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Gwen Spurlock closes on British women's surf title


Spurlock relishes Newquay finale

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport Wales

British surfing champion Gwen Spurlock believes that this weekend's Women's Open title decider in Cornwall could be one of the most competitive ever.

The 19-year-old from Swansea will defend her UK title on Newquay's Fistral Beach against a roster of home-grown talent she says is getting stronger every year.

Fortunately, Spurlock likes it tough, believing that the harder the opposition then the sweeter the victory.

"It's so good for British women's surfing because the bar has been raised, so it makes it that much better when you do well," Spurlock said.

"I'm pretty excited about it... there's two or three other girls who can potentially win it."

Spurlock holds a handy 640-point lead in the overall standings going into the fourth and final leg of this year's competition, but with 1,000 points on offer to the winner of each Open she knows she can take nothing for granted.

"There's a decent amount of points between us so they'll have to beat me by a certain number," Spurlock said.

"Everyone's a rival, I wouldn't write anyone off... I believe as soon as you doubt people that's when they'll prove you wrong.

"But there's a couple of girls who I look out for that I compete against all the time anyway.

Ten-time world surf champion Kelly Slater in action
Kelly Slater is an absolute legend... he's unbelievable, he's a freak surfer in a way

"And there's Nicole Morgan from Ireland, she's just retained her Irish title, she's really focused and a good competitor.

Local favourite Corinne Evans and Croyde's Laura Crane are two more talents snapping at Spurlock's heels, while Caroline Perret of France is second in the standings.

But Spurlock always has one eye on her fellow Welshwoman and childhood neighbour Beth Mason.

"One of my best friends, Beth Mason, she's really good - it's always me versus her, first and second a lot of the time," Spurlock said.

"I've been competing against Beth for six or seven years now. We started surfing together and we've grown up surfing, competing.

"Every time she'd do a good turn I'd want to do that and we'd just push each other and that helped us grow as surfers."

The Swansea pair pushed each other all the way in the Sri Lanka Champion of Champions Surf Contest at Arugam Bay last July, both winning through to the final with Mason taking the title in a close decision.

"It felt so good, it was just us two in the final surfing perfect waves... it [the lead] kept going backwards and forwards the whole time," Spurlock added.

There's every chance the pair could end up going head-to-head at Fistral in a few days time, a beach where University of Wales Swansea student Spurlock recently took the British University individual title.

"Fistral's quite a tricky beach, obviously it depends on the swell and the wind... I don't know it like the locals do but I kind of know the beach," Spurlock said.

"Everyone has their own gameplan when they go into the sea but for me it's just go in and try and catch a wave in the first couple of minutes and get the ball rolling, and keep improving off my last score."

Spurlock claimed both the 2007 British Junior and the British Women's titles but in early 2008 suffered a life-threatening head injury after falling at an indoor-surfing centre.

It took four operations to relieve pressure on her brain, but Spurlock battled back to health to return to the sport she loves and last year reclaimed the British title.

Gwen Spurlock surfing in Bali while wearing a helmet
Brain injuries take a good while to fully recover, so this is my third year now and I'm feeling strong

"I guess bad thing happen to everyone and it's just how you come back from it really," Spurlock said.

"Last year was about proving a point but this year it's a bit different, going into the competitions I've felt a lot stronger.

"Brain injuries take a good while to fully recover, so this is my third year now and I'm feeling strong.

"But I'm just happy to be involved in it all and to have fun with it... let my surfing do the talking more than anything."

Spurlock has been nursing a thigh strain for the last fortnight but is confident she will be fit for Newquay.

After all, the youngster has had to overcome far worse and says that if surfing legend Kelly Slater - the American who last week claimed a record 10th world title - can win while carrying injuries, then so can she.

"He's an absolute legend... he's unbelievable, he's a freak surfer in a way. He'll go out, he'll be injured and he'll still win an event against the best surfers in the world," Spurlock said.

"That's just blown everyone's minds, he's pushed the bar of competitive surfing as far as anyone will be able to reach, to be honest.

"But at the same time you look at him and then you think to yourself if he can do that then everyone can push themselves as far."

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see also
Animal Newquay Open
09 Nov 10 |  Things to do
Stokes clinches Sri Lankan title
06 Jul 10 |  Other sport...
Jersey surfer claims bronze medal
20 Oct 10 |  Other sport...
Surfer winning again after injury
12 Sep 09 |  Wales
Extra safety after surfer injured
25 Apr 08 |  South west

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