22 September 2023
History made at the PuraVida MiPost Welsh National Surfing Championships 2023 - Llantwit Major
- WSF decision to run the Welsh National Surfing Championships at Llantwit Major, for only the third time in the event’s history, pays off as Llantwit’s sculpted reef and well-shaped waves win a swell that provided rippable conditions throughout the three-day event.
- Pat Dark takes the Men’s title ahead of junior Eli Perrins Davies, whilst Emily Williams also fights off the charge of another youngster in Katie David to take her eighth Women’s title!
- Pembrokeshire grom Josie Hawke cleans up, becoming the first Welsh girl to win the U14, U16, 18 Girls’ divisions, and deservedly takes the Paul Ryder memorial award for most promising young Pembrokeshire surfer.
- Elliot Barton takes the U18 Boys title, Tomos O’Leary the U16s and Coby Williams the U14s.
- For the traditionalists, Angharad John put on a clinic to be crowned champion of the Women’s Longboard category. Thomas Fisher nudged past Elliot Dudley with a fine performance, winning the Men’s Longboard. Seth Reed took the U18 Boys Longboard.
- Further titles for Kerry Baker (SUP Women), Oliver Laddiman (SUP Men), George Bevan (bodyboard Men), Breige Lawrence (Over-35s Women), Mark Vaughan (O35s & O40s) and Neil Newman (O50s).
- With 2023 marking 50 years of the Welsh Surfing Federation, the live stream brought to you by Camera Anchor and the Crest Cast team made “The Welsh” an event to remember.
**Full event pics available www.photo.cymru**
Here’s what went down in more detail
Held over Saturday 29th, Sunday 30th April and Monday 1st May, the Welsh Surfing Federation’s showpiece event played out in small surf that built into glassy head-high walls through the weekend.
Fog delayed proceedings early on, with judges moving to the seashore to observe the groms’ heats on day one. In the water, Tom Sheldon of Channel Coast Surf Club (CCSC), Blake Jones (Welsh Coast Surf Club), Eli Perrins Davies and Sol Williams of Channel Coast Surf Club (CCSC) each put points together on two-foot surf to make it through their U18 Boys heats. They were joined by brothers Euan and Arthur Buick (PSC) who also progressed.
The U18 Girls heats got underway mid-morning with Charlotte Eales (WSF Training), Josie Hawke (PSC) and Indi Lynch (PSC) finding the best of the weak swell to move forwards in the competition.
Early evening, the U18 Boys longboard final produced progressive logging spliced with confident nose-riding. It was close run, but Seth Reed (PSC) managed to take top honours from Blake Jones (WCSC), beating 2022’s category champion Jones by the narrowest of margins.
U18 Boys longboard champion, Seth Reed said:
“The conditions were really tricky, small and breaking in about a foot of water, but it was really great to take part.
“It was super close, a bit of luck on my side, but I remember a nice set wave coming through and I managed to get on it, put a hang ten and a drop-knee cutback and got a decent score.”
“Blake’s beaten me in a lot of competitions so I was really happy with the win. I’ve wanted the title for a long time and I’ve finally got it. There’s been a lot of coaching and a lot of practice and it’s all paid off, so I’m really pleased.”
Day two saw clean 2ft low-tide Llantwit develop into 3ft+, windless surf through Sunday afternoon.
Junior heats were held in the building surf that turned mirror-smooth for the U18 Girls final. Josie Hawke (PSC) headed straight out to attack the set waves.
At just 12 years of age, Josie’s composed top-to-bottom surfing belied her age and showed how much work the Pembrokeshire grom has been putting in of late, her final average hitting 12.10 to win the division.
PSC’s Katie David’s smooth top-turns earned her a 9.04 overall. Charlotte Eales (WSF Training) and Indi Lynch (PSC) had less luck with wave selection to come in 3rd and 4th respectively, but both topped off a solid contest campaign with stylish rides.
U18 Girls champion, Josie Hawke said:
“I was thinking of going out back and getting the bigger waves because they had better shape and more power. At first there weren’t many coming in but then I got that first right, took it easy at first and built the score then paddled back out looking for a good back-up score.
“I took a risky left which was backing off a bit but I got some good turns in. The rest of the heat was a bit quiet for me until the last five minutes when I got a right and really went for it but unfortunately didn’t manage to land my last manoeuvre.
“It feels amazing to be champion. Last year I wasn’t as good so it’s lovely to be back out there and doing well. The waves were fantastic and it was great to have surf where you could showcase what you can do.”
Head-high glass set the stage for the U16 Boys final. Tomos O’Leary (WCSC) was stand-out, executing critical turns and considered linking manoeuvres to obtain a 10.53 overall.
Local ripper Luca Owen (WCSC) showcased his skills to finish with 8.24 and the silver medal. PSC’s Arthur Buick smashed the lip a number of times and bagged third spot, just ahead of Elijah Jones (PSC) who put on an equally dynamic display.
U16 Boys champion, Tomos O’Leary said:
“Overall, it went pretty well, although it was a bit difficult as the conditions were changing all the time. I just tried to stay calm and get in the frame of mind of it being a free surf. The waves were a lot better than I thought they would be.”
“It feels amazing to be champion. I’ve had a few bad comps recently but I felt strong going into this event and I’m really happy with the win.”
The waves backed off a little as the tide pushed up over the middle of the reef at Llantwit, but there were still walls to be snagged for the Grand Kahunas (50+) final Sunday afternoon. The heritage heat saw Neil Newman (LBR) throw a few seasoned carves that put the Langland local in the driving seat early on.
Steve Childs (WCSC) bagged a few inside runners to finish in second. Mark Jones (CCSC) came in third, and Craig Burrows (CCSC) fourth. Stuart Jones finished in fifth.
Grand Kahunas champion, Neil Newman said:
“It was really tough – the waves looked nice when you were paddling out but they were backing off quite a lot and not the easiest to catch. Earlier on in the day the waves were way better but with the tide I knew it would get more challenging.”
“It’s the first time I’ve won any category, so it’s really nice to get the win. I wasn’t sure how I won because I wasn’t really happy with the waves I had, but I’m really pleased to win.”
The Men’s SUP finalists cashed in on mellow silver lines of high-tide Llantwit. Oliver Laddiman and Jim Richardson were premium sweepers, both negotiating the flatter sections well to build speed before ripping the top off a few.
Laddiman impressed with his all-out commitment and manoeuvres more reminiscent of a shortboard display, and was deserving of his first place. Duncan Sheldon took third, and John Lugg fourth.
Men’s SUP champion, Oliver Laddiman said:
“We had quite a pleasant final. The sun was out, and the wind dropped completely making the small surf very fun to compete in. Looking back, I'm pretty happy with how I surfed. A few turns weren't how I'd like them, and as always my wave selection needs work, but overall I came out the water feeling pretty stoked.”
“It's awesome to have taken the title! It's been so long since we've had a SUP comp in Wales it's good to get back out competing. It was such a good event, hopefully we'll have some more competitors joining next year!”
Kerry Baker (Island SUP) became Women’s SUP champion after giving spectators and judges alike an elegant performance in her division’s final. Breige Lawrence (WCSC) caught a few nice rides under the Llantwit spring rays and topped the podium in the Women’s Masters (35+).
Good conditions held for the Women’s longboard division. Local, Angharad John (Aberavon Surf Club) demonstrated nifty footwork on a lovely early right which she later bettered with a 7.5 thanks to beautifully surfed left, for a total score of 13.83.
Jasmine Seager (PSC) surfed well to land a 5.87, and Fi Campbell came in third with a 3.30.
Women’s longboard champion, Angharad John said:
“It was quite hard to judge where the next set was coming from but if you were in the spot you could have the choice of left or right really. I got lucky pulling into a left, and some of the girls had rights that worked. The first two waves I had died a bit but the rest held up nicely, and I had a bit of advantage over the others as I’d surfed here a lot in the past. It feels amazing to be champion”
The bodyboard final saw North Wales’ George Bevan (Welsh Bodyboard Club, WBC) return to the Llantwit line-up to defend his 2022 crown. Tai Jackson drew first blood with two neat 360s, followed by scores for Alex Clark (WBC), and Rich Livock (WBC) who opened his account with flowing cutbacks going right. Earning a reputation for being in the right place at the right time, George Bevan nailed a barrel roll on a late A-frame to push his points total to 7.33 to pinch the title in the last minute from Tai.
Bodyboard champion, George Bevan said:
“There were nice rights and lefts, it was just a bit of a waiting game at times. But it’s great to be part of it, there were nice clean waves so no complaints. There’s been nice head-high rippable faces all day, so I’ve been pretty stoked.
“It feels really good to retain the title. It’s just a great vibe here and great to be part of the scene.”
Josie Hawke picked up where she’d left off for her U14 Girls final, gaining a 4.27 on the judges’ scorecards with her first ride. A reeling left followed, decorated with transitions and off-the-tops that drew a loud cheer from the beachside crowd.
Caitlin Bazely (CCSC) stuck decent drops and bottom turns and could have scored big had she made it around a closing section on a clean right. Taylor Shelmerdine (LBR) collared a few small ramps but couldn’t quite find the higher scores needed.
Fog returned for the U14 Boys final, but that didn’t stop Coby Williams (WCSC) from picking out a brace of lefts that the talented grom duly dismantled for a combined 7.27.
Elijah Jones (PSC) got in the right spot and laced together some nice turns to register a 7.13 overall. Ted Owen (PSC) showed commitment for a 4.23 return, while Bobby Hooper (PSC) worked hard on a small right to register 3.10.
U14 Boys champion, Coby Williams said:
“It was a good heat; tricky conditions, the waves were good though. The peaks were shifting and the waves didn’t have loads of power but I enjoyed it. The rip was ok. I was trying to catch the bigger ones. I was trying to put backhand turns together and a few on the forehand.
“I’ve done loads of surfing, training with my coach and surfing all different conditions. I’m stoked to be champion. I’m aiming to do a few comps in Cornwall and the junior series around the UK next.”
On the Monday morning, Emily Williams (CCSC) started as favourite in the Women’s final, but the Llantwit local had to show patience as fellow finalist Katie David (PSC) sliced up a clean right to get the scoreboard ticking with a 4.67.
Poppy Owen (PSC) registered next with a controlled bottom turn and nice rail work to keep the pressure on the multiple champ.
Williams then used her priority to launch down a right, gaining speed to attack a lip on the inside, a 4.47 her reward. She built on this with a further four-pointer to end on a championship-winning 9.83. The Newport-born ripper is now an eight-time winner of the Women’s Open at The Welsh.
Indi Lynch (PSC) dropped into a few shallow runners, finishing in fourth place with 5.40 overall, while Gwenan Morgan (WCSC) came in 5th with a 2.90.
Women’s Open champion, Emily Williams said:
“The final was a little slow to start for me, but then I got myself settled and put a few nice rides together, one of which I fell on, unfortunately. The waves were a bit bumpy and messy and there was the rip to contend with, but there were steeper ones in there that broke through.
“It feels really great to be champion, especially as I didn’t win last year, but to get the win at home is really special. I’m really happy.”
The Welsh National Surfing Championships Grand Masters (40+) began in 2ft onshore surf, but conditions didn’t affect the competitive spirit of the evergreen finalists. Rudi Perrins Davies (CCSC) kicked off with a decent right, while Greg Owen (WCSC) carved a few lefts up nicely to earn a 6.67.
Mark Vaughan (CCSC) got busy on a lip-bashing mission to register 11.16 overall – sufficient to claim first place. Gareth Bennett did well to notch up a 5.87 on his first ever contest final.
Mark Vaughan said:
“I was so furious with myself after blowing my Open men’s semi-final that I couldn’t really think straight. I just wanted to take all my frustrations out on the first lip that came my way. It’s always nice to win a title but I’ll be thinking of my missed opportunity for perhaps my last shot (at my age) at an Open title.”
Elliot Barton (LBR) stormed into an early lead in the U18 Boys final with a 5.0 and a 3.33. With 13 minutes to go the Langland shredder struck 12 on a close-out then hit three waves in succession to end on a 13.70.
Eli Perrins Davies (CCSC) took the waves apart with the same energy, hacking the guts out of a right and then slashing a left to miss out on moving into first place by just 0.7.
Tom Sheldon (CCSC) got a couple of nice lip cracks in, before finishing a lovely wrap-around carve and cutting back in the foam in a stylish figure-8.
U18 Boys champion, Elliot Barton said:
“It was a tricky final, having to deal with the massive rip put a lot of pressure on the arms but the waves were fun. I was a bit nervous – the waves looked alright if a bit small but you just have to manufacture scores. I got some good ones in the end.”
“It’s really good to be champion – it’s my first win, so I’m stoked.”
Midday on day three at The Welsh saw Josie Hawke paddle out for yet another final in the U16 Girls category. Could Josie make it three from three? She could indeed. The Pembrokeshire prodigy wasted no time in racking up scores in the average-to-good range, while finalist Poppy Owen also put on a good show, her best wave hitting 2.9.
LBR’s Taylor Shelmerdine worked hard in the unfavourable conditions but had a few nice drops, and Charlotte Eales (WSF Training) demonstrated controlled backhand top-turns to pick up a 2.37.
Josie’s trio of gold medals also won her Pembrokeshire Surf Club’s Paul “Spyder” Ryder memorial award that goes to the best up-and-coming Pembrokeshire surfer at the Welsh Nationals.
Reacting to her phenomenal weekend’s work, Josie modestly said:
“It feels amazing to get the three wins, especially as it’s the first time it has happened. It’s just lovely to have won.”
Elliot Dudley (CCSC) aimed to retain his 2022 Men’s longboard title as the finalists ventured out at low-tide Llantwit.
True to form the local legend caught a few stylish rights in the opening minutes and cruised to a 5.33 lead. Last year’s U18 Boys champion, Blake Jones rinsed a right hander and packed in the dab fives but it wasn’t quite enough to move up from second place come the final hooter.
The day belonged to Tom Fisher (LBR), however. Already standing out on a brightly coloured, acid wash board, the Gower local got five over on numerous occasions on rides studded with drop-knee turns, eventually clocking up a gold-winning 11.9.
U18 Boys longboard champ Seth Reed (PSC) got to the nose with similar alacrity and registered a final score of 8.44 to come in fourth.
Men’s longboard champion, Tom Fisher said:
“My plan from the start was just to concentrate on the lefts. I could see the nose-ride potential wasn’t that great from a scoring point of view, so I focused more on turns. I chose a board with a bit more of a performance tail, still single fin, but I thought just throw in some drop-knees and hope for the best.”
“This is only my second time surfing here, 2011 was my last event. It feels awesome to be champion, as I was second last time. I was a bit lucky but it was great.”
Craig Bright (CCSC) set the pace in the Men’s Masters (35+) with big gouges in a rapid left that displaced bucket-loads of Bristol channel foam and won a 5.5 from the judges.
Bright cut back into the pocket time and again on his journey to an overall 10.10. Stephen Phillips (CCSC) went rail to rail, demolishing an insider.
Mark Vaughan battled a few sections to punish a lip before nailing a round-house wrap that contributed to a final score of 11.06 – enough to claim the win. It could have been so different had Greg Owen not been beaten by the buzzer on his last wave.
Masters champion, Mark Vaughan said:
“I made three finals last year and won nothing, so it’s great to come away a double champion.”
The Welsh National Surfing Championships culminated with the Men’s Open final without last year’s champion Logan Nicol. Spectators were given a mouth-watering showdown between Patrick Langdon-Dark (LBR), Eli Perrins Davies (CCSC), Ryan Thomas (PSC) and Ollie Evans (LBR).
PLD and Eli traded solid rights straight off, both smashing lumps out of fast right sections. Pat plastered a second wave with trademark back-hand snaps and finished on a close-out re-entry that helped him reach 13.97 overall.
Eli had a lot of momentum after tearing his way through the weekend’s heats. Fresh off an Indo jaunt the Channel Coast Surf Club grom used priority to shred a left before busting the fins out. A third wave travelling right saw Eli hit the curtain on a heavy close-out, helping him reach a tally of 9.40.
Ollie Evans (LBR) put in a shift working several big carves and demonstrating some good surfing, but was just beaten to the silver medal position.
Ryan Thomas got involved throwing blankets of spray that had locals in Ilfracombe putting up their brollies. The Whitesands surfer remodelled a right on the inside but got bogged down in the river current, posting an 8.5 overall.
Men’s Open champion, Pat said:
“It was a pretty difficult final but I managed to find some rights. You could go left against the rip but the rights gave a bit more advantage. The waves were pretty mellow otherwise, it was just a case of adapting to the marginal surf and believing in my ability.”
“A few of the heats looked pretty perfect yesterday, wave-wise – a nice A-frame giving you the chance to put in four turns per wave which doesn’t happen too often at The Welsh
“It feels great though and stoked to be champion.”
In summary, the Welsh National Surfing Championships was a huge success, held at an excellent location given the conditions running through the bank holiday weekend. Judges and spectators alike enjoyed a superb competition. All athletes adapted to the changing situations admirably produce some outstanding surfing.
**Full event pics available www.photo.cymru**
A huge list of thank yous to make as follows
Sponsors & Supporters:
Jim & Rich at PuraVida Boardriders store, Penarth.
Ken Vaughan – McLays & MiPost.
Fran and Jonathan at Barti Spiced Rum.
Huw Williams at Welsh Coffee Co.
Joe @ Mystic Board Riders.
Merfyn – Power2Go (clean energy packs).
Bethan James – Accommodating officials.
Jonathan Runnalls – PhotoDotCymru
Tim Aylett – Refresh Technology (live scoring).
@puravidaboardriders #MiPost @welshcoffeco @bartirum @mysticboarding @refreshtechnology @power_2go @PhotoDotCymru
A big shout of appreciation also to:
Sarah Jones of Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Maria and her staff at Llantwit Major Beach café.
Natalie and Gethin at Llantwit Major surf life-saving club.
Curtis Hancock and all at Channel Coast Surf Club, as well as the local surf community for continuing to support our event.
Rhydian Brewer, Morgan Hendry and all at Christian Surfers Wales for their unwavering support of Welsh Surfing.
WSF Online PR team: Steve White, Sam Johnson, Craig Nicol.
Crest Cast Live Feed Team: Max, Dayana, Josh and Craig.
Commentators Tom, Rob, Rhys, Calum.
Officials – Mags, Gwen, Kerry, Rhyd, Phil Saddler, Steve, Rudi, Craig.
Beach marshal: Morgan Hendry.
Head judge: Craig Burrows.
Forecasting and co-contest directing by Jamie Bateman and Huw John.
Event organiser, co-contest director and commentator Mark Vaughan.
2023 marks 50 years of the WSF – a period that’s seen us start from holding Wales’s first National Surfing Champs for just men, to now hosting an Olympic pathway event with nearly 20 categories. Our live stream technology and stunning drone footage helps to showcase this beautiful coastline, top quality officiating and outstanding levels of surfing in this country.
A massive thank you to the legends that are Linda Sharp and Huw John who are almost entirely responsible for the past 50-plus years of the WSF.
U18 Boys Longboard
1. Seth Reed (PSC)
2. Blake Jones (WCSC)
1. Josie Hawke (PSC)
2. Katie David (PSC)
3. Charlotte Eales (WSF Training)
4. Indi Lynch (PSC)
1. Tomos O’Leary (WCSC)
2. Luca Owen (WCSC)
3. Arthur Buick (PSC)
4. Elijah Jones (PSC)
Grand Kahunas (over 50s)
1. Neil Newman (LBR)
2. Steve Childs (WCSC)
3. Mark Jones (CCSC)
4. Craig Burrows (CCSC)
5. Stuart Jones
1. Oliver Laddiman
2. Jim Richardson
3. Duncan Sheldon
4. John Lugg
1.Kerry Baker (Island SUP)
Women’s Masters (35+)
1. Breige Lawrence (CCSC)
1. Angharad John (ASC)
2. Jasmine Seager (PSC)
3. Fi Campbell
1. George Bevan (WBC)
2. Tai Jackson (WBC)
3. Alex Clark (WBC)
4. Rich Livock (WBC)
5. Elijah Jones (WBC)
1. Coby Williams (WCSC)
2. Elijah Jones (PSC)
3. Ted Owen (PSC)
4. Bobby Hooper (PSC)
1. Josie Hawke (PSC)
2. Taylor Shelmerdine (LBR)
3. Caitlin Bazley (CCSC)
1. Emily Williams (CCSC)
2. Katie David (PSC)
3. Poppy Owen (PSC)
4. Indi Lynch (PSC)
5. Gwenan Morgan (WCSC)
Grand Masters (40+)
1. Mark Vaughan (CCSC)
2. Rudi Perrins Davies (CCSC)
3. Greg Owen (WSCS)
4. Gareth Bennett
1. Elliot Barton (LBR)
2. Eli Perrins Davies (CCSC)
3. Tom Sheldon (CCSC)
4. Blake Jones (WCSC)
1. Josie Hawke (PSC)
2. Charlotte Eales (WSF Training)
3. Poppy Owen (PSC)
4. Taylor Shelmerdine (LBR)
1. Thomas Fisher (LBR)
2. Elliot Dudley (CCSC)
3. Blake Jones (WCSC)
4. Seth Reed (PSC)
1. Mark Vaughan (CCSC)
2. Craig Bright (CCSS)
3. Greg Owen (WCSC)
4. Stephen Phillips (CCSC)
1. Patrick Langdon-Dark (LBR)
2. Eli Perrins Davies (CCSC)
3. Ollie Evans (LBR)
4. Ryan Thomas (PSC)