Words by Lewy Finnegan.

Photo by Cayetano Gonzalez

Competing can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Sometimes you can be perfectly in sync with the ocean. You’re on all the best waves in your heats, you feel confident with your abilities, and generally, things will just go your way on the day. But other times, it can all go wrong. You struggle to get on the best waves in your heats, you lose confidence after screwing up on a wave, and generally, it feels like a battle between you and your surroundings. It’s not just a black or white scenario though, there’s a huge area of grey where most competitors feel they are situated, either on the lucky side or the unlucky side, during every competition.

In the last competition I entered, The Fronton King, I found myself feeling really good with my surroundings and with my abilities, but I was completely battling against some of my competitors.

My first heat was great, everyone was relaxed and having a good time, we all got some good waves, and I ended up taking out the heat. My second heat was bitter-sweet. The waves were pumping and I got some epic waves, but some of the people in my heat were hassling me so hard that it turned into this anger fuelled battle to out-snake each other. I had to work so hard to get on the waves I did that even after winning the heat, I felt annoyed just because of the bad vibe in the water.

Then came the quarter-final, and I drew against 3 good friends. “This is going to be epic!” I thought to myself. No hassle or bad vibes, just 4 friends going crazy in pumping conditions. For the first 95% of the heat I was right. We were all having an epic time, there was a 10 point ride, numerous 9 point rides, and everyone was surfing amazing. I was in 2nd position with 20 seconds to go and then desperation kicked in for one of my friends. He was in 3rd position needing a 7 point ride and the last wave of the heat was coming through. I had been waiting for a long time and started paddling for the wave until I realised that my friend was powering across the inside of me only to snake the wave off me, do a backflip and get the score he needed. I paddled in from the heat completely rattled about what had happened. I was probably the most devastated I had ever been from being knocked out in a competition. My former friend-turned-snake came in and apologised and I accepted his half-hearted apology, but I was burning up on the inside, I wanted to explode with anger.

“My former friend-turned-snake came in and apologised and I accepted his half-hearted apology, but I was burning up on the inside, I wanted to explode with anger.”

For days after the competition, I just couldn’t shake the foul taste I had about the incident. I wanted to just forget about it and move on to enjoying this great life I’m able to live, but it was all I could think about. “How could he do that?” I kept thinking to myself. “That’s just not what good friends do to each other”. I tried to envision myself in his position during the heat, to see what I would have done, and there was no way I could have done that to a friend, it was just too ruthless. To put it plainly, I was just struggling to accept how he could justify his actions.

It has been a few weeks since the competition now and I’m definitely over it. Shit happens, it’s just a part of life. I wish it didn’t happen, but there are a whole lot of other amazing things I can do with my time rather than boil my brain over this one dog act.

I did learn a valuable lesson about competitions though; Trust No-one! Not even your best friends. Because people can do outrageous things when they’re desperate. This sort of thing happens more than you think as well, and it almost always goes unnoticed. The public really only take notice of who makes the finals in competitions, and mainly, who wins. Everything else is history, including the bloodbath known as the quarter-finals and semi-finals, full of panic, desperation and, of course… snaking.

So that’s probably the darkest side of competition that I’ve experienced first-hand, but I know that there’s going to be a lot more incidents worse than that which I’m going to have to handle in the future on the world tour. Everyone wants to win World Tour competitions, and some people dedicate 100% of their time and effort to achieving just that, so it fits that there is going to be some tension in the water when these passionate competitors are on the brink of being knocked out.

This photo was from my 2nd heat and as you can see, it was pumping, but what you can’t see is the paddle battle that just went down so that I could get onto the wave.

See also:



Watch Lewy’s Fronton King Quarter-Final Heat: