The Scottish surfing team is ready to take on the waves in Newquay, England, in a competition that could pave the way for their Olympic dreams.
The Fistral Beach event, held in partnership with Surfing England, will take place over the weekend of October 28 to 29. It will feature some of the best surfers from across the UK, vying for a spot in the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surf Games.
Surfing Scotland: A rising force in the sport
Surfing Scotland is the national governing body for surfing in Scotland. It was established in 1978 and has been promoting and developing the sport ever since.
Surfing Scotland has a vision to make surfing accessible and inclusive for all, and to support its athletes to achieve their potential.
Surfing Scotland runs various programs and events, such as:
- The Scottish National Surfing Championships, which are held annually at Thurso East, one of the best waves in Europe.
- The Scottish Surfing Federation, which is the representative body for surfing clubs and associations in Scotland.
- The Scottish Junior Surfing Squad, which provides coaching and training for young surfers aged 12 to 18.
- The Scottish Adaptive Surfing Team, which caters for surfers with physical or mental disabilities.
Meet the team: The surfers who will represent Scotland
The Scottish surfing team consists of 12 surfers, six men and six women, who have been selected based on their performance and ranking in previous events.
The team captain is Mark Boyd, a 32-year-old from Thurso, who has been surfing since he was eight. He is a four-time Scottish champion and a two-time British champion. He said: “We are excited to be flying the flag for Scotland at the GB Cup in Newquay this year”.
The other team members are:
- Hannah Sharp, a 23-year-old from Dunbar, who is the current Scottish women’s champion and a former British junior champion. She is also a qualified surf instructor and a marine biology student.
- Shoana Blackadder, a 28-year-old from St Andrews, who is a three-time Scottish women’s champion and a former British champion. She is also a yoga teacher and a mental health advocate.
- Phoebe Strachan, a 19-year-old from Aberdeen, who is the current Scottish junior women’s champion and a rising star in the sport. She is also a student at Robert Gordon University.
- Chris Clarke, a 26-year-old from Edinburgh, who is the current Scottish men’s champion and a regular competitor on the European circuit. He is also a surf coach and a graphic designer.
- Scott Main, a 24-year-old from Aberdeen, who is the current Scottish junior men’s champion and a talented longboarder. He is also a student at Aberdeen University.
- Ben Larg, a 15-year-old from Tiree, who is the youngest member of the team and one of the most promising surfers in Scotland. He has been surfing since he was four and has won several national titles.
- Finn MacDonald, a 17-year-old from Thurso, who is another young talent in the team and a cousin of Mark Boyd. He has been surfing since he was six and has competed internationally.
- Iona McLachlan, a 17-year-old from Dunbar, who is one of the top female junior surfers in Scotland. She has been surfing since she was nine and has represented Scotland at several ISA events.
- Kitty Brewer, a 16-year-old from St Andrews, who is another rising star in the female junior division. She has been surfing since she was seven and has won several national titles.
- Malcolm Todd, a 29-year-old from Edinburgh, who is an experienced surfer and a former Scottish champion. He is also a qualified surf instructor and an engineer.
- Sam Christopherson, a 27-year-old from Aberdeen, who is an accomplished surfer and a former Scottish junior champion. He is also an offshore worker and an avid traveller.
The challenge: The road to the Olympics
The GB Cup in Newquay is not only a prestigious event in its own right, but also a crucial step towards qualifying for the Olympics.
Surfing will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the Paris 2024 Games, with 20 men and 20 women competing for medals.
The qualification process for surfing is complex and involves several stages:
- The first stage is the ISA World Surf Games (WSG), which are held annually and feature teams from around the world. The top five men and top seven women from each WSG will qualify for the Olympics (subject to continental quotas).
- The second stage is the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), which is the elite professional circuit for surfing. The top 10 men and top eight women from the 2022 CT will qualify for the Olympics (subject to country quotas).
- The third stage is the ISA World Surfing Games (WSG) 2023, which will be the final opportunity for surfers to qualify for the Olympics. The top four men and top six women from this event will qualify for the Olympics (subject to continental and country quotas).
The GB Cup in Newquay will serve as a selection event for the WSG 2022, which will be held in El Salvador in May 2022. The top three men and top three women from each of the four home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) will form the GB team for the WSG 2022.
The GB team will then compete against other teams from around the world, hoping to secure a spot in the Olympics.
The opportunity: The potential of surfing in Scotland
Surfing in Scotland may not be as popular or as well-known as surfing in other countries, but it has a lot of potential and a lot of benefits.
Surfing in Scotland offers:
- A variety of waves and conditions, from gentle beach breaks to powerful reef breaks, suitable for all levels of surfers.
- A stunning scenery and a rich culture, with surf spots located along the coastlines of the mainland and the islands, offering spectacular views and historical landmarks.
- A friendly and supportive community, with surf clubs and associations that organise events and activities for surfers of all ages and abilities.
- A positive impact on health and well-being, as surfing provides physical exercise, mental relaxation, social interaction and environmental awareness.
Surfing in Scotland also faces some challenges, such as:
- A cold and unpredictable climate, which requires surfers to wear thick wetsuits and accessories, and to cope with changing weather and tides.
- A lack of infrastructure and facilities, such as surf schools, shops, rentals, showers and toilets, especially in remote areas.
- A limited exposure and recognition, as surfing is not widely covered by the media or supported by the government or sponsors.
However, these challenges can also be seen as opportunities for improvement and growth. Surfing in Scotland has a lot of potential to attract more participants, spectators, tourists and investors, and to raise its profile and reputation.
The future: The vision for surfing in Scotland
The Scottish surfing team is not only aiming for Olympic glory, but also for a brighter future for surfing in Scotland.
The team hopes that their participation in the GB Cup and the WSG will inspire more people to take up surfing, especially young people and women.
The team also hopes that their performance will showcase the talent and potential of Scottish surfers, and attract more attention and support from the media, the government and sponsors.
The team also hopes that their success will contribute to the development and growth of surfing in Scotland, by improving the infrastructure and facilities, creating more opportunities and events, and enhancing the quality and standards of coaching and training.
The team also hopes that their passion will spread the joy and benefits of surfing to more people in Scotland, and beyond.
The Scottish surfing team is ready to make waves in Newquay, and beyond. They are not only chasing their Olympic dreams, but also their vision for surfing in Scotland.
Will they make it to Paris 2024? Will they make history for Scotland? Will they make a difference for surfing?
Only time will tell.