North coast businesses get behind Portskerra surfer heading for junior championships in Brazil
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A NORTH Sutherland teenager is set to begin her bid for surfing glory this weekend.
Sixteen year old Olivia Mackay, of Portskerra, is competing in the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships which is taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The championships start on Friday, November 24, and run until a week Sunday, December 3.
Olivia, who is currently the girls’ under-18s Scottish national champion, is one of a nine-strong team, aged between 12-18, and from different regions of Scotland.
Leading the team is another far north surfer, Craig McLachlan (18), of Thurso. Both Craig and Olivia are members of the Thurso-based North Shore Surf Club.
The Scottish squad will be pitted against the best junior surfers from every part of the globe. This is only the second time, after 2016, that Scotland has entered a junior squad into the world championships.
The prestigious event is widely regarded as a direct pathway to the Olympic Games. A total of 33 out of the 40 Olympic surfers at Tokyo in 2020 had previously participated in the World Junior Surfing Championships, 16 of them claiming ISA World Junior medals.
A fundraising drive has been under way both nationally and locally to help meet the team’s £25-30,000 travel and accommodation costs.
Family and friends have all rallied to support Olivia, holding a number of fundraisers.
And fundraising efforts have been given a considerable boost thanks to two north coast businesses.
Support has come from Halladale-based timber products manufacturer GMG Energy and Melvich Bay Caravan Park.
GMG Energy business owner and director Malcolm Morrison, said: “We have world-class surfing conditions locally in Thurso and this is an important regional asset which already attracts suffers from all over the world, so it’s important that our youngsters get the support they deserve from the local community.
“We wish Olivia and her teammates great sport and a life-changing opportunity to compete against the best in the world. I am certain she will not let us down.”
Melvich Bay Caravan Park only recently opened the doors of its well-provisioned hardstanding 24-pitch site for camper van, motorhomes, and other visitors on the hugely popular North Coast 500 (NC500) tourism route.
Director Angus Forbes said: “Olivia is a talented young athlete who has honed her surfing skills here in the north of Scotland and I believe we in the business community should always be prepared to back local talent and ambition.”
Olivia, who only started surfing in 2020, won the junior girls’ contest and finished third in the women’s open at the Scottish National Championships held at Brims Ness, west of Thurso, in April this year.
She is set to compete in the under-16 and under-18 category at the world junior championships. A selection committee chose athletes based on the top two placings in each division at the Scottish Surf Federation Junior National Championships. The remaining spots have been allocated to either third place at the championships or wildcard entries.
Olivia said: “It is a privilege and an amazing opportunity to be competing at such a high level of competition for Scotland and I am super excited to surf in a different climate, especially with my teammates. I am very grateful to Angus Forbes and Malcolm Morrison for their kind donations and support for our team’s trip.”