Written by Matt Barker Smith at www.suphut.co.uk
Photography by Bob Berry
The annual British Stand Up Paddle Associations National Championships took place on the weekend of the 4 and 5 October 2014 at Watergate Bay. Conditions were tough and the SUP surfing standard was high. This is what Matt Barker Smith thought of the competition.
The event always has a good turnout of competitors who come to test their new skills against the UK’s best Paddle surfers. It’s currently the only annual SUP surfing event in the UK which is why it’s so popular and it’s great to meet up with friends from all corners of the country.
Watergate Bay can serve up some great conditions when all the right factors fall into place. A peaky beach break with a sand bottom and facing west, picks up swells from SW-NW direction, so it can get big… and windy!
As we all headed down to the event safety brief on Saturday morning we were greeted with a 6-8ft swell with strong 20-25mph NW onshore wind and incoming tide. As last years champion I had a unlucky heat draw. I was in the first heat.
Big onshore, head high waves blown around by a strong wind. It wasn’t appealing. All four in the heat struggled to get past our waist in the 15 minutes paddle out time we were given.
Four ISA judges sat in comfy chairs with a score sheet in their hands waiting for the surfing to begin. We were all as frustrated as each other but had to resign to catching white water reforms, as did the next 6 heats until the tide pushed in and eventually gaps started to appear in the white water barrage giving a few competitors a chance to catch an emerald gem out the back.
For the remainder of the day it was about survival and conservation of energy. Sometimes taking more than 10 minutes to get out the back to catch the higher scoring set waves.I got quite frustrated at one point. After returning from a week long trip to Portugal and surfing clean 4-5ft waves everyday, I was enduring set after set on my head!
The conditions were set to improve for Sunday.
The nature of competitive surfing means that the event has to run to schedule. Sometimes you’ll have to surf in conditions which you would normally turn your nose up at. Having no alternative to finding somewhere more sheltered means you’re putting all your water skills on the line to try beat or mould with what mother nature throws at you.
Doing this will really get you to grips with your equipment and what works best.
Over the course of the weekend I rode three of my Boards 8’2 x 30 , 7’9 x 28 , 7’9 x 26. Choosing to ride the biggest (8’2 Barker Rapture ) in the super choppy blown out conditions at the start and as the conditions got better over the weekend finding time for the wider of the 7’9 Rapture Ultra Models and leaving the narrower 26 Ultra SUP for the Sunday only.
Having equipment you know works and in different conditions really gives you a head start, I’ve learnt this from previous competitions where not knowing what your going to ride can put unnecessary stress on your performance.
Sunday’s conditions were more manageable. A much cleaner 3-6ft swell with lighter S/SW winds which gave us offshore conditions. The swell was still big meaning that wave selection was important.
From my point of view the competitors who stood out throughout the weekend were Aaron Rowe , Alex Murray, Glyn Ovens, Ben Fisher, Matt Argyle, Neal Gent and Charlie grey. It can be a game of nerves when surfing competitively, but you’re surfing so I always try and see the fun side of it , It can only go two ways win or loose.
Myself (Matt Barker- Smith) Aaron Rowe, Alex Murray, Glyn Ovens were all charged to get on with the Final. We were given a 10 minute paddle out and we all just about managed to get out, I think Glyn had a few on the head on the inside.
Surfing heats in these conditions is really energy sapping, and I was careful not to make a mistake I had made earlier in the competition by working the waves all the way to the inside and risk getting stuck inside for 10 minutes. So I was very selective in my wave choice, Aaron had been looking very strong throughout the competition and unfortunately for him stood up and caught a wave before the heat had started, this obviously had a huge impact on him psychologically.
Alex and I had obviously chosen to stay out back and look for the bigger set waves for scoring potential. Notably Alex struck a great 360, a first for a UK SUP surfing events.
The waves I caught in the final were big and short lived which meant I had to put all my speed into hitting the lip hard – a move which I pulled off. The judges at the start of the competition had indicated that ‘They would highly score big risk manoeuvres’. So I was super stoked to hold onto my 2013 title as British SUP surf Champion 2014!
It was great to catch up with friends at Watergate Bay.
I also caught up with Holly Bassett, overall winner of the Waterwoman trophy.
“This years Championships tested everyone’s ability out on the water, it was tough, but I’m so happy and relieved to have retained my title for a second year. It was a great event put on by Rich Marsh from BSUPA and the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay. Looking forward to next year.”
Video by SUPboardermag.com
A big ‘thanks’ must go out to the organisers and supporters of the event including Richard Marsh.
Full results round up
JNR Under 16 Boys
1st Ollie Laddiman
2nd Louie Harrow
3rd Ben Pye
1st Holly Bassett
2nd Tina Beresford
3th Mi Richardson
4th Lizzie Bird
1st Matt Barker-Smith
2nd Glyn Overs
3rd Aaran Rowe
4th Alex Murray
The following based on final overall position in Men’s Open
1st Charlie Grey
2nd Luke Bolsin
3rd Sean Smith
1st Matt Barker-Smith
2nd Glyn Overs
3rd Alex Murray
Mens Grand Masters
1st Simon Tregoning
2nd Time Rowe
3rd Peter Edkins
2014 Watergate Bay Watermen – Matt Barker-Smith
2014 Watergate Bay Waterwomen – Holly Bassett
Competition Director, Richard Marsh comments
“An other great and classic championships, the standard from all just improves year on year. It’s fantastic to see competitors willing and wanting to return each year to take up the challenge, and also to welcome new competitors to our growing fleet. In the six year since we first run these championships, its also interesting to see hope the sport and equipment has evolved to. I am proud to be part of the evolution of the sport in this country and thank all competitors, Judges, Officials, Extreme Academy Watergate Bay and support sponsors for their continued support of these Championships”. Adding finally ” I hope what people see here in person or read on these championships inspires them to stage more SUP surf competitions around the UK”.