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Finn Gamblin Makes U16 BSUPA National SUP Finals

Finn Burgers Gamblin backhand riding

Anyone who’s followed our blog over the last 18 months will know Finn is mainly an accomplished prone surfer who competes on the UK circuit as well as travelling to many of the primo surf spots around the world. At just 14yr old he’s certainly one to watch and is constantly getting braver with the size waves he’s prepared to take on which was just as well with a hurricane doing it’s thing in the Atlantic ahead of last weekend’s BSUPA National SUP Surfing Finals.

Despite making the finals last year, Finn has done very little SUPing since mainly due to his ‘so-called surf buddies’ taking the piss out of him which we only found out over this weekend. This is not an uncommon story from some of the other groms we spoke to which is a real shame. Surely getting groms with some real surf pedigree into the sport can only be good for SUP? Anyway…


So after the usual pain of 8hrs on the motorway Joe and Finn arrived in Cornwall on Thursday morning to find Fistral firing so the young shaver grabbed his Loco surfboard and went for a short sanctioned prone session before ‘catch up training 101’ began. Joe went to watch and took a few snaps to keep Finn happy but knew there was much to do so signalled time and they headed off for some lunch before heading to Towan to catch the high tide for some ‘initial practice’ with a couple of the lads from Gower who were down for the comp as well.

Sadly the tide was a bit higher than billed so the session wasn’t great but towards the end Finn was getting the hang of balancing on a short SUP again and had got a few wiggles in to his credit. Both exhausted after a long drive carb-loading was the order of the day before they pitched at Watergate for a night of who could snore the loudest in the van!


With a clear sky both woke up early feeling cold but the blood soon got pumping when they walked down to the beach to see these chunky slabs of blue/green brine rolling in. The wind was a touch on the strong side but was offshore which is a real win at Watergate. After a brew and some interesting ‘German snacks’ Finn’s Mum had sent with him, the boys were 3/2’d up and running down the ramp with SUPs in hand ready to shred! Getting out back was surprisingly easy but catching anything was a lot harder unless you wanted to occupy the inside and take a dumpy wave on the head. Needless to say wave selection was key and it wasn’t long before our Loco grom was putting some turns together with many of the adults raising an eyebrow or two!

After a quick chip stop the boys got in for a second dip by which time the wind was backing off and the tide was pushing in which made training a lot easier although by 3pm many of the competitors had arrived so to say it was busy with SUPs is an understatement. Our prone brethren on the inside must have been dying inside with a SUP scratching into almost every available wave. Needless to say there were a few snakey obstacles to dodge which is good training in itself!


After another cold night in the van the boys awoke to Loco Steve Laddiman shouting ‘Burgers’ on arrival which was Finn’s adopted nickname for the weekend with him being partial to a largely carbs-based diet but as it turned out he’d definitely need all the energy he could get over the next couple of days. After the usual skippers meeting the first heat kicked off at 9.30am so it was a waiting game ahead of Finn’s heat where he’d drawn Ollie and a new face called Blu Ewer who’s Dad was a known ripper from the South Coast running Reactive Water Sports. It didn’t look good for Finn with them starting the heat around low tide which equated to a largely uncontestable dump fest. Despite his best efforts he came 3rd in his heat so we thought it was curtains for our grom as the organisers had controversially scrapped the usual reportage format due to a potentially dangerous forecast that never really arrived. Both a bit shell shocked Joe thought he’d let Finn go surf as it looked like he was out and would only have a plate heat the following day.


Joe  decided to watch some of the main event and support Nick and Georgie who were also down from the North East as well as take pictures of Steve’s loco ripper son, Ollie who appeared to be having a mare in the earlier rounds of the mens open. That said, all three surfers got through to the next stage so it was great to support them from the beach. Matt Barker Smith was cooking on gas as well as the usual suspects with Alex Murray, Ollie Shilston, Neil Gent and Glyn Ovens all showing their pedigree in the early heats. The ladies standard had gone up a few levels from last year with Marie Buchanan, Abi Barker Smith, Tina Beresford, Lizzy Bird and Georgie all looking strong in their initial heats too.


The day’s competition was soon over so The  Phoenix was calling for some food and liquid refreshment. In years gone by there’s been a real party spirit but it seemed like it had all got a bit serious this year with only the distributors really ‘getting on it’ and most of them were tucked up in bed before 10.30pm – rock and roll eh?

Finn had headed back to the van early to get his game face on for his heat on the Sunday and had accidentally fell asleep with the light on which completely flattened Joe’s battery which he discovered post-pub. Invariably the van was parked in a tricky position to bump and no one had any decent jump leads or so it seemed. Big thanks to Glyn Ovens for coming to the rescue  with some industrial cables that soon got the Loco bus running again. Joe decided to take Finn into Newquay for some breakfast and give the van a run only to get the ‘get your arses back’ call from Steve Laddiman as Finn had his heat in 20 mins! Pedal to the metal with grom rolling around in the back trying to put on a wetsuit wasn’t exactly the ideal preparation they’d both dreamed of ahead of his heat but needs must! Finn literally ran to the water’s edge to make sure he was in the mix.



The full English certainly paid dividends with him winning his heat after consistently picking out the best peaks and more interestingly he was back into the main event after the organisers decided to run a semi which he was now in. Hopes for him reaching the final were still sketchy with Blu and Ben Pye starting to find their form as well as two or three other boys we’d not seen before. That said Finn was really starting to find his form and we could see that surfing fire starting to happen as we started putting the sections together not dissimilar to Matt in the main event. Joe was totally stoked to see Finn get through to the finals and just had to keep him from tiring himself out by going for a surf like he did last year!

Thankfully the threat of walking home and getting 25 dead arms was enough to keep him from his pre-final preferred dick dragging activities and he went into the finals with his game face on saying he was going to do it for his late Dad which was really quite touching! The switch had definitely turned on and he looked like he wanted it, keeping close to defending champion Ollie Laddiman and even challenging him for peaks. Joe had him down for a podium with him connecting more turns than even Ollie but perhaps he lacked a radical move or two mainly down to using a much larger board than the other boys. It was definitely the closest final of the entire event although Ollie did bust out a 360 to seal his dominance and another British title. Things certainly look bright for the future of SUP surfing in the UK. I think Finn was a little disappointed not to come away with something as many felt he should have. Let’s hope this isn’t down to fall out from last year’s ladies title which Joe disputed.


In terms of the other divisions it was no surprise Matt retained his title although he was pushed hard by  Alex, Glyn and Ollie but we saw another controversial ladies result with Marie Buchanan being penalised for an interference which was a real shame for her as she definitely out-surfed the other finalists. Good to see Tina get the title she should have got last year anyway and stoked to see Georgie Sowman make the podium in her first ever SUP comp.


Another good event with some proper surfing conditions to showcase what riders can actually do this year so think everyone enjoyed it irrespective of the results. There was lots of talk about a proper series which Joe is very keen to get involved with so watch this space for news about upcoming dates for a northern competition as well as other locations tbc.

Thanks to the organisers for putting on another good competitions, great to catch up with some familiar faces and make some new friends both on and off the water. The drive home was a real killer but Joe got the grom home in time for school on Monday as promised.


North East Paddle Surfing Grom Makes National SUP Final