Scottish National Surfing Champs 2021
The SSF made the decision to run this years Scot Champs in November due to Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the year. After 2 years of waiting, during such a pivotal time for Scottish Surfing competition, all the best talent from across the country were hungry for a sniff at the long held titles.
As expected, the anticipation for this event was palpable. After Covid delays, along with the new Scottish Junior Tour, it finally marks the full, unfettered return to Scottish surf competition. Being November, the days are short, giving us a limited daylight window to run. This time of year always has potential for monster seasonal swell, and the forecast on the lead-up to the event was no joke. All eyes were focused on the expected 50mph winds, 30ft swell & unrelenting storm conditions on a crash course with the North Coast.
Such is the nature of our unique weather system, us surfers know to take a forecast with a pinch of salt. Mere days before the event, good news rolled in, there was a window. Game on.
Friday morning brought broken cloud, scattered rain & gusty onshore winds. Conditions reminiscent of the British Cup earlier this year, albeit with smaller waves. The event crew arriving in the dark, to ensure we were up and ready to go for first light. Meanwhile, thanks to the spring tides, Thurso East was pumping out long, crumbling open faced walls, some all the way to the cliff. The first heats were on.
Despite the bitter wind and cold rain, the surfers headed out using the perpetual rip to reach the peak, and trading off on choppy, unpredictable waves. Longboard heats paved the way, followed by Masters, Women’s Open & Men’s Open. Each surfers style is visibly unique, especially when conditions change from survival mode to a straight up face off. Despite the pumping waves, rain hammered down non-stop,and we got to business. Conditions gradually improved throughout the day, the wind dropping slightly, and the wave taking more shape over shallower reef.
Despite getting just pipped out of the Longboards quarter finals, Ingrid Morrison, the only woman who entered the mixed longboards category and only competitor to enter the maximum three categories this year will now go on to represent Scotland in the women’s longboard event:
“The memories I have of this event are magical and I’m already excited to represent Scotland in future surf events. I will be taking the winter to train hard and be ready for the spring. Enjoy your winter everyone.”Ingrid Morrison
With our window of opportunity slim, a testament to the efficiency and organisation of the entire event crew, heats were run almost non stop from sun up to sun down, ensuring we had time to make finals the following morning, before the approaching storm reared its head. Come Friday evening, we were well through the running order, and Semi Finals were on the books for Saturday.
The conditions we were met with the next day exceeded everybody’s expectations. Driving Offshore winds had worked their magic, as the spray danced in the blue hour. Thurso was reeling, back to the hollow heaving monster that we all know lurks beneath the surface. We couldn’t start the comp quick enough, I pulled into the car park as locals were pulling out of dawn tubes. Spirits were high.
Semi finals were underway as soon as they could reach the peak. We were in for an impressive display from all competitors, young & old, women & men. No longer a competition of who could find a diamond in the rough, this was a test of true grit, late drops and salty kegs.
The finals approached all too quickly, just in time for the perfect tide & perfect waves. It couldn’t have worked out better. Firstly with the longboards, Jack MacKinnon, Chris Clarke, Malcolm Findlay & Sam Christopherson who battled hard, with Malcolm Findlay overtaking Chris Clarke to gain his 10th Scottish Longboard Championship title:
“On Finals Day this year, it was 46 years to the day since I first drove up to surf here at Thurso East. During this time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have picked up five Open titles, six in the Masters’ division, and this is my 10th Longboard win. I’ve met amazing people, made great friends, and had good times, but nothing lasts for ever, and it’s a privilege to be able to go out on a high note, so that’s my last Scottish as a competitor. I’ll be back though, to enjoy the showcase of Scottish surfing talent this enduring event provides and keep the history alive.“Malcolm Findlay
Straight after we witnessed the dramatic longboard finale of Malcolm’s Scottish Surfing competition era, the Masters followed, with no less pressure on their shoulders. Lester Cruickshank, Sam Christopherson & Donald Peace fought closely, to see Mark Cameron aka Scratch retaining his 2019 title:
“Every year the bar gets raised. I’m proud to say I’ve won the masters Scottish Championship. The highlight for me was Craig and Ben’s performance. Scottish surfing is in good hands!”Mark Cameron
The waves backed off slightly for the start of the Women’s Open final, but that didn’t last long. Phoebe Strachan played the priority game well, and out-surfed Clover Christopherson, Natalie Kobedza and Iona Mclachlan to take her 2nd Championship Title. Taking out last year’s champ, Iona, in the process.
Delighted to come away with the Scottish Women’s title for a 2nd year. All the hard work and training from the past year has paid off. It’s been so nice to finally get a comp after the year Covid took. Hopefully lots more comps and good results to come.”Phoebe Strachan
The Men’s Open then saw what can comfortably be described as the best waves of the entire weekend. With Finn & Craig scoring tubes within the first 30 seconds, it looked to be wide open. As time pressed on, it was clear, 16 year old Craig Mclachan had the heat in the palm of his hand. Pulling into a tube nobody thought possible, and scoring the best wave of the weekend (9.33), then following it up with an 8+ point ride to cement his place at the top of the table.
Everything aligned on the Saturday for me and I just managed to find the right waves to get me through my heats. The waves were sick in the finals- the best waves I’ve ever surfed in a heat!Craig Mclachlan
After that sensational set of finals that left us all in awe, we now see the future of Scottish Surfing. From here it looks bright, the young have risen to the top, testing the resilience of the more experienced crew and inviting a heated battle in future competition.
With all the hard work from the clubs across Scotland over the last few years we are already seeing huge improvements in the standard of surfing which can only bode well for Scottish surfing in the future.Jason Simpson, North Shore Surf Club Chair
Behind the scenes- some of our event team who travelled from all over the UK had great words to say about our growing event:
I could see an increase in younger entries compared to last year, which suggests that Scottish surfing is growing and this will provide a fantastic future. It is also clear to see that the judges are gaining more experience from the events, therefore growing capacity in Scottish surfing.Tim Aylett, Judging Refresh System Operator (Live scores)
I am quite happy to state that the Scottish Championships has the best facilities and infrastructure of any of the home nations this year. Not only does Scotland consistently provide the best surf but the infrastructure of this event is second to none; with a heated judges cabin, computer generated live scores, priority system, comfortable competitors area and superb catering, making it one of the most professionally run and enjoyable events of the year.Ester Spears, Head Judge
Look out for the next Scottish Surfing Championships again in April 2022 – for more spectacular cold water surfing and to join us in exploring this new chapter of surfing in Scotland.
Having been a part of these events in thurso for nearly 15 years I was overwhelmed by the community support and the local effort to host the competition . It has become a top class event and really sets a high standard that everyone involved should be immensely proud of. Well done allChris Clarke, Director
With extra special thanks to:
Glen Scotia Distillery
Spice Tandoori Thurso
Dark North Ltd
Caithness Osteopathic Services
North Coast Watersports
Without the following people the event would not have been possible
European Surfing Federation Vice President
Priority Judge, Judging Refresh System Operator & MC
COVID – 19 Officer
Oscar James // Braw Surf
Derek McDonald-Lee // Dark North
EventScotland Events Manager
Barbados House Limited Scotland
Pentland Hotel Owner & Manager
North Shore Surf Club Chairperson
North Shore Surf Club Committee Member
Pat Kieran MBE
NSSC Representative & Caithness Osteopathic Services
Thurso Community Cafe
Words ~ Oscar James // Tamara Hicks