Surfers and Lifesavers battle the elements at Surf Relief Festival
Two days of stormy weather couldn’t dent the enthusiasm of over 1,000 schoolchildren, surfers, lifesavers and beach-goers who took part in the Surf Relief Festival last weekend (17 & 18 July).
The two-day event, held at Cornwall’s Watergate Bay, raised over £4,000 for the charity Surf Relief UK to fund their ongoing ‘SurfAble’ project, which provides specialised surfing lessons for disabled children all over the country.
Organiser Dave Manley of Surf Relief UK said: “We’d like to extend our thanks to everyone who braved the showers to come and take part in the Surf Relief Festival. Our SurfAble project is made possible through public support and the public awareness generated by events like the Surf Relief Festival is so important.”
The event started with an ‘Ocean & Beach Day’ for over 100 Cornish schoolchildren on Friday 17th July. Despite strong winds and leaden skies the children had a great day on the beach taking part in rugby and surfing coaching sessions.
The event’s inclusive approach also saw the participation of children from Doubletrees School near St Austell. The pupils, whose disabilities range from autism to physical conditions, enjoyed surfing lessons run by specially-trained instructors from the SurfAble network of surf schools.
Also braving the stormy waves on the first day of the event were surfers competing in the opening rounds of the UK Pro Surf Tour. The 4-6ft surf was torn apart by strong onshore winds, making stamina and persistence as much of a factor in the heats as technical surfing ability.
Thankfully by Saturday morning, for the main day of the event, the surfing conditions had greatly improved to allow junior surf lifesavers from five South West clubs to take part in the Nippers Carnival.
The Nippers, aged from 10 to 13, took part in a series of short races and relays which tested their running, swimming and board paddling skills to earn points for their team.
“Our Nipper competition mirrors the format of the elite Ironman competition, so the young kids get inspired to be like the best in the country,” said Mark Redrup, Events organiser from Legacy Events.
“The Nippers are doing the same disciplines as the Ironman but on a scaled down basis. They do shorter courses, and team events more than individual pursuits, but building up the same skills. All of the teams taking part have done a lot of training - they don’t win just by chance, it’s because their coaches, their parents, their volunteers put a lot of time and effort into their training - in the pool in winter, and on the beach from the end of April.”
Portreath SLSC were the strongest club on the day, winning all but one age group to come first with 203 points. The team from Hayle SLSC were second on 267 points, and were the strongest in the Under 11 girls. Perranporth SLSC came third with 424 points.
Elsewhere on the beach, younger children enjoyed face painting and dance workshops run by Busy Bodies. The main stage saw entertainment from pop act The Vanity Girls and a demonstration of Thai boxing from Padstow Higher Level Thai Boxing Gym. Blue Reef Aquarium’s Rockpool Roadshow brought giant crabs and lobsters to a crowd of enthralled youngsters.
The Legacy Elite Ironman and Diamond Lady competitions both attracted very strong competitors, including many current and former members of the Great Britain lifesaving team. Portreath SLSC had more to cheer about with club members Dan Humble and Rachael Pascoe winning the competitions, which saw the athletes complete legs in paddle board, swim and surf ski - with a 500m run in between each leg - in a sprint format.
Humble led from start to finish, although 2008 British Iron man champion Robbie Sandbach gave him a superb race. Australian Humble said: “These guys here are amazing competitors so it’s pretty tough to stay at the top when you do get ahead. Credit to all of the guys here that are based in the UK for 12 months of the year - I’ve got it easy when I’m only here for six months of the year and six months in Australia, the guys here do an amazing job.
“Here in the UK the standard is increasing as every day goes by, there’s a really good strong bunch of competitors that are pushing each other at every event and the sport’s going from strength to strength. Hopefully next year at Rescue 2010 the GB team can have a real go at it and try and push the Australians.”
After Friday’s challenging conditions, surfers in the UK Pro Surf Tour were pleased to see a marked improvement in the waves, with the 2-3ft swell given decent shape by a light cross/offshore breeze.
Two St Ives surfers put in outstanding performances: Harry De Roth winning the Under 12 Open division, and Tassy Swallow winning the Under 16 Girls but just missing out to Swansea’s Beth Mason in the Women’s competition.
Croyde’s Beau Bromham won the Under 16 Boys division ahead of Leon Mansfield (Newquay), but aerial specialist Reubyn Ash stole the show in the surfing, winning the Open division and picking up bonus prizes for the King of Watersports highest wave score and the Relentless Money Manoeuvre.
Open winner Reubyn Ash said: “Conditions were really hard yesterday so there was a bit of luck to get through that, but today it got a bit better because it was more manageable. There was more of a contest rather than just a paddle battle. It was good to win the Money Manouevre - I did a little frontside air reverse which I managed to pull off in my final heat, so it was all right.”
Organisers were appreciative of the support for the event from sponsors and local businesses, including White Stuff, Sharps Brewery, Crantock Bakery, Relentless and King of Watersports.
Surf Relief UK’s Dave Manley said: “Huge thanks must go the Hotel and Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay for providing us with this incredible venue and their staff and infrastructure resources - without the support and hard work from the team at Watergate Bay this event would not have been possible.
“I’d also like to thank the UK Pro Surf Tour for supporting us, and again they will be back with us next year, as will Legacy Events who organised the Nipper Carnival and the Ironman and Diamond Lady events, and to Christian Surfers and all the volunteers who gave their time to help with the smooth running of the event on the day.”
Competition Results from the Surf Relief Festival, Watergate Bay:
Legacy Events Nippers Carnival
1 Portreath SLSC - 203 points
2 Hayle SLSC - 267 points
3 Perranporth SLSC - 424 points
Legacy Events Elite Ironman & Diamond Lady
1 Dan Humble (Portreath SLSC)
2 Rob Sandbach (Woolacombe SLSC)
3 Lloyd Rosewell (Pen-Y-Bont SLSC)
1 Rachael Pascoe (Portreath SLSC)
2 Fay Mills (Woolacombe SLSC)
3 Eva Murphy (Woolacombe SLSC)
UK Pro Surf Tour 2009 - Round 3
1 Reubyn Ash (Bude)
2 Mark Harris (Newquay)
3 Tom Butler (Newquay)
4 Reubin Pearch (South Africa)
Relentless Money Manoeuvre:
1 Beth Mason (Swansea)
2 Tassy Swallow (St Ives)
3 Gwen Spurlock (Swansea)
4 Jo Dennison (Pembroke)
Under 16 Boys
1 Beau Bromham (Croyde)
2 Leon Mansfield (Newquay)
3 Tom Good (Newquay)
4 Miles Lee-Hargreaves (Bournemouth)
Under 16 Girls
1 Tassy Swallow (St Ives)
2 Lucy Campbell (Woolacombe)
3 Gabi Rowe (Looe)
4 Jemima Knight (Chumleigh)
Under 12 Open
1 Harry De Roth (St Ives)
2 Liam Murray-Strout (Port Isaac)
3 Will Bailey (Woolacombe)
4 Max Payne (Wadebridge)
Photo: Reubyn Ash, winner of the UK Pro Surf Tour competition at the Surf Relief Festival.