Articles - Interview With Surf Kayaking Junior World Champion Adam Harvey

Adan fires his surf kayak down the line
Adan fires his surf kayak down the line
Canoe & Kayak UK Editorial/Adam Harvey - Images courtesey of Tim Harvey - Posted on 28 Sep 2010
Being the younger sibling to a successful athlete can be tough but for Adam Harvey following his older Brother Chris in to the world of competitive Surf kayaking seemed like the natural thing to do. At just 16 years of age Adam proved he was already a master of the waves when he claimed the Junior World Surf Kayaking Crown and scored enough points to come 7th overall. We asked Adam to share what it takes to reach the top of your game and what led him to his World Championship win.

There are many things that lured me into the world of surf kayaking. I’m
sure you could go from A to Z quite nicely as they range from my family to that pure adrenaline and high that courses through your body whilst flying along the steep face of a wave. However, the start is undeniably centred on those family outings on a Sunday afternoon. The afternoon of the week where my parents piled my sister, four brothers and myself into the car with kayaks securely fastened to the roof before the short journey to a local beach; these weren’t in short supply living on a small island! I was around seven years old when I took my first steps, towards my surf kayaking future that is, as I sat in a kayak for the first time. I’ll admit I couldn’t control much of what I did, despite it being as flat as a millpond most days, but hey, we all have to start somewhere! In spite of Chris’ almost constant efforts to teach me, surf kayaking did not become my main sport until I was about 12 years old. Up to that point I was body boarding most days as I got fed up due to the small problem of not being able to roll which resulted in me spending more time swimming the waves as opposed to surfing them. If Chris hadn’t have thrown himself into the sport, succeeding and consequently moving through the ranks and receiving his first sponsorship deals there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be in this position today. Through watching him succeed and revel in the sport I realised that I wanted to be where he is, and even beat him (nothing like good ole fashioned family rivalry!) So it was then that I perfected my rolling and started to train hard.Adam Harvey Surf Kayaking

Brotherly Love & The Competitive Edge

Chris has always been the main person encouraging me and pushing me within the sport. I vividly remember, it’s kind of hard to forget, him dragging me down to the beach on freezing cold days to surf in a Dancer. So there I was, gradually losing all feeling in my hands and arms, and where was he? Stood on the beach, flask of coffee in hand, all wrapped up in a nice, big, warm jacket! Even when we got home he would beat me up! But mind you, what are brothers for! I suppose, looking at my current position in the sport, I should probably be thankful to him now.
My first ever competition was a small one when I was 13, held at Widemouth in Cornwall. Surf? Rubbish. Weather? Even worse. The people? Great? Me? Hooked. Yes, it was this small competition that hooked me into the competitive side of the sport. It was just great to see other people surfing, getting tips and advice; meeting good people and being honest the parties aren’t too bad either! I suppose this, as small as it may seem, was one of the big steps to my success at the World Championships. It was at this point that I decided I was going to become Junior World Champion; it was also just a good excuse to get more hours in the water.

Motivation and Setting Goals
Don’t get me wrong, I live and breathe the sport, but we all have times when we question is it really worth it? For me this is generally on those icy winter days when I have to fight the wind, with the average temperature little above freezing, as it howls at me. And through this whole battle, which can take as long as an hour to the furthest beach, I have to tow my kayak behind on a trailer that I made. Let’s just say…it’s not fun! However the emotions you feel when you win a competition, get a really epic ride or just being part of a force so much greater than yourself wipes out this now meaningless question, is it really worth it? from any corner of your mind. Experiencing this is indescribable, as anyone who surfs can comprehend, and a simple yes to answer this question could not merely portray true to life. That is another thing that keeps me fighting in this sport, my pure love and enthusiasm for surf kayaking in itself. The enjoyment the sport always brings keeps me craving for more and that one last wave turns into half an hour, which doesn’t always please my mum when Sunday lunch is going cold! But the enjoyment of the sport is key, after all if you don’t enjoy it then what is the point?
I really started to push myself to excel a year before the World Championships. I’d get up at 4am as many mornings as I could, just so I could have those few hours without the crowds, which meant the best waves, although I’m only human so this normally resulted in me being fast asleep by dinner time! Knowing I didn’t want to accept anything less than Junior World Champion I began to set goals for myself before each session. One day it would be to try and perfect an end move, then next as simple as to improve my wave count. I’ll never forget one session when I was determined to bust airs so every single wave I would go to hit the lip… only to find myself being grated along the sand. My nose was ready to explode by the end of that session from the amount of water that had gushed down each nostril. Okay so it’s not a pretty image but it’s not a pretty feeling either! On top of that my face stung like crazy from my grating experience on the bigger wipeouts. The waves where I’d actually manage to land it seemed like miles apart at the time however the trick to perfection is simply persistence, you just have to remember and be motivated enough to keep trying. Thankfully I did and after a few weeks my hours spent being grated along the sand paid off as I began pulling airs off more and more. The feeling you get when you achieve these types of goal is another factor that drives me to succeed, as the high you get when you become more skilful at landing these big moves is amazing.
I also like to believe that during my training I ate healthily and lived a balanced lifestyle…although most of this is just a fantasy. I manage to persuade myself that the occasional, well, frequent, slip-ups were because I had deserved it after my four to five hours non-stop surfing sessions. Of course, I was only eating them to boost my energy levels; it was strictly a necessity not because that chocolate cake called out to me, telling me of its delicious chocolate fudge topping or because there were ten doughnuts for a pound!

Feeling Flat and T.V SurfingAdam Harvey Surf Kayaking
My main problem was when the waves stopped rolling in. The depressing feeling as you stared constantly at the swell charts for weeks seeing only that deadly blue cover the chart. This would continue for weeks at a time, I think the worst was a two-month period of no decent waves. Believe me, I was desperate! I had to fill my days watching countless hours of surf videos and dreaming of that perfect wave. This may seem extreme to someone who has not experienced the mental drug that is a side affect of surfing but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. For one it helped me occupy my mind but also because it is watching these videos that has helped me in my success. Through watching these videos I was able to watch surfboarders and try to copy that style of surfing in my kayak. I’d spend hours working out how to get my wave ride much more radical, getting inspiration from these world class surf boarders and practising as much as I could in my room with my paddles in hand.
So in the summer of July 2009 I headed off to Santa Cruz Ocean Spirit Festival in Portugal. The what should be just a boring car journey down turned out to be quite eventful including some guy trying to hi-jack us and another trying to steal one of our surf kayaks. Although at times the thought briefly crossed our minds we might not, we did, in the end, arrive in one piece.

Self Control
The waves were rolling, the sun was shining, and I’d been waiting over a year for this, longer than that. This is what I’d worked towards most of my life. That morning I woke up at dawn, holding to my determination not
to miss out on one second in the two days training I had before the competition began. I was always looking for that edge over my competition and this, added with my usual strain of self-control when it came to not surfing, made those two days very challenging. Self-control was essential though, I knew I couldn’t risk over doing it, I had to be in top form when the competition started. Even a hint of exhaustion or physical strain could severely affect my performance. But those waves... having to sit on the beach and just watch those world class waves break again and again whilst I simply sat and stared was torture, almost impossible to bear. So to prevent myself from surfing the day away I managed to drag myself away in search of food, some of these excursions seemed like hours but at least it slightly dimmed the call of the waves. Once the competition had started the nerves that had been gradually
building kicked in, which to a certain extent I suppose is a good thing. The nerves remind you of how much you want it yet how hard it will be so it drives you forward and focus your mind on that sole goal. Once you are
out there though, and the horn goes it is so easy to allow your mind to slip away into thought, losing that concentration that is so crucial to success. Your mind keeps slipping as thoughts of previous waves, how you going to get to the top and other such thoughts bombard your mind, making it a battle on all front as you struggle to maintain concentration.

Winning Ways & Winning WavesAdam Harvey Surf Kayaking
When competing you always have to stay positive, never doubt your self, even if the heat ahead of you does seem to be an impossible task. Sometimes you get those extremely hard heats, where everyone you are up against are very highly ranked. But I think that this was probably one of the causes for me making the semi-finals in the men’s. If you set your mind to it, and believe it’s possible there is always a way. I don't think I have ever experienced such nerves in my life, and that strength of tension is hard to forget, as I did before entering the water in the Junior HP finals. My heart was racing quicker than must have been safe, in fact at one point I was convinced it was going to give out on me. But this was the one thing I had strived for and travelled all the way to Portugal, risking life and limb, to do. The next 20-minutes of my life would decide whether I would succeed or not. The intensity of the heat was beyond belief, being neck and neck for the first 15-minutes. Until finally I got the ace I had been waiting for, where all my training could come into action. The moment I heard the words out the PA 'Adam Harvey is the new Junior World Champion' was just untrue, my dream and passion had actually come true. This is definitely one of the top highs I have had so far, and it really encourages and drives me to carry on, even on those freezing winter days, and hopefully keep getting some top results.

Distant Horizons
Being a junior in the sport, and heading away to these big competitions has also been a really amazing experience. Ever since that first competition in Widemouth I have been looking up at all of these top surf kayakers, learning and getting tips from them. I think starting out young and growing up around the sport is a huge advantage, I’m positive it’s helped me. I think it is really important getting more young people involved in the sport is key for its progression. Although the main reason more and more should get into the sport is simply because it is the best one out there. I love to try letting other pope share the same enjoyment and highs I get from doing the sport because it really is like no other.

Adam Harvey Surf KayakingAbout the Author – Adam Harvey

Adam was born in 1993 and, by the age of 16, got crowned the Surf Kayaking Junior World Champion, also getting ranked 7th overall. He first sat in a kayak at the age of 7 and have been hooked ever since. For Adam, surf kayaking isn't just a great sport; it’s a whole lifestyle. There is nothing I enjoy more than chilling out with some mates whilst catching some good waves. My goal is to keep pushing the sport, getting good results, and travel the world just having a great time! Which is possible thanks to my sponsors, Watertech, Gath, Stream Lyte, Sport Multi.

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