Surfer Zak Lawton third in European Longboard Tour contest
THE CREAM of the continent's riders hit the North Cornwall shore at the weekend for the first stop of the European Longboard Tour.
Following the cancellation of the proposed opener in Vieux Boucau, France, the series has this year been reduced to just three events.
So a good placing was essential for anyone with designs on the title – and a couple of North Devon surfers were right in the thick of it.
The contest saw an impressive showing from the British entry with three riders making the top four, a rare occurrence in such a prestigious series event.
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At Watergate Bay, the onshore wind, combined with a bit of swell, brought head- high surf, but it was tricky and awkward.
To ensure competitors got the best of it, contest organisers waited for the pushing tide to give it a bit more oomph and shape before starting the heats.
BoardBarn rider Alex Maddocks, fresh from under-18 action at the European Junior Surf Championships in Lacanua, France, was joined by Animal rider Zak Lawton.
Having made it through the four-man heats, thanks to the luck of the draw, the North Devon duo found themselves battling each other in the man-on-man quarter-finals.
In a close encounter it was Croyde's Lawton who progressed despite a strong challenge from Maddocks from the outset.
"To be honest, I struggled against Alex," said Lawton.
"He was surfing really well and almost beat me in the quarters.
"In the semi I was much more comfortable and didn't feel out of my depth."
That semi-final saw Lawton up against Ben Skinner, a true legend of the longboard world and possibly the best chance the UK has of getting a world surfing champion.
But the Croyde lad did not look fazed.
In fact, Lawton has scored some good heat wins over the big man in recent years.
Posting some reasonable scores in the seven-plus range, Lawton surfed a great heat against the multiple British and current European title holder, but it was not enough to stop a man clearly on a mission.
"Ben Skinner did an amazing job organising such a good event, especially with the economic climate as it is," said Lawton.
"I'm really stoked with my performance and happy with my placing.
"I'm just working really hard to save up for the other events now."
Next on the tour is the two-star Longboard Cup in Bouznika, Morocco, followed by the three-star finale in Portugal.
Lugging three longboards on a planes and in taxis does not come cheap.
"Its an expensive tour to be involved in but to be able to surf at this level and be up there with some of the best is great," said Lawton.
The longboarders will be in action again this weekend, swell permitting, at the Jesus Longbord Classic in Polzeath.
Organised by Christian Surfers UK and now in its sixth year as a stand-alone event, the competition draws the UK's best and there is sure to be a strong showing from the North Devon crew.
European Longboard Tour (Watergate Bay): 1 Ben Skinner, 2 Eduard Delpero, 3 Zak Lawton, 4 Adam Griffiths, 5 Alex Maddocks.