Emails from Ecuador #9

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With a competition this large, there is always a day where it comes down to the wire and everything is on the line. The line up for Wednesday’s action was intense, with all our surfers in the water and some guys surfing twice. Wednesday was definitely going to be “D day”.

The coaching team, and the surfers who had an early heat set off for the beach at the usual time of 6:30. By the time the day’s action had finished, the coaches, and some surfers had spent over 12 hours on the beach. In intense heat, and going through a roller coaster of emotions, it is some achievement to stay on beach for that length of time and remain committed and focused. Head Coach Lloyd Cole, his assistant Damon Beveridge and Team physio Lisa Piper were amazing. The day ran like clockwork and they kept the surfers focused, motivated, physically prepared and most importantly hydrated. Being team manager when you have a team of people who are so good at their job makes my job seem easy and I can’t thank or praise the guys enough for their effort.

Our day got off to a good start, with Arran Strong not needing to catch a wave to advance through the final 5 minutes of his shark interrupted heat. Arran advanced through the first heat of the day to secure a place in the next round of the repercharge, which would be the last heat of the day on the same podium.

Following Arran was Rhys Barfield. Rhys surfed well and had found some lefts on the high tide bank up on podium B. He was sitting in second place after the first call from the beach announcer. Since the event started, there have been constant problems with the electronic scoring system the judges are using. It seems like almost every heat they are not able to read out scores and give vital updates to the surfers in the water regarding their positioning within the heat. Rhys was unfortunate to suffer the same fate, and thinking he was in Second place played tactics and stayed close to the surfer in white. When the buzzer sounded we thought that he had progressed. Rhys and the surfer in white left the water thinking the same thing. We were all in shock when the announcer finally read out the scores and Rhys had been relegated to 3rd position.

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After such disappointment, it was down to Will Bailey in the same under 18 division to lift the team back up after such a devastating blow following Rhys’s heat. Will quickly got to work and secured two waves within the first 6 minutes and was looking solid. As became a constant theme with our heats, there were no announcements from the tower to inform Will on placements. Towards the end of the heat, it turned out that Will was sitting just in 3rd place. A wave came through and Will took off, but there was limited opportunity for a maneuver. As will picked up speed traversing the wave, he arrived at the last section, needing a score and something special. With compete commitment, Will popped his board out the lip and landed an air reverse to get the score. The team on the beach went mental and Will secured a place to surf on the main podium later in the day.

The mood had now shifted from despair to joy and Angus Scotney paddled out for his heat with his chest out and full of confidence. After watching Will progress in the same division, there was no way Angus was going to let the team down. In the 15-minute heats of the repercharge rounds, there is no time to hang around and Angus found a nice right to unleash a full rail carve in the pocket to get his first score. He was then patient looking for his back up, but towards the end of the heat paddled into a left that allowed Angus to connect multiple turns on his backhand and advance into 2nd place and through the heat. Angus left the water full of confidence and looking forward to surf in the next round of the reps on podium one tomorrow. I for one cant wait to see Angus apply his backhand attack on the point break and anyone who is in his heat will be nervous after watching him get the highest wave score in his last heat on the wave a couple of days ago.

The attention now shifted to the girls, and one of our most consistent surfers Peony Knight entered the lineup. Peony had a busy heat, securing some foundation scores early on and then patrolling the lineup looking to try and improve them. Peony managed to replace one score with a small right that allowed her to force some turns, but she didn’t find the waves that would have put the nail in the coffin and make the heat comfortable. Peony did well to advance and stay in the contest, but she will be looking to find another gear and not leave the door open for her competitors in her next round.

Team Captain Ellen Harding was next in the water to surf for Team GB. By now the whole team had arrived at the beach and we had set up camp for the day in front of podium B, right on the waters edge and able to cheer on all our surfers in the water. Ellen paddled out to huge cheers and encouragement as following three wins in a row the team was on a high. Ellen found some small waves, but desperately needed to replace her scores and find a set wave. Despite her efforts she was unlucky not to find the spot in the lineup to get a score and was eliminated from the contest. Ellen has been an amazing captain and a veteran of 3 world championships with Great Britain. This is Ellen’s last year competing at this level and although it was sad to see her knocked out, Ellen should be extremely proud of how she has represented her country as captain and led by example in everything that she does around the other members of the group.Photo 10-04-2014 05 19 16

Following Ellen we had Ruby Breadon and Bethan Lewis surfing consecutively in the under 16 girls. Both girls had huge confidence from their performances the previous day and were much more determined to carry on in the competition. They both did so well, catching some good waves in two very close heats and giving themselves a real chance. Unfortunately at the end they both lost out to late scores and finished in 3rd. Bethan and Ruby have come the furthest as surfers at this competition and will be returning home as much better surfers and competitors to compete on the UK tour. If they continue to progress at the rate they have done this year, It will be good to see them at this event in 2015.

By now the team had surfed 8 heats and it had only just past lunchtime. With everyone competing for space in the shade as the midday sun was intense, we wrapped assistant coach up in Robie Robes and T shirts and forbid him to leave the shelter of the tent. The under 16 boys heats commenced and we had two of our most promising young surfers Sonny Perrussel and Jake Elkington surfing in back to back heats. Sonny was first to paddle out and after his performance the previous day, was feeling confident. Sonny continued from where he left off in has last heat, finding some big closeout sections to throw his board into. He was committed and focused and desperately wanted to get the result. Without being given the scores, we thought Sonny was sitting in second place. Unfortunately for us just at the end of the heat, he was beaten by a last second buzzer beater and lost out by 0.3 of a point. Sonny didn’t realize and left the water thinking he had got the job done. When he was told he had missed out by such a small margin, it is the only time since I have know Sonny that I haven’t seen him with a smile on his face from ear to ear. Everyone was devastated to see the disappointment, but he will be back even stronger next year and without a doubt will advance a lot further.

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Jake Elkington paddled out after his good friend Sonny and after seeing his

mate get knocked from the contest was even mo

re fired up to get a result. Jake has proven himself to be one of our most contest savvy and competitive performers and we had faith watching on the beach that he would be able to get the job done and get our campaign back on a positive track. Unfortunately the wave gods didn’t agree and Jake struggled to find the waves that would allow him to link the necessary two turns to get a mid range score to advance through the round. Like Sonny before him, “Elko” as he is known in the camp was heartbroken. Seeing young surfers dreams shatter before you is so hard to take. Jake has been amazing through all our training, always keen to learn and improve and the experience he has got from the time with the team will hopefully turn him into an even stronger gnarly competitor for next year.

Our camp moved down the beach to the waters edge of podium A. Will Bailey stood on the beach in front of the web cast and the world watching back home waiting to paddle out. He was facing a huge heat with Leonardo Fioravanti, a Brazilian and a surfer from Japan. All high seeded surfers who had found themselves in the under 18 repercharge rounds, 15 year old Will had a job on his hands. Our team gathered on the rocks overlooking the last section of the wave to cheer Will as he made the long paddle out to the point. The heat started and the other surfers found waves in the early sets, but didn’t do anything amazing. We all stood waiting, knowing that if Will could find a set wave his surfing was more than capable of taking care of the rest.

Will had a foundation score, but needed a 3.5 to get to second place. A set wedged up off the boil at the top of the point, and as we saw Will make his move the team on the rocks started to cheer, whistle and wave our flags. Will stood up on the wave and went absolutely bananas. Running all the way through to the beach, Bailey didn’t miss a single section. He surfed the wave of his life and the world got to watch it live. The team on the rocks were going insane as he surfed past us, still going top to bottom and throwing buckets. He sprint paddled back out to the point in 2nd place.

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Leonardo needed a score to progress, but Will had the highest scoring wave of the heat. Leonardo found a smaller wave that was fat and with little wall. He bogged his first turn, forced a couple of snaps and then banked off the white water trying to milk it for all it was worth, knowing he was up against it. The announcer called out the score of 6.5 to the disbelief everyone on the beach, not just the British Team. It seems extra points were on offer to big names with a high seeding and with no more sets coming through, Will was eliminated. There have been many careers in surfing that have been enhanced by a single wave. Although it was heart breaking to see Will get taken down, witnessing how he performed on that wave will stay with me for the rest of my life. Everyone has been telling Will that he is a world class performer for a long time, and yesterday he proved that not just to himself, but to everyone else around the world watching.

Moving back up the beach and on to podium B again, it was over to Harry De Roth in the under 16 reps to try and get the team back on a high. By now up on podium B the tide was at dead low and the wave was horrible. Closing out on a dry bank, you could watch the conditions for 20 minutes and not see a wave that you could even mind surf and get a score. Head coach Lloyd Cole called it the worst wave he has seen at a world championships in the time he has been bringing a team to the event. The conditions are obviously the same for everyone, but Harry’s heat was definitely more of a lottery than a surf contest. Unfortunately for Harry, who was one of our highest seeded surfers, he had the wrong numbers on his lottery ticket.

Following Harry in the last heat of the day was Arran strong. As the sun started to set, Arran had been at the beach since 6:30am. He had stayed focused for his heat, but never missed cheering his peers from the beach, whistling and waving flags. He paddled out and showed the same commitment in his attitude and performance. Standing just under 5 feet on his tiptoes, Arran threw his board above his head into the heaving closeout lips throwing out onto the dry sand. On several occasions he landed on his feet, over his board only to be engulfed by the exploding white water behind him. It was one of the most valiant and determined efforts of the day, and although Arran was eliminated, he definitely went down throwing haymaker punches and doing himself and our team proud.

Bringing the day to a close back over on the main podium was our adopted team member Geroid McDaid from Ireland. Unfortunately for us, G man’s points don’t count on our team score, but he has been every bit a part of our team on this trip. With a lethal forehand attack to unload on the left point, the British Team gathered on the rocks again knowing that we were about to see some fireworks. In another massively stacked heat, G man was up against a couple of top seeds from USA and New Zealand.

As a coach we constantly tell surfers that all you need is two good waves to win a heat. G man did exactly that. Patiently waiting for his opportunity, G took off on two absolute bangers. Each time he stood up, our team on the rocks couldn’t contain their excitement. With probably more adrenalin running through their veins than Geroid, they went mental as G man tore both his waves to pieces to score two 7’s and win the heat with ease. Absolutely frothing, our guys couldn’t climb down the rocks fast enough and get onto the beach to G man. Everyone sprinted into the water and gave Geroid the guard of honor that he deserved as he left the water.

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It was a long and emotional day at the beach and being able to finish on such a high was exactly what was needed. Keep an eye on the web cast tomorrow when G man surf’s. As I said earlier in these blogs, he is defiantly one to watch. We gave him extra potatoes at last night’s team dinner so there is a very good chance he is going to go off the chain when he surfs today.

We still have three surfers in the event, so we still have a lot of work to do. Everyone will be at the beach today in mass to cheer on Taz Knight, Angus Scotney, Peony Knight and G Man. The support from back home has made a huge difference to our surfers, so please keep the it coming.

Over and out…

John Ellis

Team Manager

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One Comment

  1. Really informative, interesting emails, thank you so much!

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