Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'Air' Harvey Wins Gold in Santa Cruz

Last weekend I was in California for the US Open Kayak Surf Competition in Santa Cruz, also the 1st of the 2008 World Cup qualifying events. With my title to defend from last year, I headed out a week before the event to train on the famous Steamer's Lane surf break. Preparations went well and I started the competition reasonably confident that I was on good form.

In the opening rounds, conditions were good with 10ft peaks shaping up nicely for me to work the wave and achieve some good scores. However, with some of the peaks in excess of 12ft on the face and rides of 150m, the paddle back out after each wave was long and tiring, leaving no margin for error. With some solid surfing i progressed to the quarter finals ranked in 2nd place behind the world champion. Up against 2 US team members and with difficult windy conditions, the quarter final was a tough heat and i struggled to find form. However, I did just enough to finish on top and go through to the semi-final. Windy conditions prevailed so it was all about getting 3 safe rides, which i managed with the highest score of both semi-finals.

Reaching the final was a real achievement but with current world champion Rusty Sage and 2006 world champion Dave Johnston (both local to Santa Cruz) also in the final it was a really stacked heat. Setting nerves aside I managed to relax and focus. With the wind easing and a lower tide the surf was shaping up well. Sunshine and 6ft surf made for some of the best conditions of the contest and so the scene was set for a spectacular final. Looking deep, I managed to find 2 good waves within the first 10 minutes and with a solid start but aware I was playing it slightly safe I waited for a 3rd good wave to really push myself. I managed to drop into a nice 'bowl-shaped' wall and knowing i needed something big, took a risk and managed to pull off and land a massive aerial. As I landed I could hear the crowd screaming for incredible feeling...With only 3 minutes left i hoped i'd done enough and was wishing for the end of the heat. On the final hooter the atmosphere was great, we spent a few minutes congratulating each other and relaxing before heading to the well as competitors, the other surferes are good friends and it was fun surfing with them and giving the spectators a good show.

It's hard when you pull off a move to know exactly what it looks like, but as I walked up the beach, the support from the crowd said it all. Rushing back to catch my flight i didn't get the result until I arrived at the airport but i'm so excited to take the Gold, and especially as my 3rd wave was a perfect 10 score from all 3 judges.

The competition really is tough and each year the bar is being raised and more people are reaching the top level. Winning 2 years in a row is really special and the success of other UK surfers just shows what talent we have within the British Isles. This first place gives me automatic qualification for the World Cup Finals which we will be held in France this October. It's also really exciting to see the talent that is coming out of Guernsey. Over the next few years there's really good prospects for other local kayak surfers winning national and international medals.

Once again i'd like to thank my sponsors and everyone who continues to support me in achieving my goals and flying the Guernsey flag.

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Chris 'Air' Harvey