The British team to attend the World Longboard Championships has been decided in somewhat unusual circumstances with both Ben Skinner and James Parry ceding qualification places earned at the new qualifying event – the British Longboard Championship – to give British Longboard Union Champion, and fifth in the 2018 ISA World Longboard champs Ben Howey a well deserved shot at World champs in Biarritz.
Their decision came after the newly formed “British Surfing” said a one off qualification event should be used to decide the British team places in their inaugural year. A policy ignoring current World, WSL and BLU rankings instead drawing from surfers who made the finals of the 2019 national finals of England, Scotland, Wales and CI to compete in the new British Longboard Championships.
It was an interesting decision say the least. For years the BLU have been very ably representing and helping to develop British longboarding and crowning a British champion. Britain also has numerous elite long boarders representing on the world stages of the WSL, Relik and ISA.
However Ben Howey and Ben Skinner were the surfers most affected. Howey placing fifth at last year ISA event and being current BLU British champion. Skindog placing ninth in the last ISA World Champs, placing highly on WSL and Relik world tours and winning the English title the previous weekend.
Howey had done really well last year breaking the hold of Bearman and Skindog and finishing with the BLU Open title in 2018 and fifth in last years ISA event. It was a great year. But with the new British Surfing criteria all this would seemingly count for nothing unless he made the it through the English Nationals and into the final two places at the qualifying event. The first challenge he met by making the final of the English Nationals, but unfortunately it wasn’t his day in the one foot slop of Watergate and he finished fourth, missing the qualification by two places.
He was not to be denied a team place however. After Eliot Dudley won the event (Elliot had placed second to Howey on last years BLU) Ben Skinner earned second place with James Parry third and Howey forth. The new criteria meant Dudley and Skindog would go to Biarritz. However in an unparalleled display of sportmanship (probably anywhere globally) Skindog, then Parry declined their selection giving up their opportunity to surf for Britain in the World Games to let Ben Howey attend.
“It was a bit of a massive mess leading up to this!’ said Howey, “I still can’t believe the sportmanship and looking out for mates from Skinner and Paz for giving up those spot for me! Very humbled!!!
“Last year was crazy for me with all the comps going my way but British Surfing decided it didn’t count anymore so I was pretty upset, but thanks to those guys I can still give it my best down in France! I can’t wait to try and better our 5th from last year! Big respect to those guys! Anything could have happened at that event as it was like half a foot slop!! “
It was tough decision for Skindog – a former silver medallist – it probably means he has given up his dream becoming a World ISA champion. However it was a black and white decision for him.
“I would just like to say competing at the Worlds means a lot to us all,’ said Skinner “But I really think it means the most to Ben (Howey). I felt the best thing to do was let him go. He worked hard last year and won the British title so he should have been going anyway!
“I have had a lot of opportunities to do this event,’ Skindog continued, “And I have a big year ahead so I am looking forward to supporting the team with everyone else in the comfort of my front room this year! Go Team GB!”
Duct Tape invitee James Parry who would have taken Skindogs place also wanted to give Ben Howey his spot.
“Ben deserved the spot on the British team more than anyone. His hard work, determination and results last year should have earned him an automatic spot in the team anyway, so it was meant to be.”
Outstanding sportsmanship I think you will agree. And knowing what it means to Ben Howey we are sure he will go all out in Biarritz.
Beth Leighfield and Emily Currie will represent in the women event.
A statement from British Longboard manager Minnow and contest report are below.
“Statement by Minnow Green, British Longboard Team Manager on behalf of British Surfing
Following the running of the inaugural British Longboard Championship at Watergate Bay on 11th May 2019, invitations to represent British Surfing at the upcoming ISA World Longboard Championships were made to the 1st and 2nd placed surfers in both the Men’s and Women’s Divisions.
In accordance with the selection criteria defined by British Surfing, where a selected British Team member declines their selection or is unable to compete as a result of failing the medical screening and/or fitness test, this athlete will be replaced with a wildcard selection.
The final team selection is:
Beth Leighfield (ENG)
Emily Currie (ENG)
Elliot Dudley (WAL)
Ben Howey (ENG)
We wish the British Surfing Longboard Team the very best of luck in Biarritz on 26th May – 2nd June.”
Full British round up here.
Contest Report: British Longboard Championships, Watergate Bay 11th May 2019
They came from the four corners of the kingdom…well, nearly…to face off in the inaugural British Longboard Championship, an invitation only event bringing together the best longboarders in the land ‐ as determined by their respective home nation contests ‐ to select the team that will represent British Surfing at the ISA Longboard World Championships in Biarritz at the end of the month.
Things got off to a wobbly start, a weakening surf report throughout the week made Contest Director Minnow Green’s decision to even hold the event seem a very optimistic one. In the end,and despite admittedly mediocre quality surf, it proved to be the right call with fiercely competitive heats from start to finish. The more worrying issue was the non‐appearance of the Channel Islands team and the generally low turnout of women longboarders, but that’s a conundrum for another day.
Battle commenced with the Men’s Open, and predictably strong performances from Ben Skinner (ENG), Elliot Dudley (WAL), James Parry (ENG) and Ben Howey (ENG) in the opening heats. Scotland’s recently crowned and seemingly ever youthful champion Malcolm Findlay also lay down his own challenge for a place on the team. Due to the low turnout in the Women’s Division the competitors surfed a 5 surfer three heat round robin format, spaced out across the day to give the opportunity to surf (in theory) a variety of conditions and tides. First blood went to Emily Currie (ENG), taking first place ahead of fellow Bude local Beth Leighfield (ENG).
Switching back to the Men’s Open we had a repechage round which ‐ due to the missing Channel Island surfers – did little more than offer the chance to surf for a potentially easier quarter final spot. Scotland’s Tom Gibson and Frazier Reid got the nod in two very close heats. The tide began to recede and with it any real power the swell possessed. In a slightly higher‐scoring second heat, Fistral local Jenny Briant (ENG) squeezed past Emily with a 6.67 highest single wave score and a double digit total.
The Men’s quarter finals were almost a re‐run of Round 1, with the three senior English surfers and Elliot Dudley scoring well and putting serious daylight between themselves and their fellow competitors.
Back to the Women, and the final round robin heat. Well, sort of. With the sort of dramatic twist that wouldn’t be out of place in any series‐ending episode of GoT, Beth Leighfield took the heat with some stylish nose riding and an almost mystical ability to find waves where seemingly none should exist, and with Jenny Briant and Emily Currie taking 2nd and 3rd spots respectively we were left with a three way tie and a sudden death final, FINAL heat with only two places in the team up for grabs.
The Men’s semi‐finals saw the departure of Malcolm Findlay, and with it hopes of Scottish representation in France. England’s supergrom Jordan Zervas and Wales’s Evan Rogers and Arran Bright also took their final curtain call after a well fought campaign.
Down to the very sharp end of the competition, the Women took to the stage for their 3 surfer final and it was Beth Leighfield who took control of the heat from the start, finding the best scoring potential in the small and weak left‐handers. Despite a valiant effort by Jenny Briant, it was Emily Currie who found the fractions of a point needed to claim second spot.
The men rounded the day off, the consistently high scoring foursome of Ben, Ben, Elliot and James once again finding huge scoring potential where most of us would struggle to get to our feet. Their ability to cross step, get toes on the nose and drop‐knee turn in such relatively poor conditions never ceases to astound. In the end Elliot Dudley and Ben Skinner made the most of what was on offer, Ben taking 2nd place with his final wave literally seconds before the hooter and in the process relegating James Parry down to 3rd with current BLU Men’s Open Champion Ben Howey having to settle for 4th.
Thanks to Watergate Bay and the Extreme Academy for providing such a fantastic location from which to run the event, the BLU, Minnow Green and assorted contest officials for presiding over a very smoothly run contest, the RNLI lifeguards and commentator Lee Bartlett for managing to find enough longboard‐themed superlatives to keep the crowd entertained throughout the day.
Elliot Dudley (WAL) 12.00
Ben Skinner (ENG) 11.80
James Parry (ENG) 10.35
Ben Howey (ENG) 8.30
Beth Leighfield (ENG) 9.17
Emily Currie (ENG) 6.50
Jenny Briant (ENG) 5.17