This weekend the largest surf competition in Europe returned to the waters of Fistral Beach, Newquay where Falmouth University's Holly Donnelly made it three titles from three appearances. She and Iarom Madden (University College London) fought off competition from 346 surfers to win gold at the BUCS Surf Championships.
Day one and two of the champs whittled the 348 surfers down during 17 hours of heats so that come Sunday there were just 16 surfers returning for the semi-final and final rounds. A strong left to right rip meant conditions were tough to paddle out in, however once there the big sets coming through provided some really nice sections for big open face manoeuvres.
Local girl Donnelly was defending the championship title she had held since 2011 and scored the wave of the competition on day two. Taking off confidently Holly followed a strong cut back with a massive back hand turn before riding out the long wave earning her a near perfect 9.5 and passage through to the final. Surfing the final Donnelly coped best in the conditions and scored on two early waves, the first an 8.0, establishing an early lead that was never caught.
After awarding the trophy head judge Paul Jeffery explained why Holly has been so tough to beat during the past three championships, "Holly is a really competent surfer; she's had a lot of experience and has a very nice repertoire. She executes a really nice tidy cut back which in competition surfing will get you a long way. In those tough conditions today she sets herself up for big scores because she's takes off well, into a bottom turn and a nice cut back that then sets her up for the rest of the wave and that makes her very difficult to beat".
The men's championship was won by Irish surfer Iarom Madden, the University College London student fighting off competition from some of the UK's best young surfers to win gold in his first appearance in the BUCS Champs. Reflecting on his achievement Madden who grew up surfing the waves of Bundoran and has won the Irish Junior title a number of times said, "I caught a good wave straight off but it washed me the whole way down the beach and I honestly didn't think I was going to be able to get back out to get another score. I pushed through [the rip] as hard as I could and luckily I caught a few right handers and managed to surf my way back.
"This is a really cool event, it's got a great atmosphere everyone's really chilled out and it's a lot of fun. I live in London now so I only get to surf every few months but I put in loads of training over the last few weeks, I did as much as I could out of the water and came down here a few days early and luckily the hard work has paid off".
As the medals and trophies were awarded to the victors head judge Paul Jeffery reflected on another year of the BUCS Surf Champs, "There is a great atmosphere around the first round of heats with a lot of novices in there having fun, but as we go through the rounds it gets in to the business end of the competition and as everyone who has watched today has seen those guys out there can surf. You have to be a good, competent surfer to take on those conditions today and the performances we saw proved the really high standard of surfers in this competition".