Showing that you’re only as old as you feel, the Swedish Masters Surf Team recently headed to El Salvador to take on the rest of the world at the Masters World Surfing Championships. Here’s how they got on…
Rain, rain and more rain. The rain was so loud that it was hard to even have a conversation as we sat at a beachfront restaurant in La Libertad, El Salvador. Not really what we had expected when we sent in our registration to participate in the Masters World Surfing Championships in Punta Roca, a world famous right hander on the El Salvadorian coast.
Johan Cargelius, Henio Skaldin and myself, Binge Eliasson, three veteran surfers from Sweden, had been nominated to represent Sweden at the world masters in El Salvador. The chance to travel to the tropics where both the air and sea temperature are around 30 degrees celsius sounded too good to be true and to surf against surfers like Tom Curren USA, 3 times world champion, Mike Latronic, Hawaiian big wave surfer, and Layne Beachley AUS, 7 times world champion, even better.
All of us have surfed for years. I started in the mid seventies; Johan and Henio started in the eighties. We have all competed in an number of World and European championships and traveled to the far flung corners of the world looking for surf. It’s funny how you stumble upon something at an early age and it stays with you over the years. We have all built our lives around surfing, not a day goes by without us doing something surf related.
We spoke to Icebreaker about the possibility of them sponsoring us. It’s not as crazy as it sounds choosing a manufacturer of wool clothing when you are going to the tropics. In my work as a travel photographer I have had the opportunity to wear Icebreaker gear on a number of occasions, even on trips to warmer climates so I know it works well. One quality I like is how quickly it dries after being hand washed in a hotel room – especially important when you need to travel light. Another thing that my fellow travellers love is that you don’t smell, even after long flights!
Meanwhile in El Salvador after two days of free surfing we got caught in one of the country’s worst disasters. After 12 days of rain, the sewer system broke down, then the fresh water disappeared. We ended up eating in international-style hamburger restaurants, they were the only ones that had fresh water being delivered on a daily basis. That together with the fried food gave us a fighting chance to stay away from food poisoning as we had had our share of stomach problems before the rain even started. We were really happy to have our Icebreaker t-shirts and hoodies as we sat, soaking wet, in air conditioned restaurants.
Henio said that, for the first time ever, he didn’t want to exchange clothing with the other teams!
The constant rain turned the ocean into a sewer and we really didn’t want to go in the water to compete. And for a good reason, Punta Roca is considered, on a good day, to be one of the more polluted waves in the world and we knew surfers who had been really sick. A small cut can lead to big infections.
Fortunately the rain stopped two days before my heat but I wasn’t that happy when I jumped in to the ocean to compete. It’s funny how people always ask you if you have seen sharks but I never have. I have been chased out of the water by angry seals, lovesick sea lions, blue bottle and man of war jellyfishes, lightning striking in the line up, crazy big waves and the ocean turning into a sewer but never sharks.
The sun came out in time for the finals and despite small waves it was fun to watch the talent that still exists even when you pass the 50 year old mark. Tom Curren, at 47, is still one of the best surfers alive. Sweden finished in 17th place – not bad considering our home breaks!
Binge Eliasson – Swedish Masters Surfer