Thanks to Gaven Mumberson for the report on the Colwyn Bay Blast. Not a series event this year, but definitely looks like a fun time was had by all.
Colwyn Bay Blast, 4th June 2016
Sun, Skis & World Champs: North Wales Event Attracts UK-Wide Competitors
Simon E Price
Last weekend saw an exciting and growing sporting event take place off the golden shoreline of Colwyn Bay. The ‘Colwyn Bay Blast’ is the brainchild of two surf ski enthusiasts, Rik Pethig and Martin Tonge, and is set on the newly developed golden sea front of old Colwyn Bay, which nestles comfortably between Llandudno and the Prestatyn coastline of north Wales.
Eager competitors of all ages and abilities met in breathless heat on the 4th June this year. Paddlers from as far afield as Oban in Scotland, to Cornwall in southern England, made the long journey to what is only the second surf ski event to be held in this particular part of north Wales. This year’s event saw the likes of the UK’s female surf ski champ Lizelle Kemp, Colin Cartwright of the GB wildwater team, Ian Tordoff and James Mayers, both former GB wildwater competitors, and Gilbert Spear, recent winner at the Lismore kayak event in Oban, Scotland.
In a pleasant, unplanned twist, this year’s event also saw former surf ski World Champion, Sean Rice, in attendance. Sean was fresh from the prestigious Molokai competition, which had been held in the azure waters of Hawaii a week previously. Placing 2nd at Molokai, Sean combined a short holiday in north Wales, with his girlfriend Emily, with holding a surfski paddling coaching clinic at the race venue, providing invaluable information and tips on how to improve stroke and paddling prowess. With a calm and polite demeanor, Sean is a fine ambassador for the sport, and his expert tuition, held on the beach and subsequently in the water, made it one sunny day to remember.
The Colwyn Bay Blast, an event tailored more specifically towards surf skis, is the brainchild of two friends, Rik Pethig and Martin Tonge. Rik lives within five minutes of the Colwyn Bay sea front, whilst Martin, who hails from near Manchester, has paddled these waters for a number of years. Meeting at a surf ski event in the Wirrel a few years previously, it was a mutual decision to stage an event for this niche water sport off the north Wales coast. Their first attempt attracted 11 competitors, but this year saw a three fold increase in the number of participants, including UK and former World Champions of the sport – not bad for an event still in its infancy.
“I could see that the north Wales coastline had loads of potential to attract surf skiers more or less when I first started,” says Rik. “North Wales has very clean waters and some excellent beaches, and with the splendor of the mountains at your back whilst you paddle, both Martin and I thought it would be great to hold an event here.”
Martin agrees. “A fantastic event this year, seeing a big leap in the number of people making the effort to come to north Wales. It’s great for Porth Erias to showcase real Surf Ski talent. It’s putting Colwyn Bay on the map, that’s for sure!”
With hot golden sand warming the feet of the eager competitors, the Colwyn Bay Blast is a 15 km race from the shore, marked out in a triangular route. Competitors have striking views of the forest of gigantic wind turbines that dominate the horizon of the Prestatyn coastline, before turning towards shore and making their long way back to the mountainous Welsh landscape. Conditions were slightly tough going, with a gentle 0.5-meter swell and north east wind belaying the heat of the day. All the competitors ran up the shore, exhausted but exhilarated by their respective efforts. In an event that requires extreme levels of fitness and ability, it is hard to single out any one competitor, but Maggie Dixon may just qualify for special mention. She placed 1st in the female race, in her first ever surf ski event- quite the accomplishment given the talent that had entered.
Sean Rice agreed to participate at the race, allowing for a six-minute head start. With the other competitors reduced to colorful dots on the horizon, Sean had his work cut out with the strong westerly wind that was playing on the water that day. But if anyone thought that narrowly missing 1st place at the Molokai race the previous week had dampened his enthusiasm for the colder waters of the UK, they would have been wrong, as Sean completed the course some three minutes ahead of the closest competitor. He wasn’t a World Champ for nothing…
Its plainly obvious to anyone observing this sport that surf skiing is gaining popularity in the colder parts of the world, attracting sponsors and attention from popular brands of boats and surf ski apparel. The Colwyn Bay Blast, like the competitors who travel the length and breadth of the UK to enter such competitions, is brought together by the sheer love of the sport, an enthusiasm that clearly transcends the temperature of the water. Two avid supporters of the scene were there to lend their weight and support to the event this year, in the irresistibly enthusiastic forms of Gaven Mumberson of Nordic Kayaks and Micky McDonald of Think Kayaks Europe. Their drive and passion to elevate surf skiing to ever increasing numbers of people, irrespective of age and ability, was infectious, with Micky competing in the event and Gaven assisting Martin with the start and finish logistics.
Rik and Martin both know the importance of attracting such sponsors. “Whilst we both work hard to get an event like this together, we know it would be impossible to succeed if it wasn’t for the help and assistance of our sponsors,” says Rik. “I would like to thank both Micky McDonald of Think, and Gaven Mumberson of Nordic Kayaks for all their help with this years event, as well as Baltic Life Jackets and Funky Pants for their generous gifts and prizes.”
Martin agrees. “I’d also like to give special mention to the Colwyn Bay authorities, and the recently developed Colwyn Bay Sports Centre. They’ve all played hugely important roles in getting this event off the ground, and we hope that we will continue to work with them for our future events.”
Winners on the day were as follows:
Surf Ski Men
1st Sean Rice 1:17:58
2nd Willem Prinsloo 1:20:31
3rd James Mayers 1:20:36
Surf Ski Women
1st Maggie Nixon 1:34:18
2nd Lizelle Kemp 1:39:58
3rd Sally Ozanne 1:48:39
1st Ben Beachall 1:14:51
2nd Karl Brandon 1:15:36
3rd Janek Dubicki 1:27:59
1st Lucy Pearce (completed the Surf Ski Course alone!) 2:57.36
1st Mark Peters 1:55:14
1st Andy Rowley 1:47:19
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