In short:

Johnny Fryer won the Open division in a tight battle with Josh Ward, Andrew Griffen and Shaun Skilton at the English Open Champs this weekend. Saturday saw a full-on 6-8ft swell hit Watergate Bay, providing the Open guys with some testing conditions.

In long:

Thumping double-overhead waves provided the canvas for an impressive display of surfing at Watergate Bay this weekend (2nd and 3rd May 2009) in the new format English Open Championships.

With Saturday’s pulsing 6 to 8ft swell on the limit of contestable conditions, organisers opted to run only the elite Open division. But by Sunday the waves had dropped to a more manageable 4ft, allowing all eight divisions to be completed in fun, albeit choppy, surf.

Newquay-based Johnny Fryer claimed the presitigious Open division title in a closely-fought heat. Any of the four finalists - who included Cornishmen Josh Ward, Andrew Griffen and Shaun Skilton - would have been worthy winners.

“It was a crazy final," said a delighted Johnny Fryer after receiving his trophy as the English Open champion. “The boys were all ripping, there were a lot of waves ridden, and it must have been super, super close. Before the final I really wanted to win this, but everyone was ripping so I thought I was out of it. I’ve wanted to win this for ages. I’ve been second and third before and I just didn’t want another second. It feels great."

In the Longboard Open, Newquay surfer Ben Skinner’s recent run of form continued as he beat off competition from defending champion Ben Haworth to win, while Candice O’Donnell retained her Women’s Longboard title.

Just four weeks ago both Skinner and O’Donnell were standing on the podium in Tapia, Spain, having won their respective European qualifying events for the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Longbord Tour. For Skinner, another win reinforces his position as Europe’s top longboard surfer.

“It’s been really good month, I’m having a good time," said an enthusiastic Ben. “I surfed yesterday in the Open and it was really hard work. Everyone was taking 20 minutes to paddle out, but the waves were really good.

“We were lucky with the waves, and the event didn’t have a headline sponsor so to even be here is good in itself, and a lot of that is down to Pauly (Jeffery)’s hard work and the support of Tidal Productions and the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay."

The Isle of Wight’s Zoe Sheath won the Women’s Open division, edging out North Devon’s Sophie Hellyer.

In the Stand-up Paddle Surf division veteran longboarder Adam Zervas won the title for a second consecutive year.

Surfboard shaper Chris Harris won the Senior (over 28) division; former European champion Spencer Hargraves won the Masters (over 35); and David Pearce claimed top spot in the Legends (over 45).

As well as the prestige of winning national titles, the top-placing surfers gain qualification for the English team, which will take part in the European championships in Jersey from 26th September to 4th October.

“Our surfers don’t often get the chance to prove themselves in decent waves, but they certainly did on Saturday, and they certainly impressed me and the judges," said organiser Pauly Jeffery of the English Surfing Federation.

“There was a lot of committed surfing in some fairly chunky waves. There was a lot of paddling, a lot of hard work, and the good surfers got rewarded. I would also like to thank the RNLI and Watergate Bay SLSC for providing safety cover for the event, particularly on the Saturday."

The Extreme Academy’s next event is the Zapcat King of the Surf series on 13th and 14th June, while the country’s top longboard surfers return the following weekend for the Extreme Academy Midsummer Classic on 20th and 21st June.

Results

Open 1st Johnny Fryer 2nd Josh Ward 3rd Andrew Griffen 4th Shaun Skilton

Women’s Open 1st Zoe Sheath 2nd Sophie Hellyer 3rd Hannah Harding 4th Carrie Edwards

Longboard Open 1st Ben Skinner 2nd James Parrey 3rd Adam Griffiths 4th Ben Haworth

Women’s Longboard 1st Candice O’Donnell 2nd Nicola Bunt 3rd Marina Lee 4th Zoe Sheath

Senior (Over 28) 1st Chris Harris 2nd Eugene Tollemache 3rd Spencer Hargraves 4th Joe Moran

Masters (Over 35) 1st Spencer Hargraves 2nd Chris Harris 3rd Callum Morrell 4th Paul Barlow

Legends (Over 45) 1st David Pearce 2nd Jed Stone 3rd Tony Good 4th Laurence Couch

Stand-up Paddle Surf 1st Adam Zervas 2nd Alex Murray 3rd Nick Healey 4th Tim Mellors