British junior surfers 'in limbo' over funding

Junior surfers
Image caption Britain's under 18 girls surfing team put their fundraising scheme into action by cleaning cars

It is a chilly winter morning at Putsborough Sands in north Devon and a group of youngsters are trying to make a bit of extra money cleaning beachgoers' cars.

But this is not for pocket money. These squeegee-wielding youngsters are actually the cream of their chosen sport, surfing.

The reason they are out in the cold is because there is no money available from the sport's governing body to send them to the ISA World Junior Championships in Panama in April.

In 2010 the sport's former governing body, the British Surfing Association, went into voluntary liquidation.

In January 2011 a new company, Surfing GB, was formed to take over from the British Surfing Association as the UK's governing body for surfing.

But it has yet to be officially recognised by Sport England which hands out money to national sports organisations.

Ellen Harding, 15, from Aveton Gifford, in south Devon, came third last year in the English schools championships, her first competition.

She has been collecting signatures at £1 each on one of her surfboards to raise extra cash for the team.

Like other members of the team, the "bank of mum and dad" is also helping out too.

But the team members are all hoping that by next year there will be more funding.

Image caption Junior girls team member Ellen Harding has been getting signatures on a surfboard for £1 each

She said: "It's been hard for all of us.

"But I'm really excited to have been chosen for the team so it's all worth it."

Fellow team member Peony Knight, 14, from north Devon, said she had raised about £150 from several weekends of car washing.

Peony, who is also helping organise an open mic entertainment evening, said: "We've been quite successful. Last weekend I was at Croyde and people were quite generous when they see what you're doing it for.

"We really want to support the team and make sure we get to Panama.

"We just hope Surfing GB goes uphill from now on."

Matt Knight, of Surfing GB, said the sport was currently in limbo.

"Surfing GB is completely strapped for cash," he said.

"I am working full time as a volunteer for Surfing GB and we have two short-contract workers, one answering the phone and another working on the website."

'New era'

Surfing GB has already begun the process of getting recognised by Sport England.

Mr Knight said: "These junior surfers are leading athletes and are day in and day out doing all the things you would expect from an Olympic athlete, and yet surfing is not recognised."

Surfing GB must now prove to Sport England that it has the standard of service and governance expected of a national sporting organisation.

Mr Knight said: "If we are not recognised by Sport England in the next 12 months we would be pretty upset."

Image caption The juniors have been described as the best British team yet

A Sport England spokesman said: "Because there's no governing body recognised by Sport England we can't fund it.

"They were recognised and went into financial difficulties so they ceased to be an organisation we could fund.

"But we have funded it in the past and it is something we would do when they are recognised."

The total budget for the eight boys and four girls in the Panama squad is about £25,000.

A sponsor is providing about 20% of that, but between now and 7 April, when the team are due to fly out, the young surfers are doing all they can to raise the extra money.

Mr Knight said he was also disappointed that more local firms had not helped out.

He said: "The whole South West economy is so dependent on surfing it seems mad that we cannot persuade a few companies to put some money in.

"Yet one of the biggest sports in the South West is having to self fund."

The team are hoping for a good result in Panama.

Former American surfing championJoey Buran, who has seen the British team in action, said: "The team looks to be the best in the history of British junior surfing.

"A new era has dawned in British surfing and the world is about to see it."

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