James on top of the world
TALENTED teenager James Gossan – who scrimped, saved and even sold his laptop to fund a trip to the World Surf Kayak Championships in Australia – has returned home as the new world champion.
The 18-year-old from Rosudgeon, a member of Penzance Canoe Club, spent two weeks in Australia getting to know the local surf conditions before the competition – and said that vital preparation helped him bring home the title of Junior World Champion in what those in the know call the IC, or international class.
He said: "I was out there for a month but the competition was only ten days.
"There was a presentation on the beach and I was given a medal and a little koala bear – I was hoping for a nice big cup.
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"It was a really good experience. It's nice to see how the locals surf and to meet everybody who's going out for the competition. I went so early because I wanted to learn the local conditions and how the locals surfed them and it definitely felt like I did well because of that."
James has only been competing since 2010, and began in kayaking just five years ago.
Surf kayakers use light-weight, flat-bottomed specialist canoes to catch waves and perform tricks and stunts with names such as the Pan Am, the aerial and the barrel roll.
The teenager, who hopes to start a two-year course in October to train as an outdoor pursuits instructor, admits he has had to make sacrifices to become one of the best juniors in the world. The best boats cost in the region of £1,600; paddles are £300 apiece.
Since getting back from Australia James – who, having now turned 18, moves up to the seniors – has returned to his normal routine of hitting the surf daily at Godrevy, Sennen or Perranuthnoe – but says he says he hasn't mentioned his feat to too many people.
"People who know and have known me know that I'm world champion," he said, "but when I'm chatting to people for the first time, or people come up to me while I'm surfing and ask what I'm doing, it's not something I'd ever mention – but it is a nice feeling."
James sold his laptop to help fund his Australian adventure, although he also had help from his family and the Lord-Lieutenant's Fund, administered by Cornwall Council.
"I hope to be going to the British Open in September but I'll have to see how much money I've got," he said.
"It's one all the UK competitors will go to, but I'll have to see; it's expensive to do all the travelling.
"Next year I'll be competing as a senior in the home international competitions and then I want to go to the world championships again in 2015, which will be held in either Portugal or Spain."
While he says he's glad to be home, James confesses to missing the Aussie approach to life: "Everybody's really friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. You can walk around in just shorts and even go in the shops without shoes on with your sandy feet and no one cares."