When I heard Operations Manager of Surfing GB Nick Rees was going to go and support the GB Adaptive Team, I stuck my hand up to support also. The fact that it was to be held at La Jolla, California really helped this decision!
The day before the event we all arrived in La Jolla, 3 Nicks and 4 athletes… ready to take on the world!
The parade of nations began with all the teams gathering on the shores of La Jolla to parade their flags and make way to the opening ceremony at the beachside park in La Jolla. The happiness and camaraderie was overflowing. I was totally overwhelmed by the passion and pride that all athletes and teams were displaying.
As all the athletes gathered, each country emptied sand from one of its beaches into a glass container to create a display of sands from around the world, a truly unifying symbol.
Spike Kane Pegleg “Rik” Bennett Martin Pollack Chris Jones
Manager: Nick Rees Support: Nick Hounsfield & Nick Asheshov
A relatively quiet night was had by all as everyone was excited to be competing the following day, but La Jolla town was buzzing with excitement, stoke and happiness for what was going to go down the following day.
Day 1 Competition
The format was: 2 days of heats, best 2 wave scores count and top scores qualify for finals day 3. All GB competitors had a solid day with pretty peachy conditions 2-3ft glass in the morning with ruffled peaks in the afternoon. Chris Jones smashed his heat with an 8.50 for one of his waves as he carved and sliced his way through the line-up.
Peg Bennett also clocked up a 6.14 which he carried over for one of his best 2 waves.
Day 2 Competition
There was a bump up in swell with 3 ft of clean swell which at times has 4-5 ft faces. Quite challenging conditions for some of the competitors, especially those unassisted.
Peg managed to win his heat which secured a place in the quarter finals with a series of smooth take offs, carves and floaters.
Chris Jones put in another very dominant display which meant he qualified for the final!
Spike Kane won his heat convincingly to make the semi finals with a flurry of committed and energised waves.
Martin Pollock, personally, had the stand out heat. Whilst he did not get through to the next round, his heat was sheer inspiration. With the bump up in swell size and not being assisted, we were concerned he would not even make it out back. He scratched out beyond one of the bigger sets and waited patiently for a bomb. He missed out on one wave which we believe would have clocked a massive score. With 40 seconds to go, he turned and stroked into the wave of the heat, a glassy, fast reeling left hander which he swooped into, bottom turned and set his rail running down the line. The cheers from the sand were next level and a number of us were genuinely welling up with pride with what Martin did. He was one of the most challenged athletes in this competition as he is a triple amputee, for those few moments, he was charging as well as anybody we’ve ever witnessed…
Nerves were definitely jangling amongst the team with the hope of what could be achieved. Spike Kane had an epic heat and dominated early in the heat with a succession of well picked waves and critical manoeuvres, however, he was bumped into 3rd place by a very strong field and the eventual silver and bronze medallist. Spike was cheered by all as he was carried to the beach by his ever loving Hawaiian friends who had adopted him last year in the absence of GB support. Spike is a true scouser gentleman, loved by all and always has a smile and a high 5 for everyone. He did us and the sport proud.
Peg Bennett also charged hard in his Semi-final but was met with very strong opposition. Peg was riding a longboard and as the criteria for judging was on short-boarding, he was at a big disadvantage. However, he battled hard with a few cutties and floaters and again did the team proud. With a shorter board, we are sure he has a final in him next year, especially if the waves get really big!
Chris Jones was the last of our team to compete in the final of his category. He came out of the blocks with an amazing wave which earned him a 6.17 and for the fist 10-12 minutes he was heat leader. However the American Jeff Munson and Filipe Lima got busy and began to build a score with ferocity. Chris managed to snag another 6+ pointer in the last few minutes but it was not enough to take the top spot. Chris got a Bronze medal which was an incredible achievement for his first competition!
The final medal ceremony soon followed (after a cheeky free-surf!).
Fernando Aguerre ( ISA President ) opened the ceremony with an award to Reilly Phelps who had performed brilliantly in the Surf Clinic before the event started. This award was presented by parents of a young boy ,Sam Day, who sadly passed away. It was a very emotional moment for everyone and we cheered Reilly as tears ran down our faces.
We also cheered when we found out Team GB had managed to finish 9th overall with only half a team! So much potential for next year and it would be great to be able to take out a full team and female surfers too!
Chris Jones proudly picked up his Bronze medal for his category, such a great achievement.
The Brazilians were overall team winners and they celebrated with the expected levels of animation… we did laugh about how reserved the British are in comparison!
That night, all the teams celebrated and partied hard (less said about that the better). We all agreed that if you could bottle the vibe from this event, it would cure all the ills of this world. 2016 has been such a weird year on so many levels and it was great to hit December with an event that put on show everything great and positive about the human spirit.
Love, laughter, a caring spirit and hope.
I was truly honoured to have been supporting this amazing team of athletes and it totally inspired me to build out The Wave with all abilities in mind, ensuring an access point for others with different abilities and supporting our adaptive athletes to help them perform to the highest level.
A massive thanks to ISA for laying on such a great event and to Stance for their sponsorship support. Also to Help for Heroes and Operation Surf for their support of the team members.
Well done Spike, Peg, Martin and Chris on amazing performances and to Team Manager Nick Rees and Nick Asheshov for managing and supporting the athletes so well. If anyone wants a truly amazing trip, come and support the teams next year, it was a complete honour.
All photos courtesy of International Surfing Association.