By Jay Smith
It’s Saturday morning and I find myself stumbling across a beach in the dark.
“What happened last night?”
I’m in search of the contest site for the British national surf championships and it’s raining.
“And how did we get that blow-up monkey?”
I’m specifically in Croyde in Devon, and the bright lights ahead indicate I may have found my destination.
I’ve not come to the nationals for journalistic purposes, I’m entered into the open.
I gather around a gazebo amongst a lot of tired looking people of a variety of ages. It’s 7.30am and my plan is to check-in and go back to the campsite for a fry-up. My support crew don’t arrive for another hour anyway.
I’m in that stage after a heavy night, where you’re still merry and the dreaded hangover is in the distant future. But not to worry, the British nationals is one of the UK’s biggest competitions in terms of entrants and the chances I’m surfing anytime soon are slim.
The number of people swells and I’m edged out of the gazebo and into the drizzle. Just check-in, find out when I’m in, and I can go and re-group.
“We’re just getting things in order,” a nice sounding man calls out on a microphone, “we’ve been hit by a storm this morning, but we’ll start check-in soon.”
No problem buddy, but I am getting wet.
A bandage I’ve had on my finger after a fin slice incident is starting to get loose, I’ll need to re-dress it before my heat so that it’s sorted.
“Okay so we’re ready to start check-in, we’ll be starting with the under 14’s on peak B, and on peak A will be the open.”
“In heat one of the Open will be Mark Harris, Rhys Barfield, Matthew Chapman and Jay Smith.”
“If you guys could start suiting up, we want to get going as soon as possible.”
A quick phone call to the family reveals they are still an hour away and will miss my heat. I give a call to my brother who travelled down with me and is designated photographer and head cheerleader.
It rings through the first time, but there’s an answer second time round.
“Ben I’m in the first heat, they’re telling us to get in our wetsuits,” I manage to mumble as I stuff down a weird combination of banana and cereal bar. My throat feels like I’m swallowing cut glass.
“No,” is the response followed by a long pause, “okay I’m coming…and where did this blow-up monkey come from?”
No time for solving Sherlock’s mystery’s now, I’m half getting in my wetsuit and half wrapping waterproof plasters around my finger. This isn’t the quality you see those lovely doctors do on Casualty.
Still in a drunken daze, I’m somehow changed and have been given my rash-vest. It’s light enough to see the sea, and the waves look okay. The forecast was bigger so that’s a positive.
I reach the sea shore and my photographer arrives, looking as bad as I feel.
“My phone’s run out of battery so I can’t take pictures.”
Oh great, so there isn’t even going to be any evidence I did this.
“You will make it out back won’t you?” Thanks for the vote of confidence Ben.
It will come as no surprise that I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities. It took ten minutes for me to sober up and the next ten trying to salvage some pride.
What is a surprise is that Mark ‘Egor’ Harris also didn’t make it through the heat, one of the UK’s best surfers and probably a favourite to make it to the finals.
A quick post-heat analysis as I walk back up the beach involves a shrug, some smiles, and an insightful “you did one alright turn.”
The family inevitably arrive just as I’m changed, and whilst I’m left to recover with a bacon bap, the competition mercilessly continues without me.
The predicted storm rolls in and with it comes more rain and howling onshore winds. The swell also kicks up a notch leaving the line-up looking pretty uninviting.
But as each category heads in for their heat, from the under 12’s to the over 45’s, it’s apparent that British surfing is in a pretty healthy place.
Taking a break from the beach to demolish a pulled pork burger, a quick check on social media reveals Reubyn Ash has layed down a sick backside air reverse, and a lot of the big names put in strong performances to make it through towards Sunday.
I realise I haven’t let my sponsors, Hoax Clothing UK, know how I got on so I be a coward and send a text.
“I was in the first heat of the event and never really got going,” I write, they don’t need to know the full details of why, “But not to worry, it’s bingo later!”
Bingo passes about as successfully as my surfing but the Sunday dawn reveals some epic conditions. About 4ft and offshore, the perfect platform for Britain’s best to battle it out for the tile.
And battle it out they did.
Reubyn cracks out another backside air reverse, arguably better than the one he pulled yesterday, on his way to the open final, alongside Miles Lee-Hargreaves, Jayce Robinson and Luke Dillon. With Luke Dillon continuing his success of recent years, to be crowned 2015 British champion.
It’s time to pack up the motor-home and head home. It turns out that the blow-up monkey probably came from the magician who was performing at the campsite, and some sketchy footage is discovered which suggests said monkey may have accompanied me to the dance floor.
I may have lost in the surf competition and in the bingo, but I did acquire a blow up monkey from a magician who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent. #Winning.
Congrats to all the surfers who took part and in particular to all the finalists and eventual champs. Well done to Surfing GB on organising the event too, the set-up was good, the vibe felt cool and the competition goes down as a success.
A thanks also goes to Hoax Clothing UK (hoaxuk.com) for their support, particularly if they stick with me having read this!
On to the next contest, and this time I’ll try not to drink too much the night before. But no promises.
For a full list of the results from all categories visit: http://surfinggb.com/2015/10/27/2015-magicseaweed-british-national-surf-championships-supported-by-korev-lager/