Training With England’s Most Exciting Groms - Team England Juniors
At the beginning of April, the best young English surfers took over Fistral Beach for a training session to hone their skills ahead of a busy year of competitions. We were on hand to offer our support and supply them with new dryrobe® kit.
Team manager Jamie Wride, exciting grom Tegan Blackford and dryrobe® Ambassador Lukas Skinner spoke to us about the importance of these sessions and the positive impact they're having on the future of English surfing.
For the third year in a row, we’re proud to be sponsoring the Team England Junior Squad, supporting the development of the country’s best young surfers. This funding means these exceptional groms have access to top-level coaching, dedicated support staff, structured training plans to help their progress and the ability to train at The Wave in Bristol.
As well as being a great opportunity for the youngsters to get together, these training sessions are designed to prepare them for big surf competitions this year, including the ISA World Junior Championships in El Salvador at the end of May. The ultimate aim is to help team members qualify for Youth Olympics and eventually the Olympic Games.
We chatted to team manager, Jamie Wride to get some insight on what goes into these sessions and the impact that they’re having on the team.
What usually happens on these Junior Squad training days?
The format of the training varies depending on the location and time of year. We generally try to have a clear focus for the day, whether that be competition prep or working more on an aspect of technique.
At this time of year, winter/spring into summer, we are fully focused on comp prep. Most of the sessions will have a focus on tactics and practising heat strategies. This is something that is harder to run in smaller groups, so having the whole squad around allows us to throw lots of different situations at them.
In addition to the in-water training, we always try to have a session on another aspect of surfing at each session. This could be discussing board design, nutrition or a session from our Sports Psychology team. We are also trying to integrate a few other things into the sessions which people may not expect, but I don't want to give those away just yet!
How do these training sessions on the beach differ from those that take place at The Wave?
The sessions at The Wave are completely different from those at the beach. There we have a much greater focus on technique. We are looking more at fine tuning than anything else, to be honest. The ability to surf a very similar wave 10-15 times in an hour means that we can get the squad working on small technique changes which they can have nailed within a single session. They can then take these back into the ocean and see the results. The set-up there also means that we can do lots of quick feedback and analysis of the surfing. It is a great facility to use and I don't think we have even scratched the surface of its potential yet!
What impact have these sessions had on the development of youngsters so far?
We have had great feedback from the squad so far and I really hope it is helping their development as surfers and in life in general. Purely on a competitive level, the feedback we are getting is that they are finding the heat training really helpful and it is making them feel more comfortable in those environments.
At the last English Nationals, members of the squad won the Men's U18, U16 and U14 events and in the Women's we had the Open, U18, U16 and U14 titles - so I think that is encouraging!
After the session, we caught up with two of England’s most exciting groms, Lukas Skinner and Tegan Blackford, to find out how the sessions help improve their surfing.
At just 14, dryrobe® Ambassador Lukas Skinner has already been turning heads across the world with his incredible aerial skills, racking up junior trophies along the way. Part of Team England’s Junior squad since 2018, 17-year-old Tegan Blackford is an exciting prospect, with some impressive junior titles under her belt already.
How do the Surf England training days help your surfing and what have you gained from today?
Tegan: I really enjoy the training days with Surfing England as it is a great opportunity to catch up with the rest of the team, we also train with England's top coaches who help us improve our technique and heat strategy. On Sunday we were doing scenario heats with priority as all of the international competitions use priority. The drills helped me know what to do in different situations in a heat and gain confidence in using the system.
Lukas: I enjoy getting together all the best juniors from around England so we can really push ourselves and prepare for future competitions. Working on heat scenarios is great for when we’re going to the bigger events around the world and you have to work around all the different positions you will be in a heat.
Your last training session was at the Wave. How do training sessions differ from being in the sea as opposed to The Wave which do you prefer?
Tegan: The Wave is an amazing training facility as you can focus on one move and always know the section is going to be there, in the sea we normally focus on heat strategy as you cant surf a heat in the wave pool. I prefer training at The Wave as you always know the conditions are going to be perfect.
Lukas: The Wave is especially fun because it’s such a consistent environment, which is key for practising the technical skills we can then take to the ocean.
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Photos by Tom Young