Surfing: Scotland’s 2024 longboard champions to be crowned in Pease peelers

After years of north coast locations, the Scottish Longboard Championships are moving to the Scottish Borders, writes Roger Cox

Eggs, fish, asyms, alaias... one of the best things about surfing in the 21st century is the huge variety of surfboards available. After a period of dull conformity in the 1990s, during which thin, high-performance boards in the six-foot range dominated line-ups all around the world, in more recent times a glorious age of experimentation has seen surfers and surfboard shapers reaching back into the past and projecting forward into the future to create a whole cornucopia of different designs, each of which lends itself to a unique surfing style.

That said, when it comes to competitive surfing there are still mostly just two categories available: longboarding, in which surfers ride boards nine feet long and over, and shortboarding, which typically sees competitors riding those thin, needly six-foot-somethings.

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For many years now, the Scottish National Surfing Championships have included both longboarding and shortboarding categories, and since the annual event was revived in 2005, following a five-year hiatus, it has always been held on the north coast, usually in either the long, powerful point waves of Thurso East or the short, sharp barrels up the road at Brims Ness. But while these locations regularly serve up the fast, hollow waves craved by shortboarders, they are often less well-suited to the more sedate art of longboarding, where elegant drop-knee turns and balletic cross-stepping to the nose tend to be the aim of the game, rather than aggressive hacks.

Sam Christopherson on his way to the nose PIC: Roger Cox / The ScotsmanSam Christopherson on his way to the nose PIC: Roger Cox / The Scotsman
Sam Christopherson on his way to the nose PIC: Roger Cox / The Scotsman

Sam Christopherson runs Coast to Coast surf school in Dunbar. He won the Scottish men’s longboard title in 2022 and came second in 2023, but even for someone with his skills, trying to ride a nine-foot-plus board at a place like Brims poses a significant challenge. “We had really tricky conditions for longboarding last year,” he says. “At Brims you had to air-drop down the face, then you had a small section where you could do a rapid turn and a little section where you could cross-step before you hit the cliff.”

This year though, for the first time in well over two decades, Scotland's national longboarding champions will be crowned, not in the grinding reefbreaks of the north coast, but in the typically more mellow surf of the Scottish Borders. Sponsored by Finisterre, the Scottish National Longboard Championships will be held at Pease Bay over the 27-28 April weekend, with back-up dates of 4-5 May in case Neptune fails to deliver.

Christopherson explains how the change came about. “Initially we just asked [the Scottish Surfing Federation] if we could run the longboarding event at another location on the north coast that was a bit more longboard-friendly,” he says, “but the logistics up there made it really difficult because they tend to set up with a huge amount of tents, filming, media etc. We were ultimately going to be tied into a high-performance shortboard venue, so it made sense to look at what we could do elsewhere.”

For several years now, Christopherson has organised a longboarding event in the south-east, the annual Lowland Longboard Championships, which welcomes surfers from all around Scotland and overseas. When SSF secretary Mark Boyd suggested moving the national longboard event south, Christopherson was initially “a wee bit backy-offy” but eventually a plan was hatched to combine the events. The two contests will now run side by side, with the top four finishers from the Scottish Nationals going on to compete in the semi-finals of the Lowland event against the top four international surfers.

"Even if it's small, Pease has still got peeling waves" - Sam Christopherson PIC: Roger Cox / The Scotsman"Even if it's small, Pease has still got peeling waves" - Sam Christopherson PIC: Roger Cox / The Scotsman
"Even if it's small, Pease has still got peeling waves" - Sam Christopherson PIC: Roger Cox / The Scotsman

“Pease offers two areas on the beach where you have peeling waves, one on the right hand side and one on the left,” says Christopherson, “and even if it's small it's still got peeling waves.” Depending on conditions, then, holding the event in Pease’s peelers should allow competitors more freedom to perform traditional longboarding manoeuvres like noserides (trimming across the wave face with five toes over the nose for a hang five, or all ten toes over for a hang ten). And due to recent changes in the way in which longboarding contests are judged, giving competitors time and space to express themselves is more important than ever, as Christopherson explains. “The criteria have changed quite a lot in the last five or six years,” he says. “Longboarding had got to a point where longboards were getting thinner and lighter, and people were starting to do quite radical things on them, so huge turns, massive floaters, some people were even managing airs. It was becoming much more like big people shortboarding, and there was a sort of recognition that longboarding should maybe go back more towards its roots... So that's where the criteria stand now: where the dancing side of longboarding and the movement skills are rewarded very highly. Your top scores come from combining noserides and cross-stepping with these lovely arcing turns.”

Not only is it more longboard-friendly, the new location also looks set to benefit from its greater accessibility, and is already attracting far more surfers than its north coast predecessor. “So far the entry’s been massive,” says Christopherson. “We had 11 people up north for the Nationals last year, but I think we’ve got over 40 already in the Scottish section for this year, and 53 for the whole event.” Let the cross-stepping commence.

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