The 2015 Welsh Nationals in association with MiPost, Rusty, FCS & Gorilla
Rhys Barfield Emulates Matt Stephens 26 Year Record!
Your 2015 Open Champions Rhys Barfield and Joanne Dennison.
Rhys Barfield and Joanne Dennison took top honours at this year’s Welsh Nationals in association with MiPost and Rusty. Barfield emulated Matt Stephens’ 26-year record by winning both the Open and Junior divisions with a dominant display, while Surf Snowdonia’s Head Coach Jo Dennison ensured she returns to work as Welsh Champion.
The hotly contested Men’s Open final was held in pumping 4 to 5ft bowls with Barfield getting off to a flyer, blasting a sick backside air-reverse followed by a flurry of critical turns to nail a near-perfect 9.2 ride. Fellow finalist Alex Morris also got off to a great start, locking into a sweet front-side tube (6.5) which he immediately backed up with a progressive backhand right for a solid 7.5. Eventually joining the pair were Mark Vaughan and James Jones who endured a horrific start to the final, the past champs found themselves at the receiving end of a Fresh West pounding leaving them stuck inside.
With the line up temporarily down to two, Barfield and Morris were gifted the choice of any wave they wanted. All James and Vaughanie could do was look on in horror. Barfield soon backed up his opening ride with a 7.1 that he quickly replaced by another excellently surfed 8.5 right-hander. Vaughanie eventually punched his way into the line up, unleashing a series of backhand hooks to get his final underway with an 8.0. Defending champ Jones’s title grip loosened with every duck dive as he found himself in one of those heats where the only thing that came his way were sets to the head. Alex made things really interesting by gouging away another solid left for yet another excellent 9.0 score. As time ticked away Al and Vaughanie gave it one last blast but neither could manufacture the required score to over take the newly crowned Junior Champ.
Nobody could deny Barfield’s win was anything other than fully deserved. Arran Bright summed it up nicely: as Vaughanie politely enquired how he’d faired himself, Brighty simply answered “Did you see Barfield?”
Alex Morris lining up his local spot. Pic. Chris French Photography
In the Women’s final the girls faced a slightly kinder side to Freshwater West with the tide in perfect position. The waves at this point were grinding, providing sucky lefts and rights. It was just a matter of hooking into the right one. However, the girls found themselves slightly tormented as the peaks seemed to shift in every direction but to them. It was only a matter of time before a decent wave popped up though, and it was Joanne Dennison who dropped into a classic low-tide right which saw her unleash her powerful backhand attack with devastating effect to take a significant lead. Defending champion Emily Williams put in a brave performance in the powerful conditions as she looked to play catch-up and retain her title. Gwen Spurlock (returning to competition after a number of years travelling) and Niamh Mathias also put in gutsy performances taking some hell drops in the process, but were unable to position themselves in the right place to challenge Jo’s opening ride. With time ticking away Jo added a few more points to her 7.5 to seal the deal and take yet another title back to the Dennison home.
Joanne Dennison powering in the Women’s final. Pic. Cara Gaskell.
The three-day event enjoyed fantastic conditions pushing the performance level up a few notches on previous years. Saturday morning brought a small offshore swell that steadily built throughout the day providing the last few hours of competition with super-fun 3ft wedgy high-tide rights. The best of the action witnessed the U18 quarter finalists trading off wave for wave as the future of Welsh Surfing gave their peers plenty to think about. Saturday’s action also saw the U12’s, U18 Girls and U18 Longboard finals held to assist with some of our youngsters’ commitments outside of surfing.
Despite the rain, Saturday evening brought uber fun conditions for the groms. Photo: Mark Vaughan
First up were our youngest competitors who are still finding their feet in the art of competitive surfing. Yet their youthful exuberance brought plenty to cheer as our four finalists Luke Hutchins, Ejay Cogger, Eli Perin Davies and Luke Barfield looked at home amongst the powerful waves. On this occasion Luke Hutchins took the win over Cogger, whilst Davies and Barfield couldn’t be separated to finish joint 3rd.
Under 12 ‘s finalists. Pic: Peter Bounds Photography
Our young loggers were up next as shortboard shredding was replaced by the more artful form of longboarding. Credit to these kids; swinging 9ft+ of fibreglass around takes skill as well as strength, especially at a wave like Fresh. The young men opted to take on the low-tide rights off the Gap in what was to be a closely fought heat. All four finalists gave the judges plenty to think about. Fancy footwork from Llantwit’s Arran Bright outscored the more conventional attacks of Oscar Arnold, Harry Williams and Tom Horn.
Arran Bright strong and committed. Pic: Peter Bounds Photography
Emily Williams continued her domination of the U18 Girls’ final with another typically solid performance to make it a hat-trick of wins. Niamh Mathias, Bethan Lewis and Ffion Hughes gave Emily a good run for her money, continually putting the pressure on by racking up a number of decent rides. Emily had to work hard for her win, fending off the girls’ attempts to remove her crown.
Ffion Hughes, Emily Williams & Niamh Mathias Pic: Peter Bounds Photography
Sunday’s weather forecast had promoted the WSF committee to pre-seek approval from the National Trust and PSR surf club to switch locations to the board-snapping yet sheltered left-hand wedge, Broadhaven South. Yet despite the forecast the wind and swell failed to materialise, thus bringing a more traditional contest feel to proceedings as a brisk onshore wind chopped up the head-high swell. Again the evening’s high tide brought the best of the action as the swell increased a foot or so and the wind backed off, providing 3ft+ bowling rights.
The Open quarter finalists enjoyed the best of the conditions this time, Adam Jenkins, Rhys Poulton and U16 surfer Cieran Hughes lighting up on their forehand. But it was the senior statesman Mark Vaughan, 40 years young, whose vertical backhand attack brought straight 10’s from the judging panel, the weekend’s only perfect score.
Monday greeted competitors with beautiful weather and a solid though slightly raw 4 to 5ft swell, which dutifully improved throughout the day, as forecast. Traditionally finals day, the high number of entries meant there were still a number of semi finals to surf off.
Freshwater West Pic by Chris French
Our most senior statesmen, the Kahunas, got proceedings under way. Made up by legends of our sport, it was sad to see any of the silver-haired gurus fail to progress. Cat Thomson rolled back the years whilst contest director Craig Burrows got a deserved taste of the gruelling paddle.
Next up the Open Men who went on a tear with some excellent surfing. Semi final 1 saw the end of U16 Cieran Hughes’s incredible run, and Harry Cromwell’s title hopes were also dashed as Barfield and Morris progressed at his expense.
Alex Morris, Cieran Hughes and Rhys Barfield aprez heat. Pic. Gareth Hughes
Semi final 2 pitted three Gower boys in James Jones, Adam Jenkins and Rhys Poulton up against Llantwit’s Mark Vaughan. Jones found himself in rhythm with the sets throughout the heat to progress. A real battle unfolded for the last final berth, as all three surfers put together one solid score but couldn’t quite complete the job.
With time winding down (as they say on the CT), Vaughanie managed to snag a wave from Poulton that offered three big sections and a passage to the Open final.
James Jones, more known for his power than his pop, opts for something different. Pic. Chris French Photography
The U14’s division is blessed with a group of absolute shredders right now. Jack Mathias, Luke Barfield (brother of Rhys), Seth and Jo Morris (no relation) certainly didn’t disappoint as they tore into their final. On this occasion it was to be Porthcawl’s Jo Morris’s day as he took the win from Seth, Jack and Luke. Welsh U14 shredders!
Pic: Pete Bounds Photography
Joe Morris and Jack Mathias pre heat Pic: Andy Williams
With all other finalists now decided, it was time to sit back and watch the show unfold as the wind slowly crept around to offshore, providing at times faultless contest conditions. Up first were the under 16 boys who threw caution to the wind with their committed approach. The youngsters made the rights off the Gap truly look like child’s play as they committed to some fairly solid waves with some equally solid surfing.
The fact that Jack Mathias, Jo and Seth Morris (still no relation) surfed in the U14’s suggests that we’ve three exceptional young surfers competing in the final of the U16’s. Senior statesman, Cieran Hughes out-muscled his fellow finalists locking into a sneaky inside tube and some solid forehand carves to be crowned champion.
No it’s not the Superbank! Cieran Hughes prepares to unleash! Pic. Chris French Photography
The Women’s longboard… WOW!!!!
Fair play, the girls showed some commitment. Held in arguably the heaviest conditions of the event this was a final with absolutely no fear. The ladies took to the sand-dredging barrels, free-falling into drops and negotiating closeouts. Breige Lawrence took the beating of the day, getting to the bottom of a bomb which then pitched and saw her leash plug snap out, washing her up over the low tide rocks.
Stand-by ‘lifeguard’ Steve Horn promptly swam a backup out as Breige’s own longboard drifted off towards Angle. Meanwhile, with Angharad John and Georgina Lewtas struggling to find significant scores, it was Hazel Ilett’s total commitment on a similar thumping left that brought her yet another Longboard title and great respect from her peers, female and male alike.
Hazel Ilett and Angharad John pre-heat.
Hazel negotiating the inside Pic: Pete Bounds Photography.
The Men’s longboard was touted as a two-way shoot-out between Raife Caskell and Connor Griffiths and whilst Raife’s win over Connor will be sincerely celebrated at the Gaskell home this week, fellow finalists Arran Bright and Josh Hocking did nothing to harm their reputations. Wales tradition of developing some of Britain’s finest young longboarders continues to be under sound feet!
Raife Gaskell, one of Britain’s best up and coming Longboarders as captured by sister Cara.
The Junior title went next, seemingly a mere formality for Rhys Barfield, the boy who looked the man to beat all weekend. Arran Bright, Cieran Hughes and Logan Nicol weren’t prepared to go down without a fight though, making life very difficult for the irrepressible Barfield. Logan’s determined and solid forehand brought good scores, as did Cieran‘s similar approach. As a three-times U18 champ, Barfield could have been forgiven for having his eyes on an Open prize. However his unfaltering pursuit of silverware brought a blistering start and put paid to any hopes Arran Bright held of a unique and unlikely hat-trick.
Rhys Barfield Blasting. Pic: Jay Cogger
The bodyboard final went ahead with the now customary mix of full and part time lidders. Owen Alexander and Logan Nicol who had been shredding on their shortboards, Logan making the Junior finals. The pair put together an exemplary pre-heat warm up, giving the master of pre-heat stretching Greg Owen plenty of food for thought in the process. James Macgregor more known for his love of fiberglass than sponge added another Bodyboard title to his collection, coupled with a place on the plane for this year’s Euro’s. Joining him will be new comer Emily Arnett who placed second at her first finals.
Rhys Barfield was ripping all weekend. Pic: Peter Bounds Photography
Every Welsh there is a moment that is so unexpected that it’s almost expected.
This year’s Senior division brought that moment….
Having competed for 20 years, Tom Anderson had long given up on a Welsh title. Yet if ever the age-old adage applied “If you turn up often enough and long enough sooner or later something sticks” then this was it. Having beaten lifelong nemesis Chris Seage and top seed Mark Vaughan in the semi finals, Tom could have been forgiven for thinking he’d used up all his luck. However the author of books Chasing Dean and Riding the Magic Carpet capitalised on fellow competitors Seage, Chris Griffiths and Rudi Perrin Davies’s slow starts to write his name into the WSF history book. I’m sure we’ll read about it soon!
Tom Anderson, far right, with possibly the biggest smile on the beach!
With the ISA World Masters due to be held in Lanzarote this year, there was a significant increase in participation as our competitors dreamed of representing Wales with heats against Occy and Curren. As a result the Masters (over 35), Grand Masters (over 40) and Kahuna (over 45) divisions were hotly contested, Jay Cogger even dusting down a 20+ year competitive absence to join the party. With the vast majority of our finalists having entered at least two of these categories, it was inevitable that the names Greg Owen, Ian Bowen, Brad Hockridge, Rob Silvey, Colin Bright and Ian ‘Cat’ Thomson would appear in at least one final. Yet, whilst the Silver Surfers showed few if any signs of slowing down, it was James Jones who took the Masters title, Chris French the Grand Masters win and Chris Guts Griffiths the Kahuna crown to ensure their places in the dream team for the World Masters.
Gwen Spurlock lining up eyeing up the lip. Pic: Andy Williams
With the Womens and Mens finals surfed earlier our senior statesman completed competition for another year. The WSF presentaion took place on the beach to the back drop of perfect waves. Two formalities were left to complete. Firstly Niamh Mathias’s richly deserved Paul Ryder Award for the best young Pembrokshire surfer (the first woman to do so) and Channel Coast SC crowning as club champions, with room to spare.
Niamh Mathias Paul Ryder award. Peter Bounds Photography.
Channel Coast – Wales’s Number One Surf Club. Pic: Peter Bounds Photography.
So that completes this year’s Welsh Nationals! A massive thank you to our sponsors:
Ken Vaughan of MiPost.
Co-sponsors were Peter Bounds Photography and Chris French Photography.
A huge thank you also to the local authorities for allowing us to use Freshwater West _ Rebecca Stock of The National Trust and Libby Taylor of Pembrokeshire Parks.
Finally, our sincere appreciation to our officials:
Contest Directors – Craig Burrows and Huw John, Secretary – Stuart Bentley, Head Judge – Bob Freshwater.
Our Judges – Norman Wright, Tim Aylett, Coryn Daniel, James MacGregor and Huw Bentley;
Beach Marshall – Rhydian Brewer; Tabulators – Ann Webster Blythe and Michaela Kuhne;
Lifeguards – Steve Horn and Huw Bentley;
To Johnny Hillman and his team from Christian Surfers Wales for their over whelming support of the WSF and your help;
Trophies – Tom Anderson;
Food – Café Mor;
Accommodation – The Golden Plover;
Website and Online Updates – Andy Williams;
Printing – McLays Printers.
Thanks also to all our contributing Photographers: Peter Bounds Photography, Chris French, Cara Gaskell, and Gareth Hughes. Please note that all photos are not for third party use without prior permission. Copyright remains with the photographer as named and credited above.
Freshwater West doing an impression of its left handed cousin just a few miles east. Pic: Mark Vaughan .
Welsh Nationals 2015 Results in association with MiPost and Rusty
WSF officials Norman Wright, Tim Aylett, Coryn Daniel, James Macgregor, Bob Freshwater and Craig Burrows.