Our daily routine is well dialed in now that we have been at our camp for over a week. Starting our third day of competition, we have ironed out all the little glitches in our logistics and preparation to make sure all of our team has the best chance of arriving at the beach in time to do all they need to prepare for their heat. We have three departure bus times from our accommodation to avoid surfers having to spend the whole day baking in the sun from sunrise to the end of the day’s competition. This morning all the surfers in the mornings heat were up for the first breakfast sitting and into our team vehicles to drive to the beach at the usual time of 6:30am.
On arrival at the beach the scene was overcast and even slightly drizzly. Compared to what we have experienced since we arrived in Ecuador, this was certainly the most miserable morning we have experienced with the weather. However, the rain couldn’t dampen the mood of our surfers and their attitude. As the coaching team were setting up camp, making sure the days running order was on display and our cool boxes were full with bottles of water, our surfers were already commencing their individual contest preparation.
Getting our biggest day of completion underway on podium B was Ruby Breadon, followed immediately after by Bethan Lewis in the girls under 16 repercharge round 1. The good thing about our schedule for today was that none of our surfers were in the water at the same time on separate podiums. This is a massive advantage as it allows us to not only focus all our coaching resources to one place, but means we can generate a full cheering squad on the waters edge. This can have a great impact on a surfer in the water, and really help drive them through the heat.
Head coach Lloyd briefed both Ruby and Bethan with a heat strategy and lineup for where to sit in the water. In both heats this worked like a dream, and both girls found themselves in the perfect spot to catch the easy paced waves running off the corner of the bank, while all the other girls struggled to find their rhythm on the fast close out sets slightly further up the beach. Both Ruby and Bethan surfed the heat of their lives and advanced through in second place respectively. On such a big day of competition it was a highlight of the trip so far to see how well both Ruby and Bethan performed. Their results acted as a massive morale boost to the team and kick started what would turn out to be a very memorable day.
There was no time to dwell on our great start to the day. Immediately after the girls heat was Sonny Perrussel in the under 16 boys repercharge round 1. He was on the beach observing the lineup and formulating a plan with Lloyd on how to execute the heat. Sonny is much too good a surfer to exit the competition without making it through a heat. He was unlucky and bitterly disappointed not to advance through his first qualifying round heat and was determined to show the world how he can perform. Sonny seems to be immune to pressure and one of those athletes that actually thrive on it and give their best performances when the heat is on. As soon as he entered the water, you could just sense that there was no way he was going to let this heat slip through his fingers.
There were some smaller runners on offer around the lineup, but this time Sonny took off on the set waves and each time he made sure he threw his board up into the lip and executed a big re-entry. Surfing to the criteria, the judges like what they saw and awarded him with a 4.5 and a 6 for his two highest scoring waves. He was always in the lead and never looked like loosing it. The hooter sounded, Sonny high fived his opponents and Team GB continued their perfect start to the days action.
Everyone relocated onto the main podium being broadcast live on the webcast. Peony Knight was surfing her round two, under 18 girls qualifying round heat and as our last surfer still in the main draw, everyone was on the waters edge with flags and whistles to support her through the heat. Surfing against another Brit in the heat, Emily Williams from Wales got off to a good start and was up and riding early on. Peony got a couple of waves to advance up the heat rankings, but it wasn’t until mid way through the heat that Peony secured her best wave that would put her in second place.
With a small swell and high tide, the heat was being surfed on the beach break instead of out on the point, and this seemed to suit Peony’s style. Able to pick the rights running towards the rocks, Peony was able to link her turns together and look more at home. Everyone on the beach was cheering and thinking about celebrating the perfect start continuing, when white popped up on the best wave that broke throughout the whole heat and linked 3 strong turns and a finish together. Right at the death Peony was relegated into 3rd place and left with no time to try and answer back.
After a short break everyone was back over onto podium two for Arran Strong’s repercharge heat. Arran has been the most consistent performer throughout our time in Ecuador, surfing to the criteria every time he enters the water. Rarely having a bad heat, he would just need to find the form he has been showing to progress. As soon as the hooter sounded, Arran got busy using his forehand to build his scores and link his turns. Sitting in a similar place on the bank to where Sonny had found his waves, Arran was in second place when the hooter sounded, whistles started blaring and the beach announcer started to go crazy on the microphone. There was a moment of confusion as there was still 5 minutes remaining in the heat and surfers started to return to the shore.
It soon became clear that there was a shark in the lineup as both water patrol jet ski’s circled to try and chase it away. As the crowd stood on the beach, watching the proceedings and trying to get visual contact of a fin cruising above the surface, Arran stood on the beach with Lloyd trying to stay focused on his heat and hoping to get back in the water to finish the job off. After what seemed like days stood around waiting, the call was made to put the contest on hold while a helicopter carried out a check of the area. Everyone headed back to their team tents and waited for the next call.
After and hour we returned to the podium to finish off the heat. Arran collected his rash vest as the team set up camp on the shoreline. Just as the head judge was about to send the surfers back into the water to restart the heat, the horrible sound of frantic whistling was heard. The lifeguards ran down the beach again pointing and shouting, clearly indicating that our large toothed friend had returned to spoil Arran’s party. Without much hesitation the days competition was called off and all teams packed up and left the beach.
Slightly disappointing that our incredible day had come to a premature end, everyone is now even more psyched up to make tomorrow even better. We will be at the beach bright and early to watch Arran compete his heat and then there is another massive day lined up for our surfers, as long as the local marine life allows.
Over and out…