By Jay Vilarrubi-Smith
Few people can call themselves British champion. Fewer still can do so in an event in which they only took up a year ago.
Sixteen year old Beth Leighfield has been surfing for roughly five years, but only took up longboarding a year ago; and is already under 18 girl’s British longboard champion.
We caught up with the Bude local to hear about her success; why she made the switch to a longer board, and much more….
Firstly, thanks for taking some time out to chat with us! Congratulations on what sounds like a great year for you. Under 18 girl’s British longboard champion, that must feel pretty good?
Hi! Yeah I was pretty stoked, it was my first year competing on a longboard but it was just fun going to all the events as the atmosphere is so friendly and it’s great to watch the top men and women surfing!
Talk us through the event that sealed your title- how did it all go down and what were your thoughts as you progressed through the competition?
The morning was super fun, the surf was 2ft and clean for my women’s heat, which I managed to progress through to get into the semi-finals which I was pretty stoked about!
Then for the under 18 girl’s final it was pretty difficult; super high tide and small Fistral which wasn’t exactly ideal conditions, but I tried my best anyway.
Emily Currie surfed super well and took the deserved win, but due to my previous event results at the three other competitions in the year, I just managed to gain enough points to win overall!
That sounds like a successful weekend! What are some of the other highlights you’ve had this year, surfing wise?
Switching to longboarding is my biggest highlight. Other than that probably just surfing even more than last year and in different breaks; trying my best to improve and going abroad to Morocco was a super fun trip as well!
On the subject of your switch to longboarding, what made you decide to make the change? Growing up you must have been exposed to the likes of Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore, and Carissa Moore but now you’ve gone in a different direction?
I shortboarded for about four or five years and so I tried to watch as many of the world tour events online as I could to see all the girls and guys rip.
Then last winter I started to notice the local longboarders catching loads of waves and having a really great time and my coach Matt Stephenson already said that he thought I would be better at longboarding, so I just gave it ago and loved it (laughs)!
Well, it’s clearly worked out for you! Do you think longboarding as a whole gets enough exposure both in Britain and around the world?
If you’re comparing it to shortboarding then I would say probably not. Worldwide there just isn’t as big a hype around the longboarding events as there is with the shortboarding competitions, which I think is a shame as longboarding can be a lot more stylish and fluid to watch.
Longboarding is great to watch, and British longboarding seems to be in a really healthy place, with the likes of Ben Skinner and Adam Griffiths flying the flag internationally. Are you taking inspiration from those guys?
Definitely, it’s so awesome to watch them all at the comps, pulling off the longest hang ten’s and airs!
And which other surfers out there do you draw inspiration from?
Locally it’s cool to watch the locals like skip (Steve Davies), Lewis Stritch and Rhys Burton surf, as they are all so good. At the comps in particular; Emily Currie, Ben Howarth and Charlotte Bayliss show me what I aiming for.
Tell us about your funniest memory to do with surfing, whether it be one session, or a trip?
Last year in a 3ft messy session at Summerleaze I had my most unusual surf buddy so far…a seal had joined us!
So what’s next for Beth Leighfield? Is more competition success a goal for you going into next year?
I am intending to enter the women’s division next year as well as the Under 18s; to place in the Top 10 women’s would be great!
Thanks for your time Beth, is there anyone you wish to give a shout out to? Sponsors to thank?
Ahhh thanks to Matt Stephenson and the whole team at Big Blue Surf who have been my main coaches for the last 5 years! The team at Bude Waveriders for all their encouragement and recently Steve Stritch and Roger Tout (Jolly Roger Surf boards).
This year I have also been supported by Hoax UK (hoaxuk.com) and West Country Surf Wax- thanks guys!
Finally a big thank you to my fellow Hoax rider Beth Wallace who has now passed her driving test which means I am not as reliant on Mum and Dad!
It’s been a great year for Beth and here at Clunk, we’re sure 2016 is going to be even better!