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Review: Boardmasters Festival

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Boardmasters, running since 1981, was originally a small surfing competition. However, it has grown so much so, that it is now a double festival with surfing, skating and BMX competitions at one beach (Fistral Beach) and music at another (Watergate Bay). It promises to bring the best of both worlds to the seaside town of Newquay, Cornwall.

Running over a five-day period, from Wednesday to Sunday, it is from Friday where the place comes alive with swarms of festival lovers, music lovers and thrill-seekers.

Watergate Bay’s headland stands proud overlooking the three mile golden beach below with the deep blue of the Atlantic surrounding it. The headland is the home of the music festival and a huge one it is at that. With ten stages set for music, there is something for everyone. From main stage acts including Kaiser Chiefs and deadmau5 to Primal Scream and Soul II Soul to smaller more niche stages, such as The Point featuring Eli Fur, Jackmaster, Bicep and many more.

The main stage, surrounded by food tents and fun fair rides for those brave enough to be thrown high in the air, twirled around and plummeted back to the ground, is the central hub of the festival. From there the music spreads through the nooks and crannies of the fields bringing different settings and backdrops along with different genres of music.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the main stage, towards the beach, the headland slopes gently towards the sea; its cliffs allowing a magnificent view of the Bay. It is here Relentless’ The Point stage is nestled among massive round straw bales and sound buffers for the residents on the other side of the Bay. The stage sits nearest the cliff edge, with a long bar running up the side of it.

We are treated to our very own smaller festival down here. There are three raised platforms dotted about for dancing stages. There is a chilled out vibe here, despite it clearly being the ‘dance’ stage. People are here to enjoy the music and dance and on the Friday night, in the darkness with lights circling overhead, the shadows of bodies move in time to the beat.

Other stages, including Land of the Saints are huge tented rooms with bars inside, again, very much their own festival and far less hectic than the area surround the main stage.

The VIP area, set far from the other stages, encompasses a covered bar area along with a covered DJ stage and on the Friday night we are treated to some Reggae all on vinyl 45s!

Friday night, Chase & Status closes the main stage at 23:00 and revellers flock to the smaller stages to continue to dance and party. Queues for the organised shuttle busses back to Newquay form while others slowly make their way to the colourful sea of tents.

Saturday morning brings out the boardmasters and despite the early morning rain, the sun breaks through burning off any cloud and it is Fistral Beach that takes centre stage.

The organisation for these board events is amazing. It is clear where surfing, skating and BMXing will be taking place and the vibe of the area is a relaxed, family one.

The beach is organised and split for those wishing to use the sea to swim, to surf and for the competitors for the surfing competitions and in one of the Heats. We, sadly, see the final Brit being knocked out by Portugal’s No. 1 seed, Tomas Fernandez

Over to Canna Ramp and the pro skateboarding heats for Sunday’s finals take place. The location is a stunning one, with the sea as a backdrop, together with the majestic Headland Hotel (built in 1897), the juxtaposition of manmade and nature is a beautiful sight. However, it is the skating we are here to see, and there is no disappointment.

There are fabulous tricks to be seen. There are frontsides, backsides, 360 flips, and some serious body slams as the pros fall from great heights during amazing tricks. There is one boy that stands out among the pro men and women skate-boarders, and that is 12-year-old Finlay Kirby, from Leicester. After finding a skateboard for 50p in a car-boot sale at seven years old, his parents found a school near them where he could learn to skate. Five years later and he won the B group in last year’s Independent Vert Series for tricks like this. It is not hard to see why he is competing against the grown ups in the pro league!

Straight after the skaters and the BMX pro heats begin. Here there are tricks galore; with bikes and rider thrown through the air, spinning handle bars, and double loops, these guys are serious. Oohs and ahhhs from the audience- it’s like a firework display and the fireworks are exploding on the half pipes. Just before the competition hots up a lightweight aircraft flies by streaming a banner ‘Lisa, marry me’ the crowd applaud. Who knows if Lisa said ‘yes’?!

Saturday late afternoon takes us back to Watergate Bay for the music. The main stage is set with Cornish flags flying proudly either side. Many people stand, a loose crowd not too packed, in the main stage area while just outside pockets of people sit lazily getting up to dance when music is played.

The Kaiser Chief enter the stage to a round of applause, it is very civilised. Ricky dressed in a turquoise leather jacket, bounds on stage. Appreciation from the audience is shown through claps, mobile phones poised to take photos. Ricky declares, ‘As a band we’re pretty good but when it comes to being brilliant we need you.’ The band move straight into ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’ and the crowd roar into song, sunburnt arms waving through the air. A true performer, Wilson enters the crowd and held aloft by them he gives them what they want.

Elsewhere, the sun sets; bruises of colours orange, yellows, pinks and blues swirl through the sky.

The Point stage is relentless in its beat and a steady stream of people saunter down away from the rest of the festival. As the night progresses, more and more people are drawn in, darkness engulfs them and their silhouettes crowd the field and dance platforms, moving to the music.

Sunday, and the finals for the boards take place amongst a buzz on Fistral Beach while up on Westgate Bay the vibe is a chilled one.

The Point stage juxtaposing its writhing bodies and beats of the night before brings with it the morning after. With beautiful calming views across the sea and the hushed crashing of waves upon the shore, and the rolling green hills to the right the DJ’s sets create an ambience other stages are unable to provide. The gentle slopes surrounding the ‘dance’ floor are home to pockets of friends, laid out, soaking up the sun, feet tapping the air to the beats. More and more flock to this point. A haven. Throughout the afternoon a number of people move towards the now brown grass dance area and dance happily under the rays of the sunshine while the DJ plays his music in the shadows of his stage.

With the sunset comes a calmer evening to those it follows, but once again, excitement reigns and an evening of James Bay preceded by Primal Scream closes the main stage, while the wind down on Relentless’s The Point stage closes with Jackmaster, but not before the chilled out sounds of Detroit Swindle and Maribu State.

Review: Ciannait Fitzpatrick
Photos: Amanda Cunningham

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