By Chris Gallaway
NAGS HEAD, N.C. — Wednesday’s competition at the World Championships of Surf Kayaking started off with challenges. The wind was up and the surf choppy and punishing. During the morning semifinals in men's long boat competitors were repeatedly tossed and tumbled by the break. It was as much a challenge to get outside the break as to complete a clean run down a wave. The competitors demonstrated their poise throughout the morning, however, keeping the competition rolling along. By midday, the wind subsided and the break was again consistent and predictable.
Today will likely mark the final rounds of these World Championships, and the mounting excitement was palpable on the beach Wednesday. During the men's short boat semifinals there was a chorus of cheers ringing out from the beach, and as the afternoon heats in the team competition ticked by, the audience was literally drawn in, standing at the border of the surf.
England entered team competition as a strong favorite, and they kept the energy up throughout the afternoon with their mascot Gary Adcock walking up and down the beach dressed in a national flag and Viking horns. But throughout the heats the Basque Country crept ever closer in points. By mid-afternoon, both teams were standing at the edge of the surf, yelling for their countrymen. Team competition concluded with the junior's class in long boat, and when young Julen Gonzalez Arrizabala from Basque Country posted a high score to push them to the overall victory, he was hoisted atop the team's shoulders and run down the beach. Now, for the coming two years, Basque Country will be hailed as the best surf kayak team in the world.
The surf continues to provide ideal conditions (many competitors describe these as the best waves they've seen at a Worlds), and Thursday will see finals in the almost every category of the competition. The highlight of the day will be the men's short boat finals, and it will be a contest dominated by nations around the British Aisles. David Speller (the reigning champ from Jersey), Chris Hobson (Northern Ireland), Darren Bason (England), and Glyn Brackenberry (England) will vie for the title. Speller and Hobson represent the new wave of surf kayaking—already between them they own a host of titles—and Bason and Brackenberry are veterans in the sport. Needless to say, it will be a very exciting contest.
With the week of Worlds coming to an end, spirits are high and camaraderie between the national teams is flourishing. According to event organizer Joey Hall, the theme of this year's Worlds is community, and by that standard the event is a resounding success. In a few days, teams will return to their home countries, but there's no doubt they'll be leaving behind a group of close friends, and they'll be looking forward to the next time they're all together, two years down the road.