EVERY WINDSURFER HAS TO GO
This episode of COAST takes us on a special trip down memory lane with a look back over two and a half decades of The Tiree Wave Classic. Words and Photos John Carter
(Some of the images in this feature are unseen from the story that originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Windsurf Magazine. Print and digital subscriptions for readers worldwide are available HERE.)
With its remote location and reputation for extreme conditions, Tiree has lured hundreds of wave sailors to its sacred shores to compete for the prestigious Title since the very first competition way back in 1986.
John Carter has loyally joined battalions of regulars to this Hebridean Mecca for the past twenty years and has compiled a gallery of images and words that sum up his relationship with this unique Scottish island and her magical secrets.
With autumn already descending upon us it is that time of year where a few like-minded folk start thinking about their annual migration to Tiree. Every October I join a dedicated legion of pilgrims heading to the Classic, but it is difficult to put my finger on the exact reason why. Obviously life during the week of the classic revolves around the competition, but there is so much more to Tiree than the hours when we are all huddled around a trailer on the beach waiting for the next set of results.Tiree is not all about the good times either; there have been plenty of days I’ve been up to my knees in mud in the driving rain cursing the place. Or those relentless hangovers every bloody morning, what the hell did we all do to deserve them? So yes, there are inevitably bad times when the wind doesn’t blow and it’s drizzling with foggy rain outside but even so, some strange force seems to take over during these hours of downtime when your spirit remains calm and relaxed and you just go with the flow of the Tiree pace of life.
My Tiree baptism was way back in 1993 and if my memory serves me correct, Nigel Howell won the final against Danny Seales at The Green in bitter conditions. I even remember Nigel was sailing on a Ken Black wave sail and pink and white Critical Section Board, while Danny was on an Orange Ezzy and yellow Strapper wave board with big wings as graphics featured on the deck.I stayed in a tin shack – belonging to Willy Angus’ Granddad – with an electric meter that ate up fifty pence pieces at a hideous rate with any form of heating turned on. Then there was the wild party in the village hall where Tristan Boxford nearly died of alcohol poisoning (and so did half the rest of us) but it was a whole lot of fun and I came away from Tiree with a bunch of new friends and acquaintances.
The next year I was back for more and this time the competition was hit by a fat low pressure system which served up monster waves at Balevullin where Niels Larson rode to victory in epic conditions. After these first two years I guess you can say that I was hooked on Tiree, the wind, the weather, the pub, the competition (both on and off the water) but most importantly it was the people. It was the feeling of camaraderie, that special friendship of sharing genuine good times in a special place that made me want to go back for more. Every year it is like one big reunion, you can count on plenty of familiar faces, and of course some welcome new ones but Tiree is all about like-minded folk sharing the same passion for UK windsurfing and the unique spirit that our sport ignites.