As Mr Slim Shady once enquired – ‘guess who’s back, back again?’. In this case, it was the muthaflippin’ BLU and they were back at Rest Bay in beautiful Porthcawl after a 6 year absence!

With a typical monotonous regularity that has dogged surf contests since the dawn of time, the forecast did not look great. Surfable, sure. Great? Nope. Competitors were greeted with steely grey skies and latte coloured cross-onshore chest high waves. It takes more than an unflattering forecast to stop this bunch of wild-eyed wax wranglers, so in went the first round of the Men’s Open. The tide was already on the high side and by all known wisdom should have quickly become unsurfably high, but the ocean gods were with us and we managed to surf on through. Early front runners came in the familiar shape of Evan Rogers, Sam Bleakley and Elliot Dudley, all of whom posted double digit heat scores in the first couple of rounds and secured their places in the semi-finals along with Jack Unsworth who pulled a full undercover ninja mission, silently passing from heat to heat in the shadows pretty much undetected.

The next willing victims to hit the water were the other large entry pool, the Single Finners. Many familiar faces from the Men’s Open and very cool to see Emily Currie and Beth Leighfield reminding everyone that Single Fin is an OPEN division. Emily won her first two heats, dispatching some heavy hitters on the way to the semis. Sadly, Beth had a slightly less fruitful time and managed to seriously blow her knee out within 10 minutes of starting her first heat. Best wishes to her for a speedy recovery. Another stand-out came in the form of Connor Griffiths, yes the one who glasses at Thomas Surfboards up in Noosa. Back for a few weeks to see the folks, it was great to see both Connor and dad Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths powering their way into various finals.

The first day of competition ended with the U16 Cadets semis and finals. Although the level of surfing in the dropping mid-tide treacle-fest that is Rest Bay (the tidal range for those uneducated in such matters can be up to 11m, which does take a smidge of energy out of the swell as it drops) was fantastic, once again we had a noticeably low turnout in the U16, U18 Boys, U18 Girls and – most disappointingly – Women’s Open. The boys could be excused as Lukas Skinner and Arthur Randell are on international shortboard duties at the moment, and all the juniors did make each and every heat and final a genuine contest. Ted Pearson continued his excellent run of form with a win in the Cadets and second in the U18s, while local boyo Blake Jones secured first in the U18s and the honour of being the only surfer to crash into the fabled rocks at Rest (his home break).

Day 2 saw out the remaining semis in smaller but cleaner swell, starting with the Grandmasters and great performances from Chris Griffiths and Alan Reed which saw both of them into the final. It was Chris and his magnificent beard and dancing feet who took the title. The Single Fin semis saw the end of Emily Currie’s great run and the advancement of Elliot, Sam and Connor into the final along with BLU first-timer Ed Bresnan. Despite a busy home life and missing several sessions of leg day, Elliot put on a good enough impression of a wetsuited nose-riding hood ornament to take both the Single Fin and Men’s Open titles. Impressive stuff.

With the withdrawal of Beth Leighfield on the grounds of having no knee, the Women’s Open was a straight 3 way fight. Emily Currie on the right, taking on the surf as well as the ever-encroaching weekend crowd and Izzy Henshall and her cousin Lola Bleakley trading waves on the smaller but more consistent and definitely less crowded lefts. It was tight, but Izzy took it with some very graceful cross-stepping and nosework.

The U18 Girls saw Lola taking the title with some confident (and continuously and rapidly improving) cross-stepping, but the highlight for me was the two local girls Anna-Rose Merchant and Seren Davies who pretty much entered ‘for a laugh’, made a good contest of it and – rumour has it – are now super keen to carry on competing. Awesome.

That left the Masters. A couple of years ago this was a well-contested division but a tad light on superstars. On this occasion, we had two former multi-National, British and European champions, a BPSA Night Surf Winner and a Jesus Surf Classic Master’s Champion. No pressure to perform, then! It all looked to be going the way of another Guts Griffiths win, which led to a slightly early retirement to the beach. In classic Hollywood style, IOW boy and serial entrepreneur Chris Thomson in his first season of the Masters took off on the archetypal Hail Mary final wave and hang-fived his way to last second glory by 0.03 points! You could not make this stuff up.

In summary, the surf was fine, the weather good, the surfing great, the bants epic and the chili con carne? It came with half rice, half chips.

Massive thanks as always to our friends and sponsors for their unwavering belief that 9ft+ bits of foam, wood and fibreglass make a weird kind of sense.

Porthcawl Surf School
Welsh Coast Surf Club
Pura Vida Boardriders
Edwards Roofing Newport Ltd
Ocean & Earth
Welsh Surf Federation
Rest Bay Café
All the heroic support staff, you know who you are!

Men’s Open
1st Elliot Dudley
2nd Jack Unsworth
3rd Connor Griffiths
4th Evan Rogers

Women’s Open
1st Izzy Henshall
2nd Emily Currie
3rd Lola Bleakley
4th Beth Leighfield

Single Fin
1st Elliot Dudley
2nd Sam Bleakley
3rd Connor Griffiths
4th Ed Bresnan

1st Chris Thomson
2nd Chris Griffiths
3rd Sam Bleakley
4th Steve Horn


1st Chris Griffiths
2nd Alan Reed
3rd Colin Bright
4th Richard Gowers

U18 Boys
1st Blake Jones
2nd Ted Pearson
3rd Joel Mew
4th Syd Randell

U18 Girls
1st Lola Bleakley
2nd Anna-Rose Merchant
3rd Seren Davies

U16 Cadets
1st Ted Pearson
2nd Lola Bleakley
3rd Syd Randell
4th Anna-Rose Merchant