Friday 20th May saw Ilfracombe Arts College’s iSurf Academy host the annual North Devon Schools Surfing Championships at Saunton beach. With mother nature not our side, the contest was run in very challenging conditions for the sixty surfers with wind swept waves only reaching just over a foot at best. With fear of rain, the contest got under way over two peaks starting with both the boys and girls over the watchful eye of the RNLI Lifeguards. Round one started with a bang and unsurprisingly stand out surfers were Braunton’s Taz Knight, Will Bailey and Peony Knight, who all racked up high scores against their fearless competitors with a combination of manoeuvres that impressed the onlooking judges.
It was the semi final in the boys that proved you can’t rest up in any surf heat, as Max Pechonis of Budehaven School grabbed a last minute heat winner to see him progress to the final over Quiksilver Rider Taz Knight. Spectators were rubbing their hands with anticipation as the final four consisted of James Wilson (Braunton), Max Pechonis (Budehaven), Will Bailey (Braunton) and last years champion Alex Gibson (Ilfracombe).
The girls semi final was equally as close which saw Charlotte Buttery (Braunton) and Zoe Bodinetz (Kingsley College) narrowly miss out on spot in the final round by less than a point. Which meant that the final was made up of Peony Knight (Braunton), Emily Currie (Budehaven), Lani Ashford (Ilfracombe) and Olivia Bridges (Ilfracombe).
Waiting until the pushing tide, Contest Directors from Croyde Surf Club made the decision to run the finals, starting with the very popular tag team event, which has rarely left the hands of Braunton School. With some speedy change overs and some progressive surfing on show, judges had a difficult time in keeping up. Fifth place went to Bideford, with Kingsley College coming in infront of them in fourth. Slick footwork from Emily Currie saw her gain massive points for her school and saw her claim the Circle One watch for best wave. Similarly Parry Hill from Ilfracombe Arts College won a circle one deck grip for his efforts dropping in on a rare clean wave on his head and claiming most radical wave! It was these individual efforts that placed Braunton in third, Ilfracombe in second with Budehaven claiming the prestigious award for their first time.
There was another change in trophy’s in the boys event which proved to be a very close encounter with anyone in the bottom three able to steal second place. 4th Max Pechonis (7.17), 3rd James Wilson (7.27), 2nd Alex Gibson (8.83) and 1st Will Bailey (11.53). In the girls however, there was only one deserved winner on the day with some impressive surfing throughout all of her heats. Peony Knight won with points almost doubling her nearest rival, Emily Currie, followed by Olivia Bridges and Lani Ashford respectfully.
Organisers would like to thank Christies Estates and Saunton Surf Lifesaving Club for letting us run the event there. Special thanks need to go to our sponsors whom without their help and support would have nothing, Analog (Andrew Cotton), Circle One, Croyde Surf Club, EyeballHq.tv & Saunton Surf Shop. Special thanks also need to go to team managers and headteachers for allowing students to attend the event.