Red Letter Day: Kernow Foil Classic

Words: Chris Burke
Photos Elliott Glynn
Location: Daymer Bay, Cornwall, UK
Date: Saturday October 21st, 2023

October 21st was a day for the UK foiling history books when the Kernow Foil Classic, a grassroots prone and wing surf-style competition went off at Daymer Bay, Cornwall. The vision was to run a legitimate foil competition with judges following criteria that favored fast and aggressive top-to-bottom wave riding, with the aim to drive progression of the two disciplines, giving UK riders a platform to showcase both their talent and solidarity at one of the country’s top foiling locations.

It would be impossible at just about any other location, but Daymer Bay, tucked half a mile into the Camel Estuary, is a very unique spot that allows multiple sports to co-exist on a series of different reef, point and sand bar breaks which, on its day, connect up to create the most idyllic foiling wave with a variety of sections and lines which flow into a ride that stretches for around a kilometer. For its day to happen, a highly specific set of wind, wave and tide conditions needed to align. With permissions and logistics in place we launched the competition idea with a series of holding dates and were inundated with entries from riders across the country who were all stoked to be involved.

As we approached the first possible tide window, wind predictions suggested we’d be rolling back, but of nowhere some promise, and then perfection lined up. It was still a gamble and only one contestable day, but too good to turn down, so we called it on. The day kicked off before sunrise, in the rain, with a 7am riders’ briefing sheltering in the tent. Riders were unbelievably positive and the energy in the air was electric, as veterans, pros, amateurs and groms buzzed together as the sun rose and lit up ideal waist-to-shoulder-high waves wrapping round the point and into the bay. The plan was to kick off with winging with a back-to-back heat format, using every minute so that if the conditions allow we would run the prone discipline too.

Conditions were prime, the wing comp was flowing well, and the riding level was immediately impressive, with fast arcing turns in critical sections and dramatic air gaps. It was clear that we were going to have no timing issues getting through to a wing final so our organizational mind switched into how we could integrate prone. After sending a few guinea pigs out to test the conditions we pressed pause on the wing heats after round two. The riders, some fresh off a wing heat, set their prone kit and began running for the point so we could make the most of the prime tide state.

It was like clockwork, as the hooter went for the first heat a set rolled in and three riders took off immediately on the first two waves, one pumping back for a clean connection to his own at the same time as a fourth rider popped to his feet. The judges were stretched as each rode to a very high standard, cutting back, linking turns and hitting sections hard. Waves consistently rolled in enough for riders to clock in between three and five waves each per heat. By the time the final started the tide had dropped a little and the wave was breaking behind the point. A slightly trickier take off, this chip-in offers a minute-long ride with a couple of initial steep sections, then a rolling mid-section, before it reforms into a point break which bowls across the bay. Riding experience and local knowledge played an advantage here and, sure enough, it was locals that led the field and clocked the first few high-scoring runs, with other experienced riders observing the way to clear the mid-section fast and following close behind. In the end, it was the Cornish lads Tom Earl, James Waters (aka Smiler) and Mike Chapman who took the three podium positions, each hitting the first section hard, holding good flow and speed through the second so they could attack the final turns and close out with power.

With the prone competition completed it was into the wing quarterfinals. A rapid turnaround was a priority to ensure we could make it to the final before the tide dropped too low. On-the-water experience played a big part here as the wave break began shifting further around the point and influenced by the wind against tide. Rolling through with good size but with unpredictable sections, the lead up to the final became a game of speed and adaptability, the riders able to put themselves in the right place progressing through to the final. The wing final was slammed with talent and ran with extended heat time. Riders went for very different approaches, with Guy Bridge looking for speed and power in turns, Jack Salmon consistency in high-consequence positioning, Oli Evans looking for innovation and criticality and Mike Chapman focused on smooth flow.

Reconvening at the judges’ camp the event team were able to stop and take a breath. Somehow, against all the odds, it had worked: we’d delivered a legitimate wing and prone surf-style contest from one spot in one day. But more than the competition, the success of this day is marked mostly by the atmosphere on the beach. An unbelievably positive energy had infected everyone involved and Daymer has never seen so much action. The foiling froth was strong and the appreciation for each other’s love of it mutual, so as we completed the prize-giving and retired to the Bluntrock Brewery to reminisce together, the question was quite simply how we can possibly top that next year. I’m looking forward to finding a way.

Big thanks to everyone involved and to our sponsors, whose generosity helped make it happen. The future of foiling is bright, and competition certainly drives evolution.

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