If you have read Gregg’s brilliant and heroic report of his efforts, which saw him into the final, you will be expecting much the same from me; but I hate to disappoint. [if not, go read his first!]
I was talked into going on this trip as, a) it was half term, (welcome break from the day job of teaching), and b) it was guilt free windsurfing, and c) the forecast looked promising.
Clyde and Gregg loaded the van with their quiver of new technology kit, and then I added my borrowed kit and my self-modified Quadimodo – a 14 yr old JP Wave 260 which I have cut down to around 240 and added 4 extra fin boxes in an aim to add more ‘life’ to my old, trustworthy friend.
|Adding a few fin boxes to a 14yr old JP...|
|In tri-fin set up.|
Gregg says that he wasn’t expecting anything from the competition so I must be expecting less. Whilst Gregg and Clyde regularly hack chunks from waves at Southbourne I regularly get mushed up by shore break and dragged around the stones. Whilst they throw backies and forwards at regularly intervals that keep the dog walkers on the south coast happy, I can handle a tweaked jump and have attempted a state of upside-down-ness but it was still a long way from being a forward. Now I had read all the things online about comps and was excited about giving it a go. I had done snowboard comps before and enjoyed them, what more could I lose?
I was hoping that the waves were nice, clean and easy, and didn’t break me. I didn’t care if it was Port or Starboard tack, all I wanted was to get off the beach, outback and vaguely ride a wave and not look like a kook, on tatty old kit, to the scores of pros and well versed amateurs. And Day 1 at Perran was not really the introduction I was hoping for. To me, it was big. By my standards, anything that is over head high has enough force to push you down, hold you there and remind you that for all the fun you are having, the ocean can easily take that away… oh and steal your kit and make you swim after it. After a shaky start, I got into it, but with the ever looming Mount Perran, I decided to cut my losses and head back up.
|Gregg bottom turning on a wave that is clearly large enough...|
On return to Gwithian, we found waves much more to my liking, little iddy-biddy things, but with light failing I got the underwater camera out and waded in, in an aim to not get my head cut off by a selection of pro fins but get some cool shots. If Gwithian could be like this tomorrow, I could stand a chance!… no, not winning, but getting out back and not looking like a kook!
|Ben Proffit top turns, whilst I try to keep out of people's way.|
And so the forecast said 28-40knts and 3m swell but we arrived to 10knts and 30cm swell. So maybe this was do-able. But the draw showed exactly what I expected, a foregone conclusion that I was out in round 1: Mike Archer, current tour leader, and Adam Cropper, former SWF tour winner and another first timer Dan Hilton. As I pulled Quadimodo from the rear of the van, it got more attention than the brand new carbon Fanatic sat right next to it; people asked me about it, how and what I had used and although they were probably wetting themselves inside their heads, this idea that the BWA or any windsurf event is a clique and they don’t like kooks, is nonsense. The top riders, from Phil Horrocks, to Ben Proffit, were nice genuine guys, stoked that they can ride for a living and happy to give help and pointers in any way. Though none of them, it seemed, wanted to swap their 2015 quiver for my modified custom.
Anyway, it was over 2hrs before my heat, so I went for a free sail, and it was so much fun, wobble out and shred back in. Sailing at Southbourne clearly had not hindered my port tack sailing, but snowboarding goofy footed certainly helped! I could actually turn and do some kind of slashy thing! I felt f*cking fantastic!! I know understand the labours of driving to these spots, to get true down the line conditions rather than putting up with what you have at your home break!
And so my heat approached, I donned my competition rashy and when the previous heat finished I was glad to see the set waves breaking and leaving me a perfect, clear run out to sea. Even a little gust and I was out there. I’d made it. When the eyes were on me, I didn’t fall off and just get rinsed for 10 mins…
Oh sh*t, the green flag is up, I better look for a wave… nerves were up, adrenaline running and I may have done a little wee in my wetsuit... I manage to gybe out in front of one (my gybes are still not perfect) and wobble in front of it, this looks like it might peak nicely, board rises and starts to gain speed, strap in and hope for the best… bottom turn, top turn KAPOW! YEEHAR! … that worked, I’ll do another, adrenaline racing I get a good few turns on this wave and as advice from gurus Clyde and Emile, keep wiggling until the fins hit the sand, so that’s what I attempt. Hang on, I caught a wave, in a comp and held my own. Mike Archer fell on his wave… the others failed to catch theirs… IM WINNING!!! Again I manage to sail perfectly outback, no rinsing on the beach, and I aim to line up another wave. This heat must surely be over soon, 10 mins is nothing right? (yeah I didn’t have a watch). Catch another wave, but not as smooth as the first, a spin out on the second hit which I couldn’t recover from, but hey I’m loving this. Catch another, and in all the excitement I haven’t seen any of the other 3 riders, except Mike’s first wave. Did they catch any? Did they break kit? Did I do the impossible and actually advance? The red flag goes up and my arms are like jelly. The longest 10 minutes of my life.
|Me, actually catching a wave a turning on it. Thus proving anyone can have a go.|
Photo from Splashography.com
Results: I had missed out, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even go check the actual scores. I had the best 10 mins sailing I had ever had. I got 2 and a half good waves and held my own against seasoned amateurs on a board I cut up myself. But most importantly I didn’t look like a dick (I hope).
In all I paid £65 for those 10 minutes of sailing: 40 for entry and 25 insurance. Plus 4 hours there and back, plus £50 in a travel lodge, plus food and drink. But it was worth it. Well worth it.