Contest Recap by Matt Cunningham
The 2017 ISA Cantabria World Kneeboard Championship took place September 30th through October eighth. at Playa Somo, across the bay from Santander, the charming capital of Cantabria which is one of the 17 autonomous communities that make up the country of Spain. Hosted by Kneeboard Sports Club Cantabria and organized and tirelessly promoted by Australian’s Ken Stapleton and Jim Brown , the competition featured 85 Kneelos from 14 different countries including teams from France, Spain, Tahiti, Venezuela, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Portugal, (one member) the Channel Islands (in between England and France), Australia and the United States.
The contest ran over eight days and included the Men’s and Woman’s Open division and age divisions from 15-75. In addition to fine kneeboarding, remarkable people, warm welcomes, fierce competition, friendly Pub Crawls and marauding South African Photo Pirates (here’s to you Mark Crawford), there was a multi-nation opening parade with French berets, shrimp, crab, fish and sausage Paella, beautiful green hills along the ocean that emerged from morning mists, 12th century Roman buildings standing guard, lighthouses, and a beautiful beach café run by the kneeboard club three feet from the beach that served steaming hot Spanish coffee on brisk mornings and egg, potato, cheese, sausage and bacon tortillas.
Highlights of the competition for Team USA, managed by Tom Linn and organized by Joe Coyne and Brad Colwell, included inspiring surfing heat wins by Roger Hughes where he almost exceeded the 10 wave limit (how do you do that in three foot waves), heat wins by Tom Linn, Brad Colwell, and Sam Coyne in the Open Division and a second place in the first round of the open by Matt Cunningham. Brad Colwell won the Leyende (Legend) 60-63 division with solid surfing , and the turn of all time with Tom Linn’s second thanks to his energetic indefatigable surfing. Bob Gove with one arm and more experience than just about anybody at the contest won the Immortal Championship (64-to the end of time) with a solid off the lip and reentry as the horn sounded. Sam Coyne placed second with nose to the board power surfing in the Pro Juniors (20-29) and second place along with Roger Hughes, Sam Coyne, Brad Colwell and Tom Linn of Team USA in the team competition. Joe Coyne matched up against former world champ Baden Smith in the Open Division and 2017 World Champ Michael Novokov in the Kuhunas division. In addition, Brad almost pulled of the turn of all time and Sam Coyne won most radical maneuver for his lip destroying, upside down re-entry on a Somo Beach closeout in 3 feet of water.
The winner of the 1982, 1984, 1986 Kneeboard Championships, Michael Novakov dusted off his boards, willed his recently repaired shoulder into shape and dropped in, snapped off the top and ripped the rights of Somo Beach like he does at his hometown break Alley Rights of North Narabeen Australia to win the 2017 World Kneeboarding Championship. Gavin Coleman , who put on an unearthly display of surfing in the semi -finals, joined fellow Aussies Baden (Starship Enterprise) Smith, Paul O’Neil and Englishman Karl Ward in the finals.
The event was about far more than Kneeboarding however; it was about bringing together the eccentric tribe of kneeboard surfers from all over the world to share their cultures, their stories, their families, their beer (In the case of the Australians) and their energy and passion. Tom Novakov, Michaels’s son finished Third in the Pro Juniors to American Sam Coyne and Novakov family friend Liam Taurins. Liam celebrated that evening by dancing shirtless in the rain for hours to a Spanish band commemorating a local hotel’s anniversary.
Steve Artis, legendary shaper and enforcer from Narabeen, Murray Weir ageless legend from New Zealand who could make a second career performing bullshit sign language interpretations of speeches, and many other legends of the sport helped make the 2017 World Kneeboard Championships become more than a sporting event, they made it a tribal event of a connected family from around the world. The Cantabria Kneeboard festival takes place every year in Somo in October or November. It is well worth attending. The next ISA Kneeboard Championship takes place in 2020. Let’s take a rocking American team.