Far north teenager says 'surf is fab' ahead of world junior championships in Brazil
Far north teenager Olivia Mackay says she and her Scotland team-mates are having "an amazing time" in Brazil ahead of the World Junior Surfing Championships which gets under way on Friday.
The nine-strong squad have been working hard on a specialised training programme and getting used to the warm-water conditions in South America – which has meant dispensing with the 6mm wetsuits they are accustomed to wearing in Scottish waters.
They arrived at Macumba Beach, Rio de Janeiro, on Sunday.
Captaining the Scottish squad is British junior surf champion Craig McLachlan, from Murkle. He and Olivia are both members of Thurso-based North Shore Surf Club.
Olivia (16), from Portskerra, said: "I've been having an amazing time since we got here. We have been working hard doing a lot of training, even at 5am, but it's great to surf with no wetsuits.
"The surf is fab and I'm looking forward to the competition starting now.
"I would really like to thank the Scottish Surfing Federation [SSF] for the opportunity and the companies, friends and families that have supported and sponsored us."
Craig said: "I’m really enjoying Brazil. We’ve had amazing weather and some fun training waves.
"I’m looking forward to the competition starting, with fingers crossed for some good waves to compete in."
The young Scots have been taking part in pool workouts and beach warm-ups as well as early-morning surfing sessions.
They will be wearing their kilts at Friday's opening ceremony.
The championships, hosted by the International Surfing Association, will see competitors from 42 countries competing in under-16 and under-18 categories over a 10-day period, with the finals scheduled for December 3.
Olivia, the girls’ U18 Scottish champion, will compete at under-16 and under-18 level. Craig (18), who is also the Scottish national champion, British U18 boys' champion and Scottish U18 boys' champion, will be in the under-18s.
Scottish junior squad head coach Craig Sutherland said: "We’re all really excited to be able to represent Scotland on the world stage and to compete against the best surfers.
"The kids have been training hard with some 5am starts in preparation for the competition. That’s partly to avoid the middle of the day, as we’re not quite as accustomed to the heat as many of the nations, but it’s also because the kids are so keen to be surfing as soon as there’s a glimmer of daylight.
"So far we have been working on fitness and mobility training and have had several surf sessions with video analysis and mock heats to help with competition strategy.
"The standard of surfing is very high but our squad are relishing the competition starting. Thanks to the Scottish Surfing Federation, the parents, volunteers and the incredible support from our sponsors for making it happen."
A selection committee chose athletes based on the top two placings in each division at the SSF junior national championships. The remaining spots were allocated to either third place at the championships or wildcard entries decided by surfing performances over the past year.
Details of the championships will be available on isasurf.org
Temperatures in Rio have been in the low thirties Celsius in the run-up to the championships but the weather is set to be slightly cooler and more unsettled over the weekend and going into the next week.
The other Scottish squad members are Finn Clark (16) from Edinburgh and Borders Surf Club, Charlie Pugh (15) and Ansel Parkin (14) of Belhaven Surf Club, Lola Mitchell (14), Callie Cruickshank (13) and Sebastian Ballantyne (12) of Broch Surf Club and Fraser Brown (15) from Lossiemouth Surf Club.
Key sponsors of the Scottish team are Malcolm Group, RWE Camster Wind Farm Community Fund, Baillie Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund, Stena Drilling, Lost Shore Surf Resort, North Highland Initiative, GMG Energy, Gray and Adams, Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm, North Berwick Rotary, Thurso Rotary, Broch Rotary, Zenith, North Berwick Trust and Tern Alpha Charity Fund.