If last month’s Saunton Longboard Classic was a gentle and fond kiss goodbye from summer, last weekend’s Stable Fistral Longboard Classic was an ‘Oy-You-Spilled-My-Pint’ roughing up from the encroaching winter.
Early morning at North Fistral saw a plucky band of BLU longboarders peering determinedly through the mizzle into the scowling remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo. Four foot or so of sullen grey Atlantic steel clattering angrily down onto the dirty golden sand of Newquay did little to dispel the tension.
With Ben Skinner and Adam Griffiths on Surf Relik duty, reigning Men’s Open Champ Ben Howey ‘man down’ with a broken hand and Welsh stylemaster Elliot Dudley having gone AWOL to Colombia, the division was as wide open as some of the big left-handers thundering across the bay. Fistral local Jordan Zervas, Renaissance Man Sam Bleakley and blast-from-the-past Tom Fisher made the running in Round 1, and made up 3 of the 4 finalists. Devon’s Jack Gregorius, last year’s U18 Junior Champion, completed the line-up. With Sam on the rights and everyone else on the lefts, it was Tom ‘I never win!’ Fisher who prevailed, beating Sam by less than half a point in what can only be called a Hollywood finish.
Being a rescheduled event, the turnout was slightly down on normal. This didn’t stop Emily Currie and reigning Champ Claire Smail taking it all the way to a surf-off in the Women’s division. With one event win and a second place each, they took to the hollow right-handers for a dual to the death in the deepening gloom of dusk. It was Claire who managed to hold her nerve, stick her turns and retain the perpetual trophy for another year.
With Sam Bleakley now qualifying as a Master and Jason Gray missing in action, it was down to Falmouth’s Adam Chell to stand as the last line of defence between Sam and a possible double title victory. His 21st birthday may be a long distant memory, but Sam stills surfs like one. For a second successive contest he surfed in as many heats as Jordan and Arthur, and they’re both teenagers. Adam had been surfing well all day, finding the same lefts that had been good for Tom and Jordan, but nothing was going to stop the Bleakers roadshow and he unleashed a flurry of turns, cross-steps and long, long noserides to combo the rest of the finalists. Ridiculous.
The Grand Masters saw one of the finest ever upsets in a semi-final, with Ray ‘Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in’ Lee squeezing past Adam Zervas. With commentator Anton having to eat his ‘One Wave Ray’ banter, the pair faced off again in the final. Normal service was resumed as Adam delivered a turn hard enough to break hearts, smooth nose work and even had time for a quick shampoo head-dip in the hollow mid-tide lefts. Ever youthful Welsh legend Colin Bright took second and Ray third. Sadly Paul ‘Keeno’ Keenan had to leave mid-event.
Despite numbers still being on the low side, the junior divisions were well contested. Arthur ‘Not You Again’ Randell blitzed the U16 Cadets, we were treated to the welcome return of Barnaby Innes after several months of not surfing, and the stylish early surf career moves of Lola Bleakley and cousin Izzy Henshall. The U18 Girls saw Esmee Gregorius and Tegan Blackford look the most comfortable in the bigger stuff, and it was Esmee’s uncanny wave selection skills that saw her take the win, consistently finding lefts that simply refused to close out. In the U18 Juniors, Jordan Zervas once again ripped the win from Arthur ‘I’ve run out of nicknames’ Randell with his last wave of the heat in an almost exact replay of the Saunton Longboard Classic. When Jordan moves up out of the division, it’s going to take some stiff competition to get between Arthur and the trophy. Great start also for Thorr Marner, getting into a final in his first BLU event.
With the salty business done and ex-Hurricane Lorenzo remembering it should be raining buckets, we retired to the welcoming warmth of main event sponsor ‘The Stable, Fistral’ for the presentations. Aside from the awesome food and drink, you know you’ve definitely got a spono worth clinging on to when they paint part of their premises in the style of your contest poster!
Trophies, prizes and winnings dispensed, the BLU are now on a break until 2020, which just happens to be our 25th anniversary year. From the germ of an idea concocted after the Oxbow exhibition contest in 1994, it’s been a hell of a ride so far. Here’s to the next part of the journey!
Massive thanks to our event sponsors, without whom we would not be able to keep the BLU boat afloat:
The Stable, Fistral Fistral Beach Newquay BID Ocean & Earth RNLI Surfing England
Also huge congratulations and thanks to all competitors, staff and judges from Minnow and the committee. You’re the beating heart of the BLU and you do what you do with style, humour and enthusiasm no matter the conditions.