‘Haven’t seen this time in a while’, I thought, clambering out of the surf lodge’s triple bunk bed at 6.30am on Friday morning. It was the opening day of the BUCS Surf championships, one of the biggest surf contests in Europe. The best thing about the contest is that it is a real eye-opener to competitive surfing, which has been previously overlooked in the sporting world. This year saw 348 competitors, along with hoards of other swell-seeking barrel-bandits, make the trek to take over the infamous Fistral Beach for a weekend of surf, a little bit of sunshine, and Sailors’ Nightclub.
As the Cardiff convoy pulled into Fistral beach car park at stupid-o-clock on Friday morning, the tired grumbles and groans about overpriced car parking were silenced by the sight of perfect 6ft sets rolling in, groomed by a fresh offshore wind, which was luckily set to stick with us for the weekend. Everyone was eagerly pulling on wetsuits in no time and Team Cardiff was in the water within ten minutes, battling with hundreds of other student surfers, and the odd grumpy local, to catch some waves before their first heat. It was safe to say the swell was solid, and the Cardiff team was looking on top form for the contest. To be honest, I think everyone was just excited to surf in some clean water. If you’ve ever been to Porthcawl in South Wales you will understand that being able to see the surf board you are sat on is a real treat.
By 9am, Round 1 of the Men’s competition had kicked off, with the first few heats already in the water. The day’s conditions provided an excellent contest platform, so without a doubt the judges were looking for some high-performance power surfing. The Cardiff boys seemed to tick all of the boxes, with most of the guys making it through to Round 2. Ollie White managed to fly the Cardiff flag the longest by breezing through to Round 3, until unfortunately getting knocked out by some solid competition from the likes of Falmouth and Welsh rivals Swansea Uni. However without a doubt, the standout of the day was the brave bloke who showed determination and commitment (or maybe he lost a bet) by surfing his heat wearing nothing but a pair of board shorts.
With around 50 men’s heats, it felt like a long day waiting around for the woman’s heats to get underway. However, after spending the day fuelling up on pasties, we were all pumped to get in the water. The standard of the girls contest was very mixed, with some novices just in there having fun, thrown in amongst some real seasoned competitors who showed competence and flow on each of the waves they surfed. Alice Brown and Frankie Pioli both seamlessly sailed through to the next Round. Frankie in particular had a belter of a heat, scoring an 8.5 followed by a 9.0, which was the highest scoring wave of the day. Frankie continued to wave goodbye to the competition all the way through to the finals on Sunday, where she was the only Cardiff trooper still standing in the competition. Pioli battled through a tough final, and was placed fourth overall: a great result for Cardiff Uni.
Despite most of the team spending much of the weekend’s contest on the bench, the bright side was that Mother Ocean was offering some tasty waves up and down the coast for us, which the pros, beginners and body-boarders alike could lap up. So the rest of the weekend was spent pulling on those wet sandy wetsuits and surfing some really great waves. The BUCS weekend was a really good way for everyone in the club to surf together and get to know each other both in and out of the water. I strongly encourage anyone to join the surf club at Cardiff, or at least just have a go if you’ve never surfed before, because I can guarantee, and any other surfer will say the same, that surfing makes your life better. The benefits of the sport are endless: getting a tan, building back and shoulder muscles without sweating it out in the gym, the buzz you get after every wave, and not to mention that a beer always tastes a million times better after a surf.
So after an epic few days of sick waves and Spoons’ dinners, everyone was surfed out and it was time to say bye bye to Newquay for another year. Despite not achieving the best team result, we had some excellent individual performances at the contest that everyone was stoked about. While the weekend’s pumping waves certainly provided a perfect stage for the experienced surfers to showcase their talent to the crowd, the competition was also a fantastic opportunity for students of all abilities to experience a prestigious surf event, or even try surfing for the first time. The chilled vibe of the weekend attracts more and more student surfers each year purely for the experience, which I think is really positive in that more people want to get involved in the sport and be a part of that laid back, sometimes- sunny, beach-bum lifestyle we all love to live, dude.