THAT'S A NICE COAT THAT JACKET
QUIKSILVER Welsh Nationals 2008 Cole 2, Dennison 3!!!!! Report by Contest Director: Jamie Bateman
The QUIKSILVER Welsh Nationals ran off in perfect conditions over the May Day bank holiday weekend. With Swansea’s Lloyd Cole taking the Open Title for the second time and Pembrokeshire’s Joanne Dennison successfully defending her Women’s crown for a third successive time!
Typical the year I offered to help run the QUIKSILVER Welsh Nationals, thus practically making it impossible for me to surf for the whole weekend, the surf pumps and Freshwater West is as good as it gets. When the internet forecast tools started predicting an epic weekend it was hard to believe as generally these virtual swells are usual only surfed in daydreams; but not so for this year’s QUIKSILVER Welsh Nationals. A perfect 5ft SW groundswell propagated north eastward towards the St. Georges Channel and with local weather forecasts for the bank holiday weekend also shaping up it looked destined to be an all-time weekend.
Saturday dawned sunny with small 1-2ft waves breaking against a stiff offshore SE wind. The event got underway with 2 heats of the U12 Groms hitting the water at 10.30am. Given the smaller wave heights predicted for the day contest officials decided to run with the youngsters. The Junior Girls Final was run off with Hannah Griffiths, taking the title in what was a closely fought heat. The U18 Longboard Final was also run, Huw Bentley and Evan Rogers battled out this heat with Huw eventually taking home the bacon. U14 Cadets round 1 and semi’s, and U16 Round 1 were also completed with the event wrapping up for the day on the main beach with shoulder high offshore waves bowling into the high tide, shore break. The swell had definitely begun to arrive and with Open Round 1 scheduled for 9.00am Sunday everyone went home in anticipation of another great day of surfing ahead.
Sunday morning forecast, weather wise, was to be the ‘worst’ of the weekend. The wind was still SE and blowing reasonably hard but the swell had arrived. 5ft+ sets broke way out the back at Freshwater and Open first round competitors knew they were going to have to work hard for their money. With a record number of entries, it was going to be a great morning of entertainment watching the main event battle it out against the notorious Freshwater West beach break. The contestants didn’t disappoint and the standard of surfing was exceptional in the 5ft shifting peaks. Un-sympathetic to their tired shoulders I called Open round 2 up to follow Open round 1 and so back in they went to once again tackle the solid waves which by now were easily 6ft on the sets as the tide had begun to push back in. Some stand out performances came from Lloyd Cole, Greg Owen, Gareth Vaughan and Harry Cromwell all of whom seemed into Freshy’s grove!
The wind began to drop midway through Sunday, which unfortunately coincided with the descent of a thick sea mist putting the contest on hold as the judges were unable to make out the coloured rash vests of the competitors….. and so we waited …….and waited…..then eventually after what seemed like eons the sun began to break through the mist revealing a glassy sea. 5ft sheet glass waves now poured into Freshwater West and those virtual swells often only dreamt about had unbelievably become reality. The Open event continued with the Londboarders following behind. By now the tide had pushed high enough for the legendary right hander that is ‘Middle Bay High Tide’ to show and the competitors wasted no time in getting amongst it.
From then on it all got a little hazy as the remaining divisions, including the Seniors and Masters got treated to the 5ft+ dredging right hander in picture perfect conditions over the shallow high tide reef. Some locals were saying it’s the best they’d seen; it was certainly right up there in the realms of classic as set after set of hollow waves unfolded down the point. With a large crowd of spectators gathered on the cliff tops, with scenes reminiscent of a classic Bells contest.
It didn’t prove as easy to surf as it looked though with some competitors finding it difficult to make the thick sections, making for a number of upsets. Tim Page from Swansea locked in two amazing rides, carving some big critical turns scoring 16 out of a possible 20 in the Seniors. Chris Griffiths also impressed scoring a 9 point ride in the Masters. The Middle Bay ‘rock’ came into play on a number of occasions with Ian Bowen from Porthcawl finding himself perched on top of the razor sharp obstacle in his Masters heat with 4ft lumps of white water smashing him and his board. Thankfully Ian used all his experience to survive without serious injury, sacrificing his board rather than his body and had to sit out the rest of the heat. He was more gutted he missed out on the solid waves than the loss of the board!
It was decided to run the last event of the day, U18 Junior, back at the main beach as we didn’t want our Juniors suffering the fate of the rock. By this time anyway the tide was high enough to provide some good wedgey bowls for the next generation to shine. George Schofield was the standout of round 1 scoring an above average ride then blasting an excellent score of 9 points mid way through the heat to take out heat four.
So ended an amazing day at the beach, with Freshwater West throwing up some of the best, if not the best waves ever seen at a Welsh National contest and with the forecast still excellent for Monday an 8am start was called.
As I drove to the beach at 7am Monday a thick sea mist once again enveloped the shores of South Pembrokeshire. With 8hrs of surfing ahead it seemed we would be in for a long day but within the hour the mist had burnt back revealing 3-4ft sheet glass waves. Pumping again! Open round 3 was up first and the contestants were frothing to get amongst the perfect beach break bowls. Eventual finalist Gareth Vaughan blew up in heat 3 nailing a 9point ride in the last 2 minutes of the heat only needing to execute two massive backhand turns to secure this excellent score.
As the tide dropped further back during the morning the contest site again moved 200yards south to take advantage of middle bay low-tide sand bars. We were now down to the semi-final stages in the all categories and all excelled in the 3ft glassy waves. The Ladies once again showed their competitive prowess with Beth Mason on fire in her semi signalling to defending champion Jo Dennison that she meant business this year.
The usual suspects cruised through the longboard semi’s, that is Elliott Dudley, Dan Harris and Chris Griffiths however this year they were joined by young Evan Rogers who out-pointed Colin Bright in a close fort heat. It was Porthcawl representing in the Junior U18’s. Max Tucker, Tom Bentley and Tom Padden secured final births with Cornish / Welsh ripper Tom Good joining them. Mark Vaughan blitzed his Senior Semi final locking in an incredible 10 point ride! Vaughanie now clearly focused on making up for the loss of his Open title was looking good to retain his senior title; Craig Burrows, a long time Welsh National competitor also made the cut and joined Mark, Andrew James and Chris Griffiths in the Senior final. Chris, marathon man, Griffiths also made the Masters final along with last years champion Nick Bresnan, Rob Pountney and former Welsh Open champion Simon Tucker. The Open semis again saw some excellent surfing. Greg Owen and Lloyd Cole made it through close heats to star in their umpteenth final along with local favourite Harry Cromwell and Llantwit ripper Gareth Vaughan.
The wind magically turned offshore as the finals began. 3-4ft offshore beach break waves now poured into Freshwater West and still I hadn’t been for a surf !!!! Some consolation though was the standard of surfing witnessed. A large crowd lined the shore line for the final’s with running commentary, Quiksilver flags, banners and decals dotted all over the place, clear blue sky and picture perfect conditions the event would have looked more in place on the WCT! The U16 Cadet final saw Tom Good narrowly defeated Jack Hughes. Mark ‘Splinter’ Griffiths took home his gazillionth Welsh National title in the bodyboard with Tom Hammett coming in close 2nd. Elliott Dudley stylishly took out the longboard final with his duelling partner Dan Harris coming 2nd. Tom Padden just pipped Max Tucker to the Junior U18 Final, Max surfing with fluid style through-out but Tom nailed one big closeout turn that impressed the judges.
The tide was now pushing right up the main beach banks making for difficult backwash conditions for the Open Final. Having looked so good through the whole event finalists Harry Cromwell and Gareth Vaughan just couldn’t find waves that linked through to the shore break had to be content with 3rd and 4th respectively. Lloyd Cole got off to a flying start locking in an 8point ride in the first few minutes. Greg Owen answered back as he does best with some consistent rides battling hard against the rip hoping to hook into the river mouth rights, which seemed like it was tactically a heat wining move. But it wasn’t to be for the former 3xChamp as Lloyd picked off the last remaining set which ran through the flat section allowing him to smash and powerful closeout reo and seal the his second Welsh Open Title.
The presentation was made in golden light with Freshwaters picturesque back drop as a fitting setting. Organisers and Officials were thanked with special praise made to Eryl Mason, Stuart Bentley, Anne Webster Blyth, Tony Good, all of our Judges, The National Trust, Christian Surfers and our sponsors QUIKSILVER. Best wishes were passed to Gwen Spurlock for a swift recovery following her recent operations.
1 Lloyd Cole
2 Greg Owen
3 Harry Cromwell
4 Gareth Vaughan