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From Taka stormie to national surf champ

Flagstaff Team

A Hauraki teenager has overcome a fear of waves to win a national longboard title. Ben Counsell, 15, took out the National Scholastic Surfing under-18 longboard championships in three-metre-high waves at Raglan. “When I started, I was scared of waves, which isn’t very good for a surfer. But that just faded away eventually.” Ben grew up in Cameron St and began surfing as a Takapuna Beach ‘stormie’, going out with friends when the waves were up. “You can’t beat a classic Takapuna stormie,” he says. Around five years ago, Ben started surfing more seriously with his father, Robert Counsell, at beaches north and west of Auckland, initially on a short board.

His father has always surfed on a  longboard and a few years ago, Ben switched over, saying longboarding is stylish and gives the opportunity of catching more waves. A couple of years ago, they joined Scholastics Surfing Auckland, and Ben was picked to represent Auckland at the 2018 scholastic nationals in Gisborne, where he placed third. At the 2019 scholastic finals in Raglan, Ben was the stand-out longboarder all week, surfing through three rounds to qualify for the final. On finals day, the waves increased in size, to three metres at the face. The final was a nail-biter, with Ben and rival Billy Whelan from Mangawhai on 10 points each as the competition moved to a conclusion.

“With two minutes to go, Ben took off from out the back on the biggest wave we’d seen in the comp all day and hung 10 while performing a classy soul arch. The Auckland team went wild,” Robert says. Ben completed the wave with a big powerful bottom turn to earn seven points – and take the title. Ben says enjoyment of surfing is the key to success. It also builds confidence, which helps him think clearly and make good decisions. “As soon as you start freaking out, you start taking off when you shouldn’t or doing manoeuvres you shouldn’t.” For training, Ben goes surfing with his father and friends, with Orewa Longboard Club and the Westlake Boys surf team.

This article originally appeared in the November 8 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.