Ocean Sports Juniors Take out National SUP club Championships
I love a road trip and look for any excuse to make one. Having attended back in 2017 we missed the 2018 National SUP Club championships hosted by Bray Lake, I knew we had to make sure that we took our rowdy rabble of youngsters up North for the 2019 edition. A road trip isn’t a road trip without some form of adventure, staying in a B&B simply was not an option, with bell tents, camping stoves and camp beds packed so high in the minibus that a small child would be lost if they ventured too far back, we set off toward the bright lights of Reading!
As a club our driving ethos is inclusion, fun, challenge and learning – and our youngsters have done this in spade fulls’ throughout the summer months. We had a motley crew of ten youngsters sign up early in the summer who all started practicing a variety of skills from pivot turns, wash riding, beach starts and West Country hand signals that would help them on the tranquil waters of Bray Lake.
The SUP club championships is, as the title suggests, a National event, where clubs bring as many paddlers as possible, to compete across a variety of sprint, distance, technical and team events. Ocean Sports was the only Junior focused team at the event while many of other clubs had juniors, most teams were comprised of adults and our youngsters gave them a real run for their money. After finishing 4th in 2017 we had some big shoes to fill particularly with the absence of some of our ‘big guns’!
After a day jam packed full of racing, with little time to recuperate, the enormity of what our youngsters had achieved became apparent at the prize giving. In almost every category from little May in the under ten’s through to Charlie and Marley in the under fourteens we swept the podium clean most notably with the girls in the under twelves, Lottie, Tilly (Eldridge) and Lu, all winning an individual race and finishing one two and three overall, respectively. Charlie and Marley had their work cut out not with each other but against a super grom from another club, despite some dubious rule making and some near misses, Marley, our very own pocket rocket was unable to get past the youngster from Bournemouth, while Charlie growing like a rocket was unable to find a board that floated him properly, finished a close third overall.
While our own groms were blazing a swathe through the younger age groups, Tilly (Sanders), Adrian, Tegan and Esther had to make the big leap up into the under seventeens alongside club legend and Ocean Sports Centre senior instructor Hattie. All of the crew were competing for the first time in SUP conditions which could only be described as brutal, despite the youngsters only creeping into that age category, they did incredibly well! The paddler with the biggest heart and greatest resilience was Esther, who should not have even been in the category. Showing real tenacity Esther ground her way around a four kilometre course. Starting in the last wave of paddlers, when I passed Esther, not only was she passing others she did so with a smile although, it might have been through gritted teeth at times. Hattie stormed around her course winning her division, Adrian equally whizzed around finishing first, Tegan and Tilly blew their competitors away in spite of finishing closely behind a paddler twice their size in second and third respectively. The old sea dog of the club managed to win the old gits category while finishing second overall after being caught in a bit of a log jam.
On to team events which produced a mixed bag of results, fielding an elite crew of under twelves in the dragon board against adult paddlers our youngsters were the only crew able to line up properly at the start in blustery wind conditions. As the start line filled with incapable adults space became tight and after being asked to reposition themselves our youngsters were penalised for their skill when the race started with their board pointing in the wrong direction! Undaunted, the gang blasted off after the tail end of the race almost passing their nearest rivals who had a 100m head start over a 200m course. Our under 17’s suffered a similar fate in the relay, Tegan, Adrian, Tilly paddled like speeding rockets making their older contemporaries look incredibly average. After making the semi’s the team failed to ease into the final after the starting official started the race while they looked on with dismay from the bank. Undeterred the team raced out with a huge disadvantage and narrowly missed qualification by one place.
What set our paddlers and our club apart was not our individuals performances but their ability out on the water and how they conducted themselves as a team. I am immensely proud and their behaviour as young adults which was not only exemplary but incredibly enjoyable to be with. And, they looked like the strongest paddlers out there.
What trip involving camping would be complete without ghost stories, with tales of gore and horror, the girls all huddled into one tent were clearly adept at story telling keeping the boys in the adjacent tent, along with most of the camp site awake into the early hours. Not to be out done, when asked ‘dad do you know any stories…’ the camp site when quite after a factual recount of poltergeists and weegy boards! or was it because I had fallen asleep! Suffice to say, Sunday morning is only the second time I have ever seen Hattie broken! Once on the road and nearing our final destination at the Exeter climbing centre, the bus was a little quite and the decision to climb was being looked upon as a rash decision based upon our current state of enthusiasm. It didn’t last long with everyone soon climbing walls like the monkeys were are. Filled with food, thoroughly worn out we made the final leg home.
First up to Hattie and Alex who were both acted as two of our safeguarding officers while away. Obviously giving up a weekend is difficult for anyone working particularly Alex who had to take time off to do so. So please when you see either of them next time please give them a huge thank you.
Also, the Barn Nursery, Carbis Bay who very generously provided us with the 16 seat mini for the trip without whom the trip would have been much more expensive and far less fun travelling individually.
And finally, to all the youngsters who represented Ocean Sports, a very proud moment for the club and most of all for each and everyone one of you. Well done.