The unmistakable signs of autumn are in the air. The leaves have begun their short but thrilling annual pilgrimage to the welcoming dirt, chain coffee shops are manically serving up spiced pumpkin versions of just about everything, Christmas paraphernalia is exploding from every shop doorway and the BLU Tour has come to its crowning glory at the unmistakable and magnificent home of British surfing – Fistral Beach.
Having a great main sponsor who serves up rather splendid pizza has nothing at all to do with it. Honestly.
In the great tradition of surf contests across the globe, the forecast kept us all guessing until the very last minute. What we got was consistent, small and generally clean surf across both days. Very contestable, if not the pumping waves of consequence we were all dreaming of….
Another large field in the Single Fin and Men’s Open divisions (despite a couple of byes due to injury and – gasp – a competing longboard event somewhere down the coast) made them the most obvious candidates for the early start on Saturday along with the Women’s Open, and in the first couple of rounds many of the usual suspects threw their style and flow hats into the ring, with Ashley Braunton, Elliot Dudley, Evan Rogers, a resurgent Ben Howey and local nosemaster Adam Griffiths posting the big numbers in both divisions, and being matched by Arthur Randell, Blake Jones and Louis Thomas-Hudson in the Men’s Open.
Standouts in the Women’s Open were junior frothers Lola Bleakley and Mali Harbour and, unsurprisingly, current champion Emily Currie.
Our new test division this year – the Women’s Over 35s – hit the water next, with former Women’s Open champ Claire Smail, Jen Pendlebury and 6 Million Dollar Woman wannabe (‘we can rebuild her’) Katrina Beddoe – making her first contest appearance since trying to disintegrate her own knees – posting the top scores..
In the Masters division and with tour leader Sam Bleakley on WLT commentator duties, current champion and local boy Chris Thomson took up the torch with some sweet nose rides, closely followed by former/current punk Alan Reed, logger/sponger Chris Webb and new boy Leo Lanzoni, whose smooth goofy skills quickly marked him out as one to watch.
Final heat of the day, and the first final of the weekend, was the U18 Girls Final. This was a very close and evenly scored affair until 2022 champion Lola Bleakley posted two successive waves in the ‘good’ range that were enough to see off the rest. It also brought into play a sudden death surf-off between herself and Mali Harbour for the overall title, as their scores across the tour events were tied. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to May Sidwell who, in her first BLU event, sadly managed to injure herself in a pre-heat freesurf. That’s the sort of luck we can all do without.
Despite the brief summary above, on the first day we SMASHED through more heats than should be humanly possible and it’s testament to the professionalism of the staff and judges that we didn’t just all go and sit crying and drinking cheap wine from brown paper bags by the close of play.
Sunday morning brought worse weather, all grey and gloomy like a proper British autumn always was back in MY day. Dark and oppressive? Yes please. Rain later? Bring it on. The waves, however, had definitely cleaned up and, despite being a bit more setty, we now found ourselves with some genuinely good logging waves. Game well and truly back on.
First to brave the elements were the Grandmasters, and once again current title holder Alan Reed and perennial podium finishers Chris Webb and Adam Chell made the running, all three executing precise turns, zimmer-free cross-stepping and hangs of the 5 and 10 variety to post respectable scores.
The Men’s Open quarter and semi-finals rattled past in quick succession, those familiar names of Braunton, Dudley, Griffiths and Howey once again posting the numbers that mattered.
As the tide dragged itself down towards low tide, the effervescent enthuse-fest that is the U16 Cadets was unleashed on the steel grey Fistral faces. To make things more challenging, the rain decided this would be a perfect time to start falling rapidly and in great volume, but even that couldn’t dampen the spirits and Isaac Dakin, Sylvie Puddiphatt, Reggie Roynon and Kaz Phillips danced, shimmied and styled their respective ways into the final. A great introduction to the division for Jago Penaluna, too.
In the U18 Boys, it’s been a back-and-forth battle between Arthur Randell and Blake Jones for the last few years, and literally not one person was surprised to see the same pattern emerging here. Blake’s insane hang 5’s with at least half his foot firmly out over the front of the board were matched only by the sheer criticality of Arthur’s nose rides. Not to be outdone, Kaz Phillips and Reggie Roynan muscled their own way into the final.
The rain continued throughout the semi-finals, turning what could have been a golden photo opportunity into a series of unexpected and unwanted emptying of water from pockets, shoes, cameras etc until, and against the odds, the sky started to clear almost mystically in time for the finals. Spooky…..
U16 Cadets first and, having been almost weirdly quiet throughout the event, Sylvie Puddiphatt dropped the Gromhammer ™ and two awesome rides at the high end of the ‘good’ range that left the rest of the field in her immaculately carved dust.
Classic and fortuitous BLU scheduling meant that half of the U16 field went straight into the U18 Boys final with nary a rashie colour change needed. Blake and Arthur joined the fray for what turned out to be a very high stakes affair that, at times, bordered on teasy (Cornish term, look it up). When the smoke of battle had cleared, it was Arthur Randell standing atop the smouldering remnants of Fistral Beach. Absolute full-bore cracker of a final.
Thinking we’d slow the pace down a tad with the Masters final was a naïve move, as they launched themselves out of the traps like mildly mature greyhounds. In a classic ‘goofy’ vs ‘not weird’ battle it was the regular-footed Chris Thomson and Chris Webb who found enough forehand advantage on the right-hand peelers to take 1st and 2nd respectively.
Time for the Women’s Over 35s, who launched themselves into the waves with possibly even more enthusiasm than the previous final. With the tour title in reach of at least 3 of the competitors, it was all to play for. Once again, the right-handers proved to be more consistent and it was Claire Smail who made the most of the opportunity, catching more waves and scoring more points than the rest of the field. Which, at the end of the day, is the point of all this nonsense.
Focus switched to the Grandmasters, who not only got great waves for their final but ACTUAL sunshine. Reigning champ Alan Reed went to work like a man possessed, taking waves at a rate of only slightly less than one a minute. It worked, too. Right up until Chris Webb’s buzzer beater 6.50 that snatched the victory rug right out from under Al’s feet. What drama.
The Men’s Open was never going to be a laid back affair, stuffed as it was with the big hitters of Adam Griffiths, Elliot Dudley, Ben Howey and Ashley Braunton, all of whom had been surfing brilliantly AND consistently all contest. This one was decided on an early ‘golden wave’ for Adam Griffiths, that just ran and ran for what seemed like an eternity and placed him squarely in front with an excellent 8.33. In wasn’t all one way traffic, and by the final hooter there was a wafer thin 0.33 between 1st and 3rd, with Adam squeezing Elliot out by 0.06!
The Single Fin final was similarly stacked, with Howey and Dudley being joined by Evan Rogers and Arthur Randell. Different but same, as Mr Miyagi would have put it (look it up kids). Things were really close in this one, the lead going back and forth between the surfers until Ben Howey launched himself into his final wave, another one of those ‘once a heat’ golden waves that allowed him to lay down several critical hang 5s and 10s and crispy, minty turns. It certainly impressed the judges, who dropped a 9.33 and that was all she wrote.
With wetsuits drip-drying over rusting van doors, wet towels slowly rotting seat cloth and wax stuck firmly under fingernails, the hordes adjourned to The Stable for trophy presentations and a general yelling at from Contest Director Minnow Green, and to hear the exciting news that – for the first time ever – there would be a PROPER awards ceremony for the overall tour titles at a hotel in November, with actual nice clothes, food, a band and everything. British longboarding really has begun to spread its glorious wings. Now soar, my beauty! FLY FREE!
Huge gratitude as always to our sponsors, particularly The Stable, Fistral for their incredibly tolerant staff, superb food and generally being supportive and welcoming. Oh, and the big bag of money. Special thanks also to Jenny and the Briant family and Fistral Beach crew for providing car parking for all competitors and staff throughout the weekend. Big thanks to Surfing Life, Newquay and Finisterre for their contributions to the prize fund.
This year we are especially grateful to welcome Tour Sponsors Lisarb Energy, CTC Waste, Ocean & Earth, 10 Over Surf and Media Partner Longboarder Magazine. Your support is genuinely valued and we thank you for helping to keep the longboard scene in its current vibrant state. We truly love you all.
On a personal note, I want to thank Minnow and the whole BLU team for giving me the opportunity to work alongside such dedicated, unshakeable, talented and welcoming people and generally hang out with some of the very best longboarders I’ve ever seen. This will be my final contest report, so thanks to all those people who bothered to get this far down the page and for possibly finding some of it entertaining over the years. Cheers and gone.
|Elliot Dudley||2||Emily Currie||2|
|Ben Howey||3||Beth Leighfield||3|
|Ashley Braunton||4||Mali Harbour||4|
|1||Women’s Over 35s
|Elliot Dudley||2||Katrina Beddoe||2|
|Arthur Randell||3||Jennifer Pendlebury||3|
|Louis Thomas-Hudson||4||Ingrid Morrison||4|
|Isaac Dakin||2||Kaz Phillips||2|
|Reggie Roynon||3||Blake Jones||3|
|Kaz Phillips||4||Reggie Roynon||4|
|Chris Webb||2||Alan Reed||2|
|Adam Chell||3||Adam Chell||3|
|Leo Lanzoni||4||Colin Bright||4|