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Trev's Blog

Under-funded Over-achievers

February 24, 2012

Here’s  a great little article from Josef Williams of the Plymouth University Surf Club, raising some good points about sponsorship within Universities and their clubs…

6:30am and there is still no sign of the sun. The cashier of the Shell garage jolts awake, laughing at himself. “Going to work?” he says.

“No, Surfing”

As I pay for my breakfast the look on his face tells me he’s not accustomed to this answer, this early, even in Devon.

“But it’s so cold!”

Driving onwards towards the finals of the second Student Surf Tour event, I reflect on the commitment needed to Surf in the frigid British winter, let alone to compete. This is why I am going, to talk about what drives these young men and women to take the time out of their University workload and compete in the coldest months of the year.

The day is bitterly cold.
After numbly trekking up the cliff to trade my usual, and poorly chosen, hoodie for my thermal lined ski-jacket, the Plymouth Surf team arrive. The Women’s finals are already well underway and the lads in the first heat barely have enough time to pull their wetsuits on, still wet and freezing cold from the previous days Surf. Banter is exchanged, spirits lifted, and conversation turns to the competition.

I am not here to compete, though. In front of me are the young men behind the new administration in the UPSC: Tom Perkins and Shane Crowley. They have raised the bar of performance in UPSC by focusing less, in the last two years, on ‘Surf Culture’ (i.e. socials and not much else), and moving towards creating opportunities for their riders. Preparing them through; lessons, constant practice, leadership and exemplary commitment for the contests they buss them to, all year round, rain or shine, 3ft slop or overhead monsters. The new ethos is: Developing talent and getting recognition for their Surfers – for no profit of their own.

At this moment Plymouth are at the top of the leader board with some of the best Surfers in the competition, Sam Coad of UPSC is the highest ranked Surfer in the competition, ahead of the next contender from Cardiff University. With 8 contenders in the final of this event, 4 of them UPSC, it is apparent that again, Plymouth are dominating. Continuing the hot-streak after coming away from BUCS with 1st place for the Men’s and Women’s team events. Also UPSC’ers – Jonathan Waugh, taking second in the Men’s individual and Holly Donnelly taking first in the Women’s.

It is safe to say that the Surf club has gone through something of a metamorphosis… With the arrival of the SST comes an opportunity for greatness, doors have opened that were previously locked and bolted. I ask (Tom) Perkins, a fellow Welshman, if the clubs aspirations lie further than Student competitions, to which he replies “If the guys want to push further, to national competitions etc., we would do our best to accommodate them”.

But with this great opportunity comes new challenges. The club currently has no cash sponsors, relying on their finite beginning of year entrance fee’s to fund them. With in excess of 6 SST competitions on the tour and at over 400 pounds an event (just for bare essentials; Transport, accommodation etc.) the funds have quickly dwindled. Currently, the only funding they have had from the University is enough to cover transport to one competition, with the Football and Rugby clubs getting the lions share of funds. Perhaps it is time for a more even distribution of funds amongst Plymouths most successful clubs?

UPSC administration is pushing for BUCS affiliation of the SST, which would greatly enhance their chances of gaining sponsorship and obtaining more funding from the University. But at the moment, without the same level of support that the other clubs are getting, the team are going to have to pay out of their own pockets to even make it to the next event.

I left the finals with numb toes and Sam Coad having come second in the Men’s individual for the Watergate (moved to Tolcarne due to the conditions) SST event. The winners of the team-final were still to be confirmed but, with Plymouth as the clear favourites to win.

Spirits remained high amongst the adopted Plymouthians, despite being in and out of the frigid water all day and competing in multiple heats, through challenging conditions.

The only unfortunate, concerning their success, is that it comes at the same time as the economy feels the pinch. With SU funding being “Dramatically cut” this year, the University is in danger of stunting the growth of their new sporting prodigy.

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