and powerful style on his backhand. Unfortunately for Taz and all of Team GB standing on the beach cheering and supporting their captain, Taz missed out on a place in the next qualifying round and will join everyone other than his sister Peony in the repercharge rounds.

Tomorrow is do or die. The majority of surfers compete in the sudden death 15-minute heats of the repercharge. Although everyone is disappointed that they are not still progressing in the main draw, confidence has been taken from the fact nobody has been completely out surfed. The whole team have had opportunities to move through heats, but just failed to get over the final hurdle by narrow margins. A lot of huge names and high seeds have fallen early on, so confidence can be taken from this. Tomorrow is another day.

Over and out…

John Ellis

Team Manager

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