In 2017, teams from 47 nations made their way to Biarritz, France, with their hearts set on picking up a medal in the ISA World Surfing Games. With record participation numbers and a world-class standard of surfing exceeding previous years, the momentum of surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics has already started to gather.
It is uncommon that the International Surfing Association (ISA) stages competitions of this magnitude in Europe, so we seized the opportunity to meet surfers from distant lands and offer them the chance to visit our R&D Headquarters, located just 1hr 15mins south of the ISA contest site. Juggling a host of work commitments, we were finally able to welcome eight national teams to surf the Wavegarden Cove. Amongst the lucky ones were the surfers, coaches and trainers from France, Spain, USA, Japan, England, China, Germany, and Scotland.
For the staff at Wavegarden, it was thoroughly enriching to meet people from vastly different cultures, to watch them surf and receive their feedback. Skill and experience level aside, it was positive to see that the love of surfing amongst all individuals was the same.
Surfing legend Peter (PT) Townend, appointed as coach of China’s national squad, made an array of interesting remarks about the development of man-made waves and the future of surfing, especially now that the Olympics are on the horizon. “Now we have this technology where we can make waves and that really changes the game, I think more than anything for training. There’s no bigger sports stage in the world than the Olympics. Arguably, when the first gold medals are won in Tokyo, the winners will become the most famous surfers in the world”.
With minimal waves in the ocean during the contest period, the French team, who dominated the event by winning several gold medals, were content to complete some serious training in preparation for the finals. “It’s good for training”, said Jeremy Flores, catching his breath after his initial session. “There are different types of waves so we can practise different maneuvers. But what’s really nice is that there are lots of waves”. For high performance training, the French team manager Stephane Corbinien could sense the advantage the Cove could bring to a team serious about competing, “A tool like this is basically indispensable for elite training.”
Former Pipe Master and current USA national coach Joey Buran didn’t waste any time in joining his team riders, expressing it was “the most fun I have had surfing in a long time”.
Surfing America’s CEO Greg Cruse was equally impressed, “I am just thinking of the implications for competition, you could have a stadium; you could schedule TV time; people can be right up front next to the breaking wave; and you can see how impressive it is, it’s mind blowing”.
The Japanese, in a not dissimilar fashion to the Chinese, are taking the Olympic dream seriously, having recruited former WSL judge and expert coach Wade Sharp to help steer forward their talented juniors. “I have been elected as the Japanese coach for 2017 and today we’re just getting in a training session. To have a perfect wave like this in front of us to play with is really incredible. The technology that is displayed right here opens the door to a whole new surfing arena. I think it’s the future, right here”.
Dave Renaud, England’s national head coach remarked, “It’s been a really amazing experience, it’s a really high performance wave”. With a Wavegarden coming soon to Bristol, pro surfer Jayce Robinson is enthusiastic about what this represents for his fellow countrymen, “Soon it will be a fair playing ground for us Brits as we can go and train there all the time”.
Seven-time Scottish national champion Mark Cameron is more than excited that a Wavegarden project is under development in his homeland, positively affirming the benefits it will bring them in terms of training. “It’s going to be an asset to Edinburgh and Scotland, and the Scottish team as a whole.” Fellow team rider Mark Boyd supported this view: “For the Scottish surfing Federation and surfing in general, it’s definitely going to up the level and standard of surfing.”
With so many world-class waves in Spain, it was no surprise to witness an explosive surf session by the national Spanish team. One of the country’s top surfers, Vicente Romero, elated by the experience of surfing the Cove for the first time, remarked it was one of the best sessions of his career – perfect for practicing different maneuvers, aerials to tubes.
Although it was not possible to host a session for all the ISA national teams that were in the region during the contest, the feedback received from those who had the opportunity was overwhelmingly positive. “The fact that there are waves every 8 seconds with different levels of power is incredible. It is essentially the reproduction of a reef break”, said France’s Head Coach, Patrick Flores. “For surf trainers, we couldn’t find anything better for our youngsters.”