North surfing trio to fly the flag for Scotland at European junior championships
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Three teenagers from the far north are looking forward to testing themselves against the best young surfers from across the continent in a top-level competition in Portugal this summer.
Craig McLachlan, Nadia Murray and Olivia Mackay, from North Shore Surf Club (NSSC), are part of the 10-strong Scotland squad for the European junior championships taking place in July.
In the meantime the team members are raising funds to go towards their expenses and have already had pledges of support from a number of businesses.
EuroSurf Junior 2022 will be held from July 15-24 at Santa Cruz, north-west of Lisbon, and the far north trio will all be competing at under-18 level after qualifying through their results at national level.
Craig (16), from Murkle, Caithness, won the open title at the 2021 Scottish championships held at Thurso East in November, becoming the youngest to take the top award. He started surfing when he was 10.
Nadia (15), from Thurso, has been surfing since 2018 and was an under-18 winner in the Scottish Grom Series in 2021.
Olivia (14), who lives in Portskerra, Sutherland, has only been surfing since lockdown but has become fully committed to it.
Craig and Nadia are both Thurso High School pupils, while Olivia attends Farr High.
While competing in the European junior championships will be a new experience for Nadia and Olivia, Craig has taken part before.
"The competition was crazy hard so I'd like to see how I'm doing now that I'm a bit older," he said. "But obviously I'll be against other guys that are also older.
"It's a hard competition so we'll see what happens. I hope I'll be carrying as much luck as I can."
The surfers are keen to highlight the time and effort put in by the team's coaches, Phoebe Strachan and Craig Sutherland.
Phoebe, also a member of Thurso-based NSSC, won the Scottish women's title for the second time in a row at the Scottish national championships held in Caithness last month.
“I'm extremely proud of all of them for getting into the Scotland team," Phoebe said.
“Olivia only started surfing a year or so ago and first started competing last year. For her to make the Scottish team in her first year of competing is just crazy.
“For Nadia, the hard work she has been putting in obviously paid off last year with her great results in the series. I couldn't be prouder of her. I've taught her since she was really little and started surfing so it's good to see her journey.
“I've surfed with Craig for a long time now, and coached him. His level is just pushing and pushing and he is at European level. He is really good. It's going to be really exciting to see.
"They have all worked super-hard. Some of them have never surfed abroad before. Hopefully it will be enjoyable for them and it will push all the other kids that never quite made the team that maybe next time they will get their chance too.
“It's a brilliant opportunity for them.
"We've worked really hard on growing a good kids' surfing community. It is thriving – we've got ridiculous numbers on the waiting list and we've got over 40 kids that come out with us each Tuesday.”
The other team members are Ebon Parkin (Belhaven Surf Club), Finn Clark (Edinburgh and Borders Surf Club), Israel Noble (Broch Surf Club), Fraser Brown (Moray Firth Surf Riders), Lola Mitchell (Broch Surf Club), Annie Herd (Edinburgh and Borders Surf Club) and Callie Cruickshank (Broch Surf Club).
All expenses for the Scotland team need to be met through fundraising, donations, sponsors and parents. The team has a Crowdfunder fundraising page (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/scottish-junior-surfers-compete-at-eurosurf-2022).
Organisations that have pledged funds so far include Dounreay Communities Fund (£2100), Gray and Adams haulage (£1500), Edinburgh Preserves (£500), C-Monsta (£250) and Blackhouse Watersports (£200).
The NSSC youngsters are also planning a car wash at Thurso fire station to raise money.
All the team members will be attending a training camp at Melvich in June as part of their preparations for Portugal.
Craig, Nadia and Olivia agree that conditions in the local area have played a big part in their development as surfers.
"The waves up here are really good and it's not nearly as busy as it is abroad," Craig said.
Nadia added: "We've got a lot of different spots as well – there are different directions the beaches are facing, so that's good."
Nadia enjoys the "adrenaline rush" of surfing and the social aspect of it, saying: "It's brilliant meeting new people."
Olivia added: "Speeding along on a wave is fun."