Late last year it was announced that, for the first time ever, British surfing would be receiving £1.35 million public funding in a bid to support the sport’s long term medal potential and uncover the champions of tomorrow.
We’ve reached out to ‘British Surfing’, the national governing body responsible for selecting, supporting and managing athletes, multiple times to ask how they plan to spend the cash, but at the time of writing, they’re yet to get back to us. However, we think it’s safe to assume, based on the 12-year time frame outlined by the grant’s administrators UK Sport, much of it will be channelled towards the younger generations.
So, when Surfing England announced some new additions to its junior team last week, we observed with more interest than usual, on the assumption that they may well be the first generation of British surfers to benefit from a publicly funded development programme, like those that’ve been underway in France, Australia and elsewhere for many years.
The list included Aussie based dual-nationals Oscar Salt, Ned Hart and Georgie May, Cornwall based grom Elliot Barton and 12-year-old US/ Japan-based skateboarding prodigy Sky Brown.
For those not across the wider boardsports world, Sky has been causing a serious stir on the competitive skate scene over the last few years, all but securing her spot in the forthcoming Summer Olympics, where she’ll be riding for Great Britain.
The young ripper grew up between California and Miyazaki, on Japan’s east coast and has been surfing and skating for as long as she’s been walking. In 2016, aged just 8, she became the youngest girl ever to compete in the Vans US Open Pro Series, then in 2019, she placed third in the open division of the world championships in Brazil.
That same year, she announced she’d be representing Great Britain- as her dad is English – rather than Japan, in her Olympic qualification bid, citing the nation’s more laid-back approach and her family’s good personal relationship with Skateboard GB chair Lucy Adams. Her decision to surf for the country too then was presumably a natural next step.
When it comes to her wave riding prowess, Sky belongs to an exciting young generation already pushing the level of women’s surfing above the lip. In the 2019 Stab High Ladybirds comp, held in the Waco wave pool, she tied for the win with Sierra Kerr, who is three years her senior, just losing out in a final showdown. The following year, she suffered a genuinely life-threatening injury after plummeting 20 feet onto bare concrete while attempting a gap between two ramps. However, in a true display of her grit and determination, after just two months she was back in the Texas pool stomping airs beyond the level of many female pro surfers twice her age.
Since then, she’s been putting in time on the North Shore, honing her skills in more powerful waves than those offered by her local coast in SoCal and pushing herself alongside some of surfing’s other rising stars.
Of course, her inclusion in Team England is just the first step of a very long journey to surfing qualification. There are bureaucratic hurdles (remember the plight of Luke Dillon?), worthy opponents and the ever-present threat of another serious injury in her path. However, if she can overcome those, and decides to make qualification her goal, with the right training and resources from British Surfing as support, you’d be unwise to bet against her.
For now though, her focuses remains firmly set on Tokyo this June (Covid permitting) where she’ll become Britain’s youngest ever competitor and if all goes to plan, the Games’ youngest medalist for over 100 years.