All Smiles at the Inaugural Spring Classic Surf Invitational

Mike Lay and Emily Currie take top awards at the UK’s newest and loosest surf competition.

“This was easily one of the most fun contests I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of,” sung Emily Currie, after the inaugural Spring Classic Surf Invitational Presented by Reef. “The initiative of this event was awesome – retro boards and a whole lot of fun. I’d also like to congratulate Mike Lay for doing what he does best, ripping and sharing the stoke.” 

Now, it might be said that Lay, and indeed Currie herself, had more stoke to share than most. The pair claimed the first Spring Classic Surf Invitational Trophies and 500 quid each. Lay, the new Wavelength Print Editor, also claimed the Mystic Wave of the Weekend, for an outrageous cheater 5 to can catch combo. 

“My takeout was that there were lots of familiar faces and some new ones, all of them smiling all weekend long,” said Lay. “I was lucky to be riding 60’s logs and to take the win having had about as much fun as it’s possible to have in a heat. Hanging with fellow Reef riders and exceptional humans Blair Conklin and Evie Johnstone was the icing on the cake. It was just a wicked weekend.”

However, the feel-good factor was very real for every single competitor, not just the winners. Un-wipeable smiles were present on everyone from local grom Malakai Hagley, to the UK’s best short boarders like Gotcha‘s Stan Norman and through to skim wizard and international invitee, Conklin. 

Young men, old boards, with Stan Norman in green and Malakai Hagley in white.

On the Thursday afternoon, before the Spring Classic Invitational was due to kick off, the feel-good factor, however, seemed a long way away. On the positive side, a three-month-long sun dance had paid off and weather conditions for the festival were looking supreme; a fat, old, high pressure had parked herself over the British Isles, promising a weekend of wall-to-wall sunshine. 

Yet the same high pressure that would bring joy to the White Claw fuelled festival revellers was also causing havoc with the very first Spring Classic Surf Invitational. The surf looked as flat as a lizard drinking. 

However, with 40 competitors from all over the UK due to head to North Devon for the contest, a call had to be made – it was stick or twist. It was here that the local knowledge of the Woolacombe Boardriders Surf Club kicked in; the decision was made and nerves were held.  

The Friday morning revealed blue skies as predicted and, praise be to the lord of Surf Invitationals, a slight upwards bump in the surf forecast. Now, 2 feet at 8 seconds are hardly numbers that usually get the pulse racing, but it meant there’s be breaking waves on Combesgate banks, and it was game on.

Not that the minor increase in wave size seemed to change many of the invitees’ preparation for the big day. Friday night at the festival site saw Hot Chip, Porij, and Plump DJs getting the crowd stomping, and there was more than one competitor spotted still on the dancefloor at the Wavelength Bar as the last bars drifted over the grassy headland stage and into the Atlantic ether. 

And, we are not one to name names; that’s just not our style. Though we will say Luke Dillon was just one of the invitees who looked a little sluggish at the 9 am surfer check-in on Saturday. However, with the contest format geared around the surfers having the most fun, the looseners the night before didn’t prove any barriers to entry. Maybe even the opposite. Dillon, later seen styling on a 70’s single fin, was a prime example. 

As the tide drained out, the local knowledge had paid off and the surfers were greeted by waist-high reelers running off the newly dried banks. Although it was by no means pumping, with the UK’s finest wave riders in operation, it was better looking than it looked.

The 15 female and 25 male surfers were split into five-person heats, running back-to-back to make the most of the tide time on offer. Surfers were assigned a board at random ahead of each heat. That lottery, as Lay mentioned above, was crucial, and although there were rumours of cold White Claws and hard cash being exchanged for the 1960s logs, Woolacombe’s own Josh Witts’ radical efforts on a smaller twin showed that any hand dealt could be played. 

After a day of nose rides, coffin slides, headstands, party waves, and multiple Mystic Wave of the Weekend contenders, when the final buzzer sounded Emily Currie and Mike Lay were deemed to have been the standout surfers of the day. An extra shout-out also went to Blair Conklin, who slid with trademark steeze on whatever fin configuration was under feet. 

After the comp wrapped up for the day, the Surf Invitational entourage headed back up the hill to the festival site for the European Premiere of Blair’s new movie, Easy Slider. And, if he wasn’t already as popular enough, he then gave away one of his signature Catch Surf crafts to a lucky future shredder. 

The sun then set, temperatures dropped, Gotcha x Wavelength collab tracksuits were donned and shapes were cut with not a single thought of the 9 am call.

Sunday, however, proved a step too far for the dwindling swell. Beautiful conditions were on display, but not a wave was breaking in anger. The performers from Saturday would take the prizes. 

“This was my first trip to the UK and certainly won’t be my last,” concluded Conklin. “I’ve made so many friends, laughed so hard, surfed loads, and listened to so much great music. The rep is right; no one does festivals like this part of the world.”

Spring Classic Surf Invitational Results


Mike Lay

Ashley Braunton

Jack Unsworth


Emily Currie

Izzy Henshall

Allannah Brown