Read on for how it went down.
The Perfect Forecast
With a huge low pressure system approaching and storm force winds forecast to hit Western Scotland on Sunday 15th, I quickly changed my ferry ticket to Saturday morning and took the day off from fishing to drive to Oban on Friday. The plan was to get there in time for a beer and have a nice sleep, so I left at 9.20 am as soon as I could get some Philps pasties for the journey. Well the traffic gods had other ideas and I didn’t get to Oban until 2.30 am. The plus side was that as soon as I arrived in Scotland all the signs on the motorway were giving out ‘Warning High Winds Sun/Mon’. Sweet I was heading in the right direction!
The ferry from Oban to Tiree takes 4 hours and the first part is really scenic as you travel down the Sound of Mull. Upon arriving in Tiree I headed straight to the beach along with 2012 Champ George Noble, runner up Stubbie and a few others with Ian Edmondson from ExPix to check out what was on offer. We found a smallish wave at Balephuil and a gentle cross on breeze in glorious sunshine with a surprisingly nice warm temperature. Most jumped in for a SUP but I waited and sure enough the wind filled in for a fun evening session alone on the 12m Dice. A good start to the trip and with a forecast 18ft 14 sec swell and 40-60 mph winds the next day, while the locals battened down the hatches we all headed to bed.
The van started rocking overnight and we awoke Sunday to a very different Tiree. Cold, grey wet and very windy, first we checked Balephuil but found a huge confused mess so headed to get some inside info from Seb the French local. Looking right out at Crossapol from his house most of us quickly jumped in for a windy 2ft cross off session on 5-6m kites. Some huge hail squalls blew most away but there were some small fun waves to be had. After a couple hours and many hail stones to the head, the wind started to turn slightly more offshore, so I came in and grabbed Ian to go find some size as by now it was meant to be pumping!
Sure enough back at Balephuil it was now cross shore and huge. I jumped in again on my Rebel 6m with the new 6’2 Pro surfboard from North. Among the chop left over from the morning I found some nice sections in the double overhead surf with the wind going from 40-60 mph in the hail squalls, it was pretty crazy out there but a lot of fun and what I had come all this way for. Unlucky for some who were coming on the ferry, as it got all the way to Tiree but couldn’t get into dock so had to turn around and go the 4 hours back!
Monday and after a very noisy night, we found it howling again but more NW so we headed straight back to Balephuil. This was the day, clean double overhead waves blowing cross off and windier than the day before, less gusty and even the odd bit of sun. With a couple windsurfers out along with a couple local guys on Twin Tips you could see exactly how big it was, over mast high but closing out.
I decided to wait for a couple of hours until the tide came in and the wave started breaking on the bank I rode the day before. Using the 5m Dice my wait paid off and I had an amazing 3 hour session mostly by myself until the ferry got in and I was joined by Jon Ellman Brown and Marc Rowley. That evening we all had to go to the Scarnish Hotel (only pub) for registration and meet with everyone who were talking about their day and what it would be like for the comp the coming week and a planned three whole rounds of competition for everyone. A little bit of concern was that two of the three judges for the event were freestyle riders, Robin Snuggs and Craig Smith who knew nothing about waves. We left them busy watching videos trying to find out what we meant by a re-entry and off the lip. Still better to have 2 novice judges than none at all!
Tuesday morning and the call was made via Facebook for a 9 am meet at Balephuil. Arriving at the beach, it was the biggest case of ‘You should have been here yesterday’ you could possibly get, still howling but with waves of less than a foot. As per usual the call was made for Ladies first followed by seniors then Open Men. For once however the Ladies scored the best waves of the day, as with the dropping tide the waves got even smaller with it howling cross offshore! I was pleased to make it to the final as it really was a lottery in the tiny surf with Jon winning and Stubbie second and me third for Round 1 with us all using 6-7m kites in over 40knts of breeze.
Wednesday morning it was back to Balephuil for Round 2 with the same running order and the swell forecast to increase, we were all hoping that today the men would get the better conditions as it was super small to start with. As the tide pushed in during the afternoon, the waves started to increase as we started the first men’s heats. Unfortunately during heat 5 around 4pm, a huge black cloud came over and totally killed the wind. After waiting for 20 mins the race crew called it off for the day and everyone packed up. Half an hour after this the wind kicked right back in and with the swell picking up near the high tide I had an amazing session by myself on the 8m Rebel in clean head high waves until sunset. It was then back to check the forecast as contest director, Rich Gowers was calling a possible day off the next day.
Thursday and the forecast had changed considerably with windguru giving 30 mph and 4-6ft by lunchtime. It was back to Balephuil again but unfortunately the wind never came in as we seemed to be right in the eye of the storm and at 4.30pm we all packed up and went for a surf.
Friday and the wind had switched to the south so it was a different location and we headed to Balevullin for some left hand waves. Arriving to small waves again with the dropping tide we continued with the men’s from before with everyone using 12-9m kites. Stubbie and myself made it to the final again, this time with 2012 Champ George Noble who was much happier on his frontside. George took the win with me in second and Stubbie third in very poor shaped 1-2 ft waves.
The race crew then cracked straight on and started another round of the seniors and women with all the locals saying it was going to get really good later as the tide came in. Hopefully the men would finally get some decent waves for round 3?
Sure enough as the tide started to come up, the waves started to increase and by the time we started the 3rd full round of men it was 3-4ft lefthanders with occasionally bigger sets. With the wind pretty gusty coming over the hill we were riding 7-9m kites and with finally some good shaped waves the level of riding noticeably increased with no easy heats. I made it to the final again along with Jon Ellman Brown and newcomer Jordan Scott who took out George in the heat before with some nice turns riding switch stance. A great final heat with the biggest waves of the contest, I almost got the win dropping in on the wave behind Jordan on the biggest set of the day. Unfortunately after my first turn the wave disappeared while Jordan’s reeled all the way to the beach. This gave Jordan the win for round 3 followed by myself second and Jon in third.
On my wave in after the heat had finished, I managed to pull a perfect 360 straight into another turn and was super happy coming up the beach. With the race crew announcing Jon had come 3rd, I realised the title was finally mine and erupted in joy.
With no wind forecast for Saturday most competitors headed to the pub for food and drinks to celebrate a great week. A super friendly bunch of locals made sure we all had a great time with the local police man even giving some a lift home, including Jon’s dog.
Saturday and it was surfing day for most, with a lot of driving checking spots we ended up again at Balevullin for some fun waves if not a bit closey before heading back to the hotel for prizegiving and the Islands top band. A great end to a great week with myself winning the Open men’s, Wales Marc Rowley the seniors and Tiree local Helen Thompson the ladies, proving that the Celtic nations really do rule the waves! Big thanks to British Kitesports, Kiteworld, Blast, Tiree Kitesurf Academy and the people of Tiree for a great event.
3rd George Noble, 1st Lee Harvey, 2nd Jon Ellman Brown Thanks to my sponsors-
North Kiteboarding for making the best kites and kiteboards by far.
JP Surfboards & Inlayz for the greatest surf and kite crossover boards I’ve ever had.
O’Neill wetsuits UK for sorting me some suits at last minute.
Freeriders Surfshop for their continued support with all the essential bits.
Pasty Adventures for paying for me to get to the comp.
Thanks to Ian from ExPix, Marc from Blast & Leigh from Evolution boardsports for use of the pics.
To look at all the pics from the event go to www.expix.co.uk where you can purchase if you want.
Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey
Join me on a Kitesurfing Coaching Holiday this winter in Cape Verde, Cape Town or Dakhla, Morocco.
See the website for details http://www.pastyadventures.co.uk/holidays.html