After a years hiatus due to a terrible wind and wave forecast for the event in Cornwall in 2015, we were hoping for bigger and better things in Ireland this year. Brandon Bay, one of the best spots in Europe was sure to deliver the goods in October, wasn’t it? Surely we wouldn’t get skunked again!
With so many people travelling from far and wide for this event and with accommodation and ferry bookings the decision was made that we would run the event regardless of the forecast. The Wavemasters is just as much a social event as it is a kite event, after not seeing each other last year the usual suspects were looking forwards to some Guinness and craic on the Emerald Isle.
As the event grew closer, the forecast decided to go from bad to worse to abysmal. An enormous high pressure was lurking off the Atlantic, drawing in south-easterly winds which are sadly just about the only direction at Brandon Bay that doesn’t produce epic conditions! We arrived a week early with the IKSURFMAG Team, as we had been in Rhosneigr at the Park Jam the week before. It made sense to jump on a ferry, score some epic conditions and get some riding in before we spent the event running around with radios and judging sheets.
Sadly, lady luck didn’t shine on us, Brandon Bay was stunning, the surf was pumping, but the wind was bolt offshore. It was cold too; winter had drawn in since we had left the warmth of the South Coast a few weeks ago. As the event drew ever closer the forecast ebbed and flowed with the tide; I was getting excited emails from people in Spain, Wales and Kernow. Had they seen something I hadn’t?
For the Wavemasters who arrived on Saturday, we were blessed with some of the best swell we would get all week. Clean rollers relentlessly marauded around the bay making for some awesome surf conditions in the typically uncrowded bay. Sunday delivered less swell, but it was still a fun day. However, Monday’s forecast and the start of the event looked to be a total wash out for wind.
We made the decision to postpone the registration until the evening so we could all enjoy some Guinness and food in Spillane’s Bar rather than stand about in a car park at 10 am and then all disappear for the day. Needless to say, it was great to see the familiar faces at registration and to meet some new ones. In total, we had 23 registered riders, not bad considering they had made the trip to the South Western tip of Ireland on a forecast that would struggle to get a crowd at a Justin Beiber concert excited.
Tuesday was looking to be our one chance to run the event though, so with Guinness drunk, it was time to get an early night ready for an 8 am briefing in the morning. Local hellman Ryan Coote had helped us organise the event, and he had a plan to run the Pro fleet at an offshore point break that should be firing in the morning!
At 7.30, Neal Gent, Ryan Coote, Andy Gratwick from the BKSA and myself went on a hunt to see where the best spot was. Sadly, it was flat as a witches tit, with a driving offshore wind making it hard to get any swell in the bay. The point break we had wanted to use was serving up a misery blanket of waist high swell, not enough to make it useable as it dribbled onto the rocks. We met the other riders in Spillane’s car park and put the comp on hold until 11 am.
The owners at Spillane’s Bar spotted us all huddled in the car park and kindly came and offered us free tea and coffee in the warmth of the pub. Legends! We’d set up a WhatsApp group for communication, so some riders went back to bed while the decision was made to keep watching the swell. It was forecast, it just hadn’t arrived yet.
The 11 am message turned into a meet up at noon to make another decision; things were just not falling how we had expected them too. In a desperate hunt for conditions, we headed to Gowlane further round the bay. The angles there would mean cross off shore winds and maybe, just maybe there would be some swell.
We arrived to find the wind blowing, but the waves still looking like they wouldn’t bother a Hawaiian toddler. Neal Gent, ever keen, was pumped up first along with Brad Shaw from Westward Ho. With kites flying, albeit in the incredibly gusty wind, a few of the boys decided to get wet. Having driven for miles from Scotland George Noble was keen to go on the attack on his backhand and the Spanish Armada consisting of Iain, Fernando and Hannes from Ozone looked eager to dust off the cobwebs too.
Lee Harvey, defending his title from 2013, the last time an “official” BKSA Wavemasters was held was also quick to get on the water. While the conditions were not all time, every now and then a small set rolled through, and those in the right spot scored a few nice rides. As we set up the competition area on the beach, it was clear these were not contestable conditions. However, today was looking like our only chance to do anything! With most of the riders on the water, the crew made the decision to run Expression Sessions for each fleet.
Riders would get 45 minutes on the water, with the entire fleet from each division out at the same time. That meant nine pro riders, eight seniors and the amateur men and ladies would ride at the same time putting the three girls and three amateurs on the water together. The same competition rules would apply, two best waves score, 45 minutes should be plenty of time to find a wave right?
The men’s pros were already in wetsuits and keen to get a result for them we sent them out first. For the first ten minutes of the heat, the swell seemed to come alive and the wind delivered some reasonably consistent conditions. There was a flurry of action with Danny Morrice, Lee Harvey and George Noble all making it look pretty good! Unfortunately, the early flurry soon went flat and things calmed down. Dom Yule was picking off some ankle biters on the inside with his usual fast style; Brad Shaw also scalped a few waves too.
The issue when the waves are that small is that they are often breaking where it is barely deep enough to keep a fin wet, it was that small folks! It wasn’t long before another set rolled in though and Ryan Coote and Neal Gent managed to pick up the same wave for a spot of synchronised wave riding; it was the wave of the day for Ryan and his local knowledge paid off as he took it apart with his aggressive top to bottom style.
Danny Morrice seemed to be everywhere in this round, he and Lee Harvey were the only riders to land clean aerials, impressive considering the wind was cross offshore and really gusty. Andy Gratwick got a couple of good waves in the middle of the heat, riding with a smooth style, he’d scored a cracking week up in Achill the week before. Tim Harley also bagged a couple of decent turns, but what caught the judges eye was his huge lofty front rolls out the back, he had them on point!
Towards the end of the heat, the conditions dipped, and the riders came off the water, happy, but no doubt a little frustrated that the waves didn’t always deliver. Next up was the senior fleet, a hotly contested part of the Wavemasters where friendships in the pub soon disappear once the red mist comes down on the water.
Marc Rowley was defending his title, he almost didn’t come to the event due to the forecast but made a last-minute decision to come and see what Ireland delivered. Wayne Munden was competing in his first Wavemasters, he had entered the event last year but never got to ride as it was cancelled due to conditions. Maybe Wayne is the wind jinx; this is just occurring to me now as I write this. However, it was noted he sacrificed himself to the god of Guinness every night in the pub, so that can’t be the case, good bloke!
The Spanish crew were keen to show off their skills, used to cross onshore conditions in Barcelona; this was out of their comfort zone. It was cold for a start! Iain Hannay, Hannes Burner and Fernando Perez put on a great display, though, with Fernando impressing the judges with his wave selection and Jesus walks! Craig Shaw was also riding well, by now the conditions had started to deteriorate. The wind was gustier than ever, and the waves were getting smaller and smaller. Gareth “Mogsy” Morgan impressed the judges with his tail slides, however riding strapped is always going to be tricky in these conditions where the waves don’t challenge the strapless riders. Marc Rowley looked comfortable with no straps on, at the last event in 2014 he had taken the crown in the senior fleet riding with straps. These days he looks just as good on the wave without them!
With the seniors run it was time for Russell Field, Tom Beaton and Olly Lawrence to take to the water in the amateurs and for Jess Gent, Amy Kitson and Mary Booth to represent for the ladies. It’s one thing for the pro riders out there to make crap conditions look good, but hats off to this crew for making an effort! Mary ended up changing down to a 7m early in the heat, only to have to change up to a 9m again, it didn’t matter what sized kite you were on you had the wrong one. Amy Kitson stuck with her kite choice and managed to find a couple of waves, the standout, however, was Jess Gent who was absolutely shredding the waves that were on offer. With a small 7m kite, she waited on the beach for the sets, then rode out, gybed and hit the waves as hard as she could, walking back upwind to her take off spot at the end of each ride.
In the amateur fleet, it was Olly Lawrence who put up an impressive backside display, but Russell and Tom were close behind him as the last waves of the day rolled in. With three 45 minute heats run, all the riders having been on the water we headed back to The Green Room for a much-needed beer. That night in Spillane’s, with no wind forecast for Wednesday the Guinness was flowing freely!
Wednesday and Thursday were lay days, with the riders sightseeing, wave hunting and getting some surf and foil action in. Thursday was the only day where nothing really happened, it was flat as a board and not enough wind to foil. Friday once again teased us with a good forecast for wind and waves. The wrong wind direction again but the swell forecast was better than Tuesdays so there was a good chance we would get to run the competition proper!
The early 7 am surf watch delivered disappointments akin to a ten-year-old discovering he got a book for Christmas and not that Scalextric set he had been asking for all year! It was flatter than Norfolk, and the wind wasn’t even playing ball! As the day wore on we waited and waited but no waves ever arrived, and with time running out and the wind filling in we decided to run a Strapless Jam at Fahamore Bay.
3 pm and the flags went up, 30 minutes of competition for any riders happy to have a go. Lee Harvey, Danny Morrice, Tim Harley, George Noble, Brad Shaw, Ryan Coote and Russel Field all took to the water to show off their skills. For me, this was a highlight of the week, the natural amphitheatre of the bay allowed us to park the vans on the beach and overlook the action, and there was plenty of it. Tim Harley was boosting huge floaty front rolls; Danny Morrice was going for lots of jiggery-pokery, and Ryan Coote was pulling moves that we’ve never seen before, including his signature one leg stretch yoga flier. Lee Harvey got some good tricks in too, and at the end of the 30 minutes, it was all down to the judges. The final results from the week would be announced at Natterjacks which was hosting us for our last night’s party later that evening.
With no real conditions to run the Wavemasters and award British Titles, it was down to the two fun comps we had managed to hold. With loads of prizes from North Kiteboarding, Airush and Manera the riders were stoked to get something from what was a bit of a nothing week as far as kitesurfing was concerned!
Final results were as follows:
1st: Danny Morrice
2nd: Ryan Coote
3rd: Lee Harvey
1st: Jess Gent
2nd: Amy Kitson
3rd: Mary Booth
1st: Marc Rowley
2nd: Fernando Perez
3rd: Craig Shaw
1st: Olly Lawrence
2nd: Tom Beaton
3rd: Russel Field
Strapless Freestyle Jam
Best Trick – Tim Harley
Big Air – Tim Harley
Best Wipeout – Ryan Coote
1st: Tim Harley
2nd: Ryan Coote
3rd: Lee Harvey
Huge thanks go to Ryan Coote for helping to organise the event, if you fancy getting some incredible waves at this stunning location check out Kitesurf Ireland. The BKSA for providing rescue cover and for funding the event. Also to Spillane’s Bar, The Green Room and Natterjacks for all the food and beer. The crew at Jamie Knox Watersports for helping us out while we were there too and to all the competitors that made an effort to come over and make the Wavemasters what it is! See you next year, we can’t be unlucky again, can we?
For more information about the 2017 Wavemasters follow the British Kitesurfing Championships Facebook page HERE.
By Rou ChaterRou has been kiting since the sports inception and has been working as an editor and tester for magazines since 2004. He started IKSURFMAG with his brother in 2006 and has tested hundreds of different kites and travelled all over the world to kitesurf. He's a walking encyclopedia of all things kite and is just as passionate about the sport today as he was when he first started!