Ahhh! April. Another lovely, gentle return to beautiful Porthmeor beach for some small but very contestable waves. Super. Only this year, Porthmeor had gone out and got some tattoos, a studded leather jacket and a couple of crates of that energy drink everyone seems to be queueing up for in the supermarkets. O-kay…….
First in, the Men’s Open. It quickly became apparent that the solid 3ft swell (and occasional head high sets) had a tad more punch to it than expected. For some, the paddle out became a war of attrition. For others, including British Surfing representatives Ashley Braunton and Evan Rogers, the shifty, dumping peaks simply offered scoring potential, with Evan’s vertical backhand snaps meeting the judge’s approval. Progressive longboarding’s dead, is it? Bringing balance back to the force were Elliot Dudley and Sam Crookshanks, a-steppin’ and noseridin’ like the traditional heroes of old.
The Women’s Open went in next and, unsurprisingly, another member of the team off to El Salvador – current BLU Women’s Champ Emily Currie – took advantage of the power in the swell to stamp her authority over the rest. Other early standouts were Lola Bleakley (off to Mexi Log Fest) and Mali Harbour.
In the Masters, Chris Thomson and Sam Bleakley put those years of experience to good use and breezed into the later rounds, with smooth and controlled being the order of the day. Both of these guys are still very much on top of their game, through I’m assured they bruise easier and take longer to heal like the rest of us over 40’s.
Another huge entry for the Single Fin this year, and the swell had cooled its jets enough to give round 1 an unexpectedly early chance to show their stuff. A game of two halves, this one. The experience of Elliot Dudley, Sam Bleakley, Tom Fisher, Sam Crookshanks and Ashley Braunton being matched by the youthful zest of Jordan Zervas, Arthur Randell and uber grom queen, Sylvie Puddiphatt. Looking good for the later rounds, for sure.
With the tide filling in, a definite reduction in power and size was apparent. The small but perfectly formed field of Grandmasters made the best of it, with Adam Chell, Alan Reed and a surprise entry from Adam Zervas posting the top scores of the semi-finals. I guess they all brought their ‘A’ game. Yes, terrible pun. I know.
It was time to unleash the Monsters of Froth, the U16 Cadets. Last year’s battle royale between Kaz Phillips and Sylvie Puddiphatt appears to be back, both posting 1st place in their respective semi-finals. Mali Harbour and new grom on the block Isaac Dakin also racked up respectable numbers.
With the day drawing to a close there was just enough time to bash through Men’s Open round 2, get fed and watered and off to bed to prepare for another intense day of surfing.
Day 2 brought the sight many a Contest Director fears. The swell had dropped considerably overnight and though the wind had swung fully offshore to produce perfect little peelers, with the tide being a major factor at this size it was decided to reduce the heat lengths to 15 minutes. Popular decision? Maybe not, but definitely the right one.
The Single Fin hit the water and normal service resumed, the standouts from round 1 kept on scoring well. In the end, Sam Crookshanks completed his reintegration into the British surf scene by taking the final in some style with a field combo-ing 15.57 and some of the sweetest backhand noserides you’ll see in such diddy surf.
Emily Currie carried on where she left off in the Women’s Open, and surfed a very controlled and professional semi and final to take the win and a great start to the defence of the title. With the highest score in each round, it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise and bodes (hopefully) well for Emily at the ISA Worlds.
In the U18 Boys, Arthur Randell showed exactly why he’s the current European Junior Champion and effortlessly found several hang ten’s over the weekend when others were struggling for one. He also rides a shortboard pretty well, but we forgive him. Honourable mention to Welsh Whippet Blake Jones, who surfed great and should be a shoe-in for a L’Oreal shampoo contract.
A disappointingly small entry in the U18 Girls again, but when you’ve got 3 surfers of the calibre of Sylvie Puddiphatt, Lola Bleakley and Mali Harbour there’s always going to be enough fireworks to keep things interesting. Sylvie’s faultless take-off-to-stall-to-nose-ride paid dividends on the small right-handers while goofyfooters Lola and Mali chose to contend with the lefts that ended rather abruptly on the rocks. Victory to Sylvie.
The Grandmasters final was a tense and close affair, with the lead changing hands several times before Falmouth’s Adam Chell found a longer left with opportunity aplenty to dab toes over nose, and seal the win. I think this is going to be one of the most contested divisions of the tour.
Back to the future, and the U16 Cadets final. Nothing and nobody was going to rain on Sylvie Puddiphatt’s parade, and with a couple of well taken 6 pointers on the scoreboard she managed to take out her second division win of the contest. This could very well be Sylvie’s year.
In the Masters final, another close match between reigning champion Chris Thomson and Sam Bleakley. Chris took an early lead with a well-executed right that earned him the only wave of the final in the ‘excellent’ range, but he was slowly and methodically reeled in by Sam, whose last 2 waves of the heat were enough to ease into the top slot by a slender half a point. This should be another fiercely contested division in 2023.
The inaugural and much anticipated Women’s Over-35s division attracted a smaller field than hoped for, but we’re confident this will grow into one of the most interesting divisions. Former Women’s Open Champ Claire Smail prevailed in typically unflappable style, and it was brilliant to see Dominique Kent resurrecting her BLU career – long may it continue – along with Tina Beresford and Jen Pendlebury. All in all, a very successful first foray.
Last, and definitely by no means least, the Men’s Open. As the swell diminished, so did the hopes and dreams of some of the early standouts. Ashley Braunton and Evan Rogers will definitely find more power to smash on their trip to Central America, but in Cornwall the day belonged to the Welsh Wizard of Traditional Llongboarding (yes, yes, that’s the Welsh spelling) Elliot Dudley. Jordan Zervas ran him a very close second, and with the electronic scoring having a mild nervous breakdown the results were only known after the surfer’s feet hit the dry sand. Thrilling doesn’t even begin to cover it.
So there we are. Good weather, fine waves, great location, fabulous people, sublime bit of toe dabbing and only a smattering of parking tickets. An excellent job once again from the panel of judges under the benevolent eye of Head Judge Norman Wright (particularly while getting used to the brand spanking new tablets courtesy of 10 Over Surf Shop, Beach Marshall Tony ‘Aaaaarrggghhhh’ Clarke, media team Chris Levi, Ben Hartley, Nathan Benham and Richard Davies, and of course our glorious leader and Contest Director, Minnow Green.
1. Elliot Dudley
2. Jordan Zervas
3. Sam Crookshanks
4. Sam Bleakley
1. Emily Currie
2. Lola Bleakley
3. Mali Harbour
4. Jennifer Pendlebury
1. Sam Crookshanks
2. Elliot Dudley
3. Arthur Randell
4. Sam Bleakley
Womens Over 35s
1. Claire Snail
2. Tina Beresford
3. Jennifer Pendlebury
4. Dominique Kent
1. Sylvie Puddiphatt
2. Kaz Phillips
3. Lola Bleakley
4. Mali Harbour
1. Arthur Randell
2. Blake Jones
3. Oli Riley
4. Rowan Curbishley
1. Sam Bleakley
2. Chris Thompson
3. Adrian Napper
4. Alan Reed
1. Adam Chell
2. Adam Zervas
3. Alan Reed
4. Colin Sterling
1. Sylvie Puddiphatt
2. Lola Bleakley
3. Mali Harbour