Scribblings from Devon's Surf
PUBLISHED: 13:20 17 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:10 20 February 2013
A Devon shaper and a can-do carpet layer meet Tim Kevan – and they are both champion waveskiers too!
Waveskis are the surf canoes that you sometimes see catching waves. Its a less well-known sport than surfing, and those that take it up are sometimes disparagingly called goat-boaters. But there are two waveskiers in North Devon who are held in equally if not higher regard than many surfers. One is a bona fide world champion and the other is an experienced and highly respected shaper.
Kieron Davies The World Champion
Its not often that you get to meet a world champion, particularly in a remote location like North Devon. But Kieron Davies is not only a former World Masters Champion at waveski but also 14 (yes, 14!) times British Open Champion, five times European Champion and the current Irish Open Champion as well as having placed fifth in the world open in Brazil. Phew, and thats before you even look at his numerous other Welsh and Scottish titles. Yet when you meet him, youll find one of the most understated men you could imagine. Thats probably because hes got nothing to prove to anyone. Its probably also due to his 13 years in the RAF during which time he sometimes got flown around the world to compete internationally at this sport in which he has excelled. Hes happy if you want to call him a goat-boater. You can call him whatever you like as far as hes concerned. A man who trains pretty much every day and wholl charge with the best of them, he really isnt going to worry what preconceptions people might be starting off with.
Yet it wasnt waveskiing which made me first sit up and notice Kieron Davies. It was simple enough. I wanted to put some sisal carpet down in my house but when I visited an established local shop I was told that it was just too difficult, for which I read, not worth their while. Now, dont get me wrong, Ive since realised that given the difficulties involved with such tough material, it probably wasnt worth their while. But despite this I was told to ring Kieron at K2 Carpets and sure enough his can-do, nothings a problem attitude prevailed without the slightest whinge.
Originally from Plymouth, Kieron started with canoeing when he was six or seven and then progressed through from a surf shoe to white water paddling, rock-hopping and then finally paddling a ski when he was around 18. But it was perhaps the RAF and specifically the waveski trainer Paul Beak that really inspired what has become a lifelong passion for the sport, along with numerous skis being shaped for him by Alan Neighbour of Pro Design. That, and the fact that he spent six years in West Wales (being one of the first to surf a break called The Pole just off Freshwater West), and later eight years at the Chivenor RAF Base (as it then was) just outside Braunton in North Devon where he also gained his major sponsorship deal from a local company with international reach, Saltrock Surfwear. Yet despite all of his achievements, hes a man who is very happy with where he is in life, still skiing competitively but also longboarding and kayaking when the mood takes him.
Gareth Harrison The Shaper
Gareth Harrison is a little like the top golfer who was competing when Tiger Woods was at his peak in that coming second to Kieron would in any other era have left him with the top spot, and were it not for the great man, hed have been a national champion. But thats not to diminish the years of high-level competition which he has also been through.
Originally from Exeter, Gareth has been in Braunton since he was very young and first rode a waveski when he was 11. Seven years later he got his own ski for around 200 and was a regular at Saunton Sands before moving on to Croyde. Originally there was the Golden Coast Waveski Club at the Thatch in Croyde run by Steve Cox, the headmaster of Challacombe School. Then there were local competitions which progressed to national ones, ranging from Cornwall to Wales and Scotland. Hes won more than his fair share of trophies: finishing second behind Kieron in the national championships, in the top eight in Europe at a competition held at La Torche, and the top 12 in a competition held at Les Sables dOlonne, France. Hes also represented Great Britain at three world championships: in Cornwall, Bakio (in Spain) and Guadeloupe (in the Caribbean).
A top carpenter and joiner by trade, whose work has appeared in Country Home Magazine, Gareth started out working in a furniture factory in which he had a hand in manufacturing the Kuwaiti University Library and Royal Palace, which in 1990 appeared on the television at the end of the first Gulf War.
It was his creative skills which then led him to making his first waveski in 2001. Having produced one for himself, Kieron was not slow to spot the quality and ordered one too, and his shaping has progressed from there.
Gareth is a character whos not only larger than life but like Kieron is positive and can-do. He is known as The Knowledge for the breadth of his opinions. He is also a family man who is always talking about his daughter, Madalaine, and his wife, Jane. A local who knows everything thats going on. As for the mention of goat-boats and people making baa noises as he paddles out, he doesnt care and says he enjoys the banter and specifically likes doing something that is different.