As experience of running the Jesus Surf Classic for the last 29 years shows, the surf forecast and weather conditions don’t always play ball, so the organisers have to juggle what can be surfed throughout the weekend bearing in mind the wide range of age groups to cater for.

This year’s event was no different, and despite the forecast of some challenging conditions, it was decided to go ahead with the event, but sadly without the younger age categories of Under 12s, Under 14s and Under 16s; these competitors were greatly missed but the right call in the end due to the inclement weather.

The Christian Surfers crew set up the marquee and contest site on Friday night, so by 8 am Saturday morning the coffee was on, the T-shirts and programmes were ready to be handed out, and the contestants and their support teams were greeted with big smiles from the volunteers.

The first heats got underway at 8.30am with the Men’s quarter finals and rolled on through until just before 4 pm when the Men’s final was completed. Action on the beach was pretty hard work for the judges and the beach-based crew at times, with strong southerly winds and driving rain but they, as well as the surfers and their supporters, were determined to see the event through, wrapped up warm and basically continued to smile throughout.

The surf during the day was actually pretty clean with southerly cross shore winds and swell picking up to about 3 to 4 foot which made for some fantastic surfing throughout. Unfortunately, as this was a rescheduled event, a number of those who had originally entered were unable to make it so entries were smaller than we would normally have, particularly in the Under 18 girls and the Women’s Open, but understandable given those constraints.

First final of the day was the Girls’ Under 18s, which saw a new name on the trophy with North Devon’s Belle Betteridge surfing really strongly throughout and taking the victory ahead of Newquay’s Tegan Blackford, who just beat her sister Eva into third place; a big well done to Alexandra Husson and Boe Howell in fourth and fifth places respectively.

The over 35s (Masters) final is always really well contested at this event, and we love having this older category present. This year was no different with Simon Nicholson taking the victory for the first time over Rob Watson and local boys Jordan Reed and Scott Rannochan (great to see Scott competing again after all these years)

From there we moved to the Boys’ Under 18s final which, as you can imagine, was stacked throughout the whole event and Sam Hearn, before he leaves for Portugal again, took the title in a very tough heat ahead of Beau Betteridge, Jowan Pegg and Alex Townsend, who surfed so well throughout.

Next up was the Women’s Open final, by which time the tide was getting a little bit high and was reducing the opportunities for high-scoring waves. Bude’s Emily Currie took the title ahead of local girl Belle Betteridge, with Tegan Blackford in third and Alexandra Husson in fourth. A very well contested heat with good sportsmanship throughout.
The final final went right down to the wire with Bude’s Barnaby Cox taking the win for the first time, over Jowan Pegg, Wales’ up-and-coming star Patrick Langdon-Dark, and Alex Townsend, again all surfing so well throughout.

The presentation took place outside the marquee under ever-blackening skies and Contest Director, Phil Williams, introduced Chris Clark (Dailybread Surfboards) who shared a little about his life and his experience cycling a tandem from John O’Groats to Lands End, and about the rhythms of life and faith that were so important to him during that time.

As well as the traditional trophies and prize money, there is also a very special prize which the event gives out each year which is the Spirit of the Event award; nothing to do with what people have achieved, just something that sums up giving something back or the right attitude throughout. This year it was awarded to Norman Wright (he of Hotdoggers’ fame) who gave up a spare weekend due to the BLU event being cancelled and came over to Croyde with his truck and judging tower and spent the day on the beach with the team which really helped us, especially when the winds picked up and the rains came down hard. The trophy is in memory of a very special man, Phil Pechonis, who passed away and he would have definitely agreed with Norman winning this year.

There was lots of positive feedback from all the competitors, probably helped by the fact that the barbeque kept them fed, along with amazing fresh cakes, hot coffee, surf movies and the marquee that sheltered everyone from the storm. Contest Director Phil explained how it had been a tough week but being a man of faith, he felt God guided him to make the call to hold the event, as he has been guided over the last 29 years.

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The Christian Surfers’ team can’t wait to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Jesus Surf Classic next year, hopefully with a skate park and everything else, over one weekend mid-September – date to be confirmed. A true weekend of celebration.
There are so many people to thank including Parkdean for letting us host the event there, the Met Office, Surfline, the volunteers from around the country and from the local churches, the cake bakers, all those with key roles in the running of this contest, as well as the RNLI, water safety lifeguard Zach, and, of course, Norm with the truck, and Merry and Iain who organised live music during the afternoon.

The Christian Surfers crew are already well underway in planning this weekend’s Jesus Longboard Classic based around the Tubestation in Polzeath and, with 90 surfers already booked in, it looks like being a really busy but exciting weekend.
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