Saturday 20th of October 2018 – Scotland’s best junior surfers descended on the Moray Firth on a warm and sunny day for the annual Sandend Grom Comp hosted by two local clubs; Moray Firth Surf Riders & Lossiemouth Surf Club. The event has been increasing in size since its inception in 2016 with this year seeing 36 competitors from across Scotland entering – a record for a junior surf competition in this country. It was the last leg of the Scottish Surfing Federation Junior Surf Series so there was extra incentive to perform.
The weather forecast could have not been more perfect with a small but long period north-west groundswell and light offshore winds. It allowed the more experienced surfers to perform without being too intimidating for the younger kids.
An incredible sunrise to start the day lifted the spirits of the still sleepy event organisers and sponsors – Donald from New Wave Surf school and Suds from Suds Surf School – as they set up the event site. We managed to squeeze in 32 heats of 15 minutes each before the sun hit the other side, thanks to the assistance and organisation of all the volunteers throughout the day.
In the under 18 boys 16 of Scotland’s finest surfers put on a great show on the 2-3foot faces. Ansil Parkin from Dunbar Surf Club, local Lossie surfers Ollie and Hayden Peace and Sandend sea-dweller Luca Baltrunas beat some good competition but failed to upset the top seeds in the semis. Given the line-up it was inevitable it would be a hard fought final and the usual paddle battles ensued. Patience to wait for the bigger sets was key for higher scores. Tiree’s Ben Larg came out top with 2 solid scores; narrowly beating Craig McLachlan of Thurso, who had the single highest score of the final but failed to find a good enough back up. Local ripper Ben Kobedza followed in 3rd,, with Tomas Badia from St Andrews surfing consistently well all day to gain 4th place.
The under 18 girls proved just as exciting with a field of 15 competitors. Natalie Kobedza, Maja and Lois Thomson and Rhona Duncan narrowly missed the final. Emma Swanson returned from injury to claim 1st place; closely followed by Robyn Larg, who excelled in the small fast waves all day; with 3rd and 4th spots being clinched by Emily and Rosie Rothney, applying their snowboard skills to the water.
The standard for the under 14 mixed category was just as good as the previous ones and it was brilliant to see the younger kids such as 6 year old Maya Kobedza and Emlyn Findlater being encouraged by the older ones – Ben Larg was even seen pushing Maya into waves during a heat! It won’t be long before they start posing a challenge for the older kids. The girls all performed well and it is great to see so many girls in the semi finals. Ben Kobedza reached another final but failed to find the set waves and took 4th place. Congratulations to Robyn Larg for splitting the boys dominance in the final with her 3rd place finish. Top position was closely contended and Ben Larg again pipped Craig MacLachlan to the top spot.
Normally the preserve of the old timers, the groms were really excited to compete for the longboard title. As the sun was setting we enjoyed watching some classic cross-stepping, nose riding and some moves the judges weren’t even sure existed. We were even graced with some dolphins farther out in the bay, just in case it wasn’t a perfect enough event already! Craig MacLachlan’s ‘racing car’, coffins and overall performance was awarded 1st place. This may help soften the defeats of prior divisions, with Ben Larg taking 2nd place this time. Emma Swanson’s stylish cross-stepping nearly saw her on the podium again but an interference call meant she slipped into 4th place and Hayden Peace, who had been surfing well all day, gained a well-earned 3rd.
A bonfire had been burning all day on the beach thanks to the kind donations of wood from the Sandend residents and was a perfect location for the prizegiving. Many thanks to Xcel, Ocean & Earth, Alder, Coffee at the Kings and C-Skins for the prizes and to Lossiemouth Childcare Centre for their generous donation towards the t-shirts and hoodies. Thanks go to Adam El Naggar of North Sea Surf Shots and Richard Whyte of Great Whyte Surfboards for doing the water photography and to Allyn Harper for the land photography and fantastic video edit. We’re very grateful to all the hard-working volunteers: judges Lisa Monteith, Frazer Reid, Marti and Iona Larg; Michelle Sutherland for spreadsheets and general coordination; Catriona MacDonald and Neil Thomson for tabulating the scores; Erik Esson, Kerry Peace, Jolene Kiddell and Neil Swanson on timing, rashvests and flags; hunter/gatherers Lynn Findlater, Peter Kobedza and Eva Bonarek for sorting out the fire and bbq; and Andy from Coffee at the Kings for relocating to Sandend for the day and making sure everyone was fuelled with his amazing coffee, cakes and hot chocolate. Big thanks to the parents for supporting it but most of all thanks to the kids who showed how much surfing has improved at the junior level across Scotland. They manage to balance camaraderie with competitiveness to ensure all enjoyed a fun and exciting day.