The Channel Island surfing scene is making waves as surfers are stepping out of the shadows and joining forces in the quest to become an independent governing body.
Words by Jake Stolte
You may not associate any legendary household names in surfing with Jersey. In fact, you may not have heard of our 9×5 mile island floating in the English Channel. The surfing community of Jersey is determined to change that by putting our names on the map and showcasing our plethora of water sporting talent and a culture rich in surfing history.
Dating back to 1959, the Jersey Surfboard Club (JSC) is the oldest running surf club in Europe and is one branch of the Channel Island Surfing Federation (CISF) which is made up of various water sporting clubs in the Channel Islands.
President of the CISF, David Ferguson is leading the charge to gain independent status so riders of all water craft can compete under the Channel Island flag in international events rather than fighting for a placed in the Great Britain team.
As a local surfer myself, I would relish the prospect of an increased chance in competing on the global stage and am excited at the possible outcomes of this proposal.
David thinks local surfers will reap the benefits of the potential detachment from the rest of Great Britain surfing. “Once given ISA status Channel Island surfers will compete at international events under the CI flag, this will allow for increased individual and team exposure, as well as increased opportunities for local surfers.”
“Representing the Channel Islands would give me a great sense of pride.”
David also said that all clubs under the CISF federation have the ability to rise to the challenge of competing on a world level. “Channel Island competitors of all craft have shown the determination and will to do well even on a world stage. It all comes down to preparation and performance on contest day.”
What’s different now?
The first British and European championships were held in the 60’s at the islands prime surf location the Watersplash. It was deemed socially acceptable for cigarette companies to sponsor events and beer drinking to ease pre-contest nerves was common amongst a contingent of surfers who shared a sense of comradery and weren’t too bothered about the end result.
Local surfer and former world tour competitor Arlene Maltman identified with the drastic changes that have occurred from contests back in the day to now.
“The judging criteria has changed dramatically. When I first started competing the surfer who rode the wave furthest along the beach got the most points. It wasn’t until the late 80’s when judges recognised manoeuvres in women’s events. Competing now is a completely different story, the degree of commitment and competitiveness amongst young athletes is immense.”
“There are many young surfers on our island hungry to do well and hopefully this opportunity to compete for the Channel Islands will help put their name out there for sponsors and the media to see.”
A changing of the guard?
The progress of our local watermen has perhaps been hindered by living on “the rock”. To be tested against the best, costly trips are made to the mainland and a lack of funding hasn’t helped the cause.
Local lad Aaron Rowe is currently the British paddleboard champion in the surf division and is hoping to defend his title when he goes over to the mainland to compete later in the year.
Aaron explained how he has to ere on the side of caution when deciding what trips to make due to financial costs. “When you’re paying for all your own travel and expenses it all adds up and then there’s taking time off work. I really have to sit down and think about what contests I want to attend and make sure they’re the ones that I’ll benefit from the most.”
However, with some branches of the CISF now gaining financial backing such as law firm Morant Ozannes sponsoring the JSC. We may now see our chances of travelling abroad to compete increase, with more money behind us and the potential to compete under our own flag.
This idea sat well with Aaron, who said: “Representing the Channel Islands on an international stage would give me a great sense of pride and achievement.”
This is a step in the right direction for the surfing community as we wait on our chance to show the world who we are and where we’re from. Stay tuned.