Last weekend, the most unique surf sports competition in the UK took place at Watergate Bay. After a hiatus in 2014, Legend of the Bay was back for a second time to unite the disciplines of wave kitesurfing and standup paddle surfing and competitors could enter either the kite event, sup event, or both – this last category putting them forward for the Legend of the Bay title, awarded to the competitor with the highest accumulated points.
The event is pretty gruelling as we all discovered in 2013. Two intense full days of back to back competition requires that you stay physically and mentally sharp far longer than you would normally need to. The huge spring tides of Watergate Bay alone mean that you’re carting yourself and your equipment up and down around a massive area – the sea retreats hundreds of meters from the steps at low tide. For 2015 though, the elements threw an extra curve ball our way: Saturday, the kite day, was bang offshore – a direction no body ever even attempts at Watergate and the Sunday, the SUP day, had a seriously punchy 4ft swell hammering in at 18 seconds, or 36knots if you want to put a quantifiable speed on it. I’d been holding off till the Thursday before before entering, I can’t stand being in a comp with tiny waves, but when I saw that megaswell was on its way I reckoned I’d have at least a small amount of home advantage.
On Saturday, the wind picked up to a ‘steady’ 10-30knots, gusting down from the huge cliffs, and the surf tickled in at around 2ft. It ‘looked’ perfect, but with the kite tugging you out to sea and the waves pushing in direct opposition, the first battle was staying close enough to the shore i.e. upwind enough, to pick up a wave. The next struggle as everyone found out was trying to ride the wave without getting pulled over the back. But perhaps the most fundamental challenge was keeping the kite in the sky both before you went out for your heat, and during it. There was a small window of relatively stable wind and if you kited outside of it, doom, the kite went down. Happily for me, I was using my trusted Ocean Rodeo Prodigy 9.5m and 12m kites; they never put a foot wrong. A few years ago kiting at offshore Watergate would have been not just unthinkable, but aerodynamically impossible regarding the kite. Today’s kit has developed so much that a few of us riders were even having fun out there. I’ll point this out to the next person who says kite design has plateaued in the last few years…
Anyway, I won my first, second and third heats, alternating between the smaller Mako Duke and larger Randy French surfboards that I brought along. Into the two man semi final, who should I meet? Only great mate and fellow Barbados traveller Neal Gent. I knew it would be tough, Neal being something of a light wind specialist, his deft touch with the kite would be an asset. Neal pipped me to put him through to the final and overall 3rd in the kite event, with me going on to win the runner up final coming 4th overall in the kite. Fellow Watergate stalwart Josh Coombes came 2nd, and Lee Harvey from Hayle took 1st.
Sunday arrived and from the crack of sparrows competitors were posting Facebook updates about the building swell. The first round of the sup event kicked off under sunny skies with perfect, clear, clean walls to carve across. With the long swell wavelength, there were lulls to paddle out in which made things easier but still getting caught inside by a set was a reality and I think at some point or other everyone got a pasting. My first round was against great mate Luke Bolsin, and South African Andrew Pieterse. Not an easy heat at all. Luke took the win, I came second, and Andrew snapped a leash but had another bit of the cherry in the repercharge round. In the next round, I met Andrew again, I think this time I took the win, and because of the extra round that was ran in this event, we faced each other yet AGAIN when we made it through to the semi finals where he took the win, talk about trading blows. We both progressed from there, into the finals, to meet Josh Coombes and Dave Ewer from Reactive Watersports in Plymouth. So out of four heats already surfed, Andrew and I had faced each other three times. I was pleased to see that he was just as ‘passionate’ and ‘expressionate’ as I was when he was getting caught inside by the endless lines of white water!
It was nearing high tide, the beach was (sort of) packed with spectators and the sup final was the only event left to run. Josh Coombes and I were now battling it out for the title of Legend of the Bay as Lee and Neal had crashed out of the sup event in round three and two respectively. Josh wanted to win it for the first time, and I dearly wanted to retain it since I won the inaugural event in 2013. After five twenty minute kite heats in hard conditions, and four twenty minute sup heats in a building swell and deteriorating sea state, we’d done more riding than anyone else that weekend and were both pretty knackered. A few of the competitors were now sunning themselves on the rocks, about to watch us paddle out one more time, and making no effort to hide their glee at not having to go out there again! With about ten minutes to spare, I made a crude electrolyte drink out of water, a pinch of salt and a sugar cube. I (and I found out later Josh too) was feeling a touch of cramp during the sup semi final heat.
As we walked down to the water’s edge the swell had built further still; there was a brief window of tamer conditions but it had well and truly shut now. We had ten minutes to paddle out and then the buzzer would sound, giving us twenty minutes to log our best rides. There was everything to play for: as the points stood, for me to take the title, I needed to win the sup final and Josh had to come fourth. I didn’t think that was too likely since not only is Josh a formidable rider, but Andrew and Dave are dedicated sup paddlers and in possession of serious skill sets. For Josh to win, all he had to do was come one place behind me in the final. So, I was philosophical when I headed out, genuinely feeling though that if Josh did take it, I would have been very happy for him.
Dave and Josh got away cleanly and scraping over set wave after set wave, had a relatively easy passage out back. Andrew and I meanwhile got caught by a line of white water and were getting absolutely worked on the inside, off of our boards and swimming one moment, prone paddling the next, knee paddling the next, and then diving off and swimming again as yet another mountain of whitewater avalanched towards the beach. After about ten minutes of this and trying everything I could think of to get out there, I really thought my already slender chances of retaining the title were now done. Josh and Dave had by now caught a wave each, Andrew seemed to have found a channel out and I was wondering if I’d ever get out of this whitewater! And then, a small break in the waves appeared giving me just enough time to get to my feet and dig towards the horizon like I was paddling away from a waterfall.
I finally made it out back, the heat was well under way, but no one else was out there. They had all taken waves, though were now getting a taste of what I’d just had. Perhaps it wasn’t over just yet. A big wobbly wave came surging through the rip and I had to take about twenty rapid fire strokes to get onto it; first it went right, then reformed to the left, then right a bit more…I managed a few turns and kicked out just in time to see lines and lines of white water between me and the blue horizon. Here we go again…Somehow I made it out back for the second time. Dave was now back out there and Andrew was hustling out to join us. Dave took a decent wave in, I couldn’t see Andrew any more, or Josh, but here came another wave for me. I scratched into this one, bounced a few turns and rode it all the way to the beach. There were two minutes left; Dave was already calling it day, he’d rode three belters and wasn’t going to improve on that. Josh’s board was getting washed in and he was coming in on the back of the jetski after a snapped leash. At least it didn’t happen at the start. Andrew was out there in position for a wave but then the buzzer sounded and it was all over.
I packed my gear away and grabbed a beer as the prize givings for the kitesurf and ladies sup was underway. You already know the kite result, the women’s sup saw Tina Beresford in 3rd, and Lizzie Bird and Marie-Buchanan in joint first. The ladies only got to paddle a couple of heats as numbers were low, I reckon they could have mixed them in with the blokes after that because they were absolutely solid in that surf. And so as the crowd gathered nearer, the men’s sup results were announced. 4th place, Josh Coombes. 3rd place, Andrew Petierse. 2nd place, Dom Moore (me, just in case you weren’t sure who’s blog you were reading). 1st place, Dave Ewer. Well, that was a turn up for the books, and a scenario I hadn’t contemplated – me 2nd in the sup, 4th in the kite, Josh 2nd in the kite, 4th in the sup. So we were tied on placings, what next?
I found out later the judges had a count back of all our heats to score our wins and second places, and there was still nothing between us. Then they started looking at wave scores. Eventually they decided they were looking for a reason NOT to award the title to someone…so back to the prizegiving on the beach with the beers and golden evening sun and slight tension in the air…”for the first time, we have a joint winner of Legend of the Bay! Dom Moore and Josh Coombes are this year’s Legends of the Bay”. Hellfire! We’d both won! Luckily they had massive trophies for us both. Anton the commentator said we both deserved it and there was nothing between us – it was the right decision.
Here I sit, all recovered, the trophy (trophies) remains safe in the near vicinity and not disappeared to sit on a mantelpiece in Norfolk (strong competition from those boys) , title intact etc…I’ve had time to reflect that there must have been a turning point, since I entered day two on Sunday firmly in 4th place. So when was it? I reckon it was when the swell kept building and the quality deteriorated, I say deteriorated but really it just regressed away from the stellar blue walls of the morning to usual Cornish standards, that it became apparent was going to be a competition fought on head down dogged perseverance in a sea of white water, or pig-headed ignorance as some might say, and less so of finesse and grace, which suited my style of supping ideally.
Huge thanks to the BKSA and BSUPA, principally Richard Marsh for organising and running the event. The judges were excellent, Robin Snuggs was top notch as always as chief official. Ben Granata K38 was just a legend keeping everyone safe with his jetski – always in the right place but never intrusive, there really is no other choice. Anton was entertaining as ever and kept the interest and momentum high. Watergate Bay is a cracking event venue, I think currently the best in the UK for this type of event, and all the competitors had a superb time. Thanks finally to Bob Berry, www.bbphoto.net, for catching these stellar shots over the weekend.
Hopefully it comes back next year, get your name down if it does.