Photo of Alfred Lomax (left) and Keith Chapman (right) courtesy of Myles Estey.
A hearty congratulations to the winners of the 1st Annual Surf Liberia Contest. In the men's surfing division, Alfred Lomax came in 1st place with a cash prize of $200, Keith Chapman in 2nd with a cash prize of $100, Benjamin McCrumada in 3rd with a cash prize of $50 and a rashguard, and Peter Swen in 4th with a rashguard. In the bodyboarding division, Keith Chapman also came in 1st and got a rashguard. We hope to have a women's division in the contest next year and to have more surf-related prizes.
Thanks to Liberia Travel and Life Magazine for putting up the prize money and the surfers of BHP for donating the rashguards. Thanks also to Nana's Lodge for helping with equipment and logistics, and for hiring young men from the community to clean the beach over the whole weekend of their larger event. Thanks also to Myles Estey in advance for letting me steal this photo of the winners from his blog. We'll have more photos to post when he generously stops by and drops them off, as we're still too weak recovering from typhoid and malaria to actually leave the house...
This year's contest was held in November to coincide with the 1st Annual Nana's Lodge Sports Festival and Family Fun Weekend, a three-day extravaganza of football contests, volleyball tournaments, sand castle building and face-painting, not to mention beach bonfires and live performances. The weekend sounded like a great success. Unfortunately, as Nate and I were still recovering, we had to keep our presence to a minimum and only came up for the surf contest and a quick meeting with the Women's Sewing Coop.
We got lucky on the contest weekend with long-period swell, almost no wind and head-high waves during the semi-frequent sets. I'll let Nate post more about the surfing and the conditions with some photos (by Myles). Suffice to say it was an unexpectedly good day in a dry season prone to baby swell and occasional onshores. There was some fun surfing. Next year, we'll hold it in the rainy season when there's proper swell, but for 2009, we did good with the waves we got.
By the way, all proceeds from surfers' entry fees go to the Surf Liberia Scholarship Fund, which pays part of the school fees for local surfers we sponsor -- the other part they raise themselves through working in Robertsport Community Works projects or giving surf lessons. Now that we're raised a bit, although through the sale of our Surf Liberia t-shirts, more local surfers are eligible for scholarships based on their scores in the contest.
Because Nate and I needed to maximize our energy for the day, we got a ride up and back with a generous friend, also the head judge and one of the chillest and best people to have in the Liberian lineup. That was helpful, as we had about an hour to set up and register people once we arrived, which I did from a hammock at the campsite. Another friend saw we were looking a bit ragged and drove us in his 4x4 from the cotton tree to Shipwrecks, where we'd decided -- based on the swell coming in at Inner Cottons -- to hold the event. It was pretty fun driving on the sand, hanging out the window and waving to everyone, I have to say.
Once we got to the beach, there was a small crowd lined up under the shade of the almond trees. The local surfers, who'd all had their entry fees waived in lieu of becoming volunteers, had set up plastic tables and chairs, which we shaded with judges' beach umbrellas and made look rather official. Nate had written up scoring criteria and judging sheets, and we'd had a pizza and beer meeting at the head judge's house a few nights before to decide how things would go.
Before we started, we got everyone together, went over the rules -- 20 minute heats of three to start, how waves would be scored, penalties for interference -- and emphasized that the whole point of everything was to enjoy each other, represent surfing in Liberia, and have a good time. The local surfers were intent, focused and visibly a little nervous. We started the first heat with a siren from our borrowed megaphone, and so the contest began. Highlights included a fantastic showing by a novice, S., who charged without hesitation into steep shoulder-high waves, and the moment when Ben's new board broke and Myles rushed out to loan him his thruster. We even had a member of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in attendance and a video journalist from Reuters filming and interviewing the local surfers and the community, so expect to see a link to that piece soon.
My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all of you who helped to make Liberia's first surfing contest the relaxed and enjoyable event it was. Neither Nate nor I are big into competitive surfing, but it was important for the local surfers to represent their sport and help them legitimize surfing in Liberia. We'll see what opportunities it brings them. In the meantime: judges, helpers, volunteers, supporters and well-wishers -- you know who you are, and we very literally could not have done it without you.