It’s been quite a year for Scotland’s junior surf team, particularly when you consider that they’ve only been able to compete on the world stage since 2014. With such limited experience you might reasonably expect them to be propping up the international standings for a few more years yet while they find their feet, but in September they held their own at the World Junior Surfing Championships in the Azores, finishing a respectable 27th out of 38 competing countries, and this month, at the Eurosurf Junior Games in Agadir, Morocco, they defied expectations again, finishing 9th out of 16 teams taking part. More importantly, they seem to be having fun – in Agadir they also picked up the award for the competition’s friendliest team.
Team manager Marti Larg, who runs Blackhouse Watersports on the Isle of Tiree, describes the Moroccan result as “fantastic” and it’s hard to disagree. If you’d told William Watson and Mark Boyd of the Scottish Surfing Federation back in 2014, as they waded through seemingly endless piles of paperwork to get Scotland officially recognised by the International Surfing Association (ISA), that in only a couple of years’ time the Scottish junior team would be doing this well, they’d never have believed you.
A key part of Team Scotland’s success in Agadir was a strong showing from the multi-tasking Andrew Robertson from St Andrews, who finished 7th in the under-18s longboard category, 11th in the under-18 bodyboard and 15th in the under-18s shortboard; his longboard result was all the more remarkable when you consider the somewhat old school tanker he was riding, as Larg explains.
“He hired a longboard [for the contest] and you should’ve seen this thing – it was ten foot long and it was the last one in the shop. It was so heavy he pretty much needed the whole team to carry it to the beach. He was surfing it in double-overhead conditions, too – the boy deserves a medal.”
Conditions at Agadir’s exposed beachbreak were tricky to begin with, but they improved as the competition wore on.
“The first couple of days it’d been raining a lot, so you had all this river water rushing out to sea,” says Larg. “The sea was quite turbulent and the swell was big, so the conditions were rough at the start, but then it stopped raining, and the sea went from being chocolate brown to a normal colour and the waves just got better and better.
“There was still a really strong current, though, sweeping you from right to left across the bay, so you would have to paddle out in the middle [of the break] then drift out to the left and paddle round the back.”
Although Robertson led the charge, it was a strong team performance overall: of the shortboarders, Clover Christopherson finished 19th in the under-18 girls, with Iona McLachlan 21st; Finn MacDonald finished 21st in both the under-16 and under-18 boys and 11-year-old Ben Larg, hero of the Azores campaign and competing here in spite of a spot of Agadir belly, still managed 19th in the under-14 boys.
In the bodyboard categories, Oisin Strachan placed 19th overall in the boys under-18s, with Mickey Wimbledon in 11th in the under-16s, while Christopherson came 9th in the girls under-18s and 19th in the under-16s – particularly impressive given that she was also unwell.
Of course, results are by no means the be-all and end-all at an event like this – Morocco is an incredible place for a young surfer to visit, and the members of Team Scotland took full advantage, from sampling the local cuisine to taking camel rides on the beach. There was even a visit to Anchor Point – a legendary right-hander that is on every serious surfer’s bucket list. The crew found it in prime condition, too, and – judging by the pictures – caught their fair share of good waves.
The contest site itself, Larg says, was “a bit intimidating” with an oil refinery and canneries for mackerel, tuna and sardines nearby. The people, though, he describes as “the warmest folk you’ve ever met” and there is now talk of setting up a regular, informal competition between the Scottish surf team and the local Anza Surf Club.
Training sessions in the reeling pointbreaks of Morocco each winter would certainly do Scotland’s surfers no end of good, and it would also be interesting to see what the Moroccans make of Scotland. As a man in a hat once said, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship...