Well, it’s official. England has a group of very talented up-and-coming surfers. Ol’ Blighty now has three European champions and one silver medalist, after storming the event in Santa Cruz, Portugal.
And why’s that important? It makes the trio the most winning junior surfers out of England, in a time when most look to France, Portugal or Spain for Europe’s next hot shots. Anyway, in light of this success (and as an excuse to hang out with some of the most exciting and stoked-out young surfers you’ll ever meet), MSW caught up with the three gold medal winners, at this year’s Boardmasters event in Newquay; under 16 Male European Champion Lukas Skinner, under 18 female European Champion Alys Barton and under 18 male European Longboard Champion, Arthur Randell.
“It's something I didn’t think I was able to achieve this year,” said super friendly yet humble Alys Barton on becoming Europe’s under 18 female champion. “I’m really happy and think the whole team impressed everyone in Santa Cruz.
“I got second in the previous event and we drove through the night to Santa Cruz. I found out I was in the next heat which was pretty intense but I felt good coming off the back of a decent result.
“I feel like I kept my flow and got some good scores throughout the contest. I made my way to the grand final and the waves just came to me!
“I did a lot of training back home in Wales with my coach Ben Jenkins. We work remotely quite a lot but it benefits me in the water as it makes me feel stronger mentally and physically.”
Welsh-born Alys made the switch to England a while back. “I surfed for Wales one year in the Euros and it was a full group of guys. I thought it would be nice if I could have girls on my team as the Welsh team had none at the time.
“England had the opportunity to compete with and travel with other girls. I’m lucky that my Mum is English so they allowed me to join. It’s great because we have a full team of really great girls and I’m really happy with them.
And Alys’ opinion on the success for the Team as a whole? “I think it’s amazing for Team England. I think everyone proved that surfing in England produces surfers that are just as good as those in France, Spain, Portugal etc. I think it shows that England deserves the same opportunities in terms of funding. It’s a good eye opener for people who might have had doubt in our abilities.”
“Bit small, innit,” said the usually frothing Lukas Skinner after looking at the waves of Fistral before making his way to the competition check-in.
It’s business as usual for the ever-grinning 14-year old rippah, who’s noticed a change since coming home from his EuroSurf win. “It feels pretty surreal. People I don’t even know are coming up to me saying congratulations which is pretty cool.
“The comp itself went really well. I surfed a lot of heats so it was a really tiring week but it set me on a roll and got me in a rhythm, hopefully I can carry that on for Boardmasters.
“I’m going into Boardmasters with nothing to lose. I came third in the under 18s last year, I want to win it this year.
“For the team as a whole though, I think it’s such a great thing for us. I don’t think anyone expected us to come away with what we did. Hopefully we can build on it and just keep getting stronger and stronger.”
Another young England hopeful, Lola Bleakley just missed out on a gold medal in the dying seconds of her final in the under 18 female longboard. In terms of final team standing however, this isn’t the first time Team England Juniors have placed fourth, as Surfing England’s Hannah Brand explained: “We believe this is Team England’s most successful surf competition in terms of individual champion results. In terms of final team standing, Team England Juniors have placed fourth in both 2018 and 2019, as have the Open Team at Euros level.”
Longboard legend Ben Skinner (Father of Lukas) has been instrumental with support, not only to his son but also to the calm and collected under 18 male European Longboard Champion, Arthur Randell.
“I’m absolutely blown away, still can’t really comprehend what happened. I got lucky, picked off two of the right waves and it paid off.
“Going into it, first round wasn’t great, my confidence was down and the nerves were insane.
“On finals day, something felt different. I went into it positive and ready for it. Ben was an amazing help as well as my Dad, I had a better sleep and these things helped my preparation. It’s so helpful having Ben there who’s obviously knows his way around a longboard.
“I was in a bit of stressful time, I got back from the World’s and had load of GCSE exams — so not too important… they went well though!
“I just did a lot of surfing for practice but tried to also stay well rested. Staying in good shape is so important.
“It’s such a breakthrough for the team, getting three wins and just missing out on a fourth so I think it’s really positive. I think it will help with more opportunities and benefit us for training and so on.
“Winning at the Euros was a feeling like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”