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GB surfing team to be chosen at Thurso event

By Jean Gunn

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Shoana Blackadder, one of the local surfers hoping to be selected for Team GB.
Shoana Blackadder, one of the local surfers hoping to be selected for Team GB.

Confirmation that Thurso will be hosting the postponed qualification event for the GB surfing team has been welcomed by the local surf club and businesses.

The Scottish Surfing Federation (SSF) has given the green light for the selection to go ahead this weekend (April 10-11), with the chosen surfers going forward to the Olympic qualifiers in May.

“The event is a welcome boost for our newly built surf club hut at Thurso-East as the revenue provided from the SSF for the use of the facility at events like this is important for the building’s upkeep and maintenance," said Jason Simpson, chairman of the Thurso-based North Shore Surf Club.

"We are also very proud to have so many NSSC athletes represented on the Scottish team and are excited to see if any of them can make it onto the GB Olympic surfing team.”

Four local surfers are among the contingent from Scotland vying for a place at the Olympics – Mark Boyd, Iona McLachlan, Phoebe Strachan and Shoana Blackadder, all from Thurso. The other Scottish male athletes taking part are Mark Cameron, Jamie Bain and George Watt, all Fraserburgh, while the final competitor in the women's team is Catriona MacDonald, Elgin.

Current Scottish women's champion and owner of the local surf school North Coast Watersports, based at Dunnet, Iona McLachlan, said: “It has been a real shame that other surfing competitions have not been able to go ahead due to Covid, so it will be really exciting to get the chance to compete again.”

Also welcoming the event, Andrew Mackay of the Pentland Hotel and the Caithness Collection said: “SSF events have been hosted at our hotel annually for the past few years, so the return of competitive surfing to Thurso, albeit a smaller event with many restrictions, is a welcomed boost for our businesses and we look forward to looking after the travelling elite surfers that will participate, whilst also ensuring they are Covid safe and fed, whilst being able to adhere to the sporting quarantine rules throughout the competition until their departure.”

The event will bring the home nation surfing federations of England, Scotland and Wales together as their surfers – four men and four women from each federation – battle it out for the six spots on the GB Team going to the Olympic qualifier in May ahead of surfing making its long-awaited debut at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.

It will be the first time British Surfing Championships have taken place in Caithness since the 1980s and the first time it has been back in Scotland since 1992. The event will be hosted by the SSF with support from the local North Shore Surf Club.

One of the first fixtures to take place this year as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, the event will follow government guidance and will be subject to very thorough and stringent Covid-19 protocols.

The 16 athletes competing for England and Wales – eight from each country – will be under strict quarantine guidelines before they travel and on arrival. There will be testing before and during the competition for these surfers and the eight competing for Scotland.

Paul Bush OBE, director of events at VisitScotland said: “We are delighted to be supporting the British Surfing Championships and British Cup as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21. Scotland offers the perfect stage for sport and the Thurso coastline will provide a dramatic backdrop to this Team GB qualifying event.”

This elite sport event which is part of the 2020 Olympics qualification pathway will be closed to spectators but the surfing action will be broadcast via a live stream on the Scottish Surfing Federation’s website: www.thessf.com

William Watson, SSF president pointed out: “This event would not be possible without the support of our main sponsors who we would like to give a huge thanks to – Highland Council, Caithness and North Sutherland Fund and EventScotland as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

Meanwhile, event organiser, Pat Kieran MBE, stated: “This event will be unlike any other in previous years with the new normal we are now living in. However, we are delighted to be able to offer surfers across the UK this opportunity and have been working very closely with the Sport Scotland Institute of Sport who are guiding us through the very stringent path for government approval to allow this to happen.”

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