Tribute to Russ

Posted on November 11, 2011


ave it!

Congratulations to Russell Winter who won three titles yesterday in one epic day of surfing at a thumping Fistral Beach, which was a strength-sapping and grinding 4 – 8 feet and classic conditions for the season deciding final event on the UK Pro Surf Tour. Russ won the final Relentless Energy Drink Super Series contest to clinch the UKProTour title for the second time by beating the main contender, Gordon Fontaine, and united the championship title with the 3 event Super Series title by besting Micah Lester by three clear final places.

Russ was a teenage sensation (he won the British Cadet, U-16,title at the tender age of 12!) and by the time the very first issue of Carve was smacking down on the pavement outside of British newsagents in 1994 he was helping himself – still only 18 – to Grishka Roberts’ European Professional crown. The king of Europe then set about the established Pacific nation’s surfers in true bulldog style, from a launch pad of 186th on the WQS he qualified for the CT three years later with the help of a mainly British group of sponsors.

Those three pioneering years on the grueling QS tour defined the man. It was a steep learning curve but the boy from Newquay toughed it out through thick and thin and clinched his CT place with a characteristic committed performances but his first year on the Dream tour was hampered by a knee injury suffered at Margaret River. The following year he re-qualified with single minded vehemence sealing his place with a massive second place finish in a six star event in Rio against all Brazilian opposition on their home turf.  Frustratingly he was sidelined again with a serious illness after being wounded at Teahupoo but earned the ASP injury wildcard for the following season. The year was 2001 and was probably the pinnacle of Russ’s competitive climb to the top; he was looking every bit the top 16 surfer he aspired to be, with memorable wins over Occy at J-Bay and Taylor Knox in big Sunset. Unfortunately it was also the year that Al Queda decided to attack the twin towers and Russell’s home events, the European leg of the Dream tour, were cancelled.

Russell’s gung-ho spirit surfing has seen him dogged by injuries in the later part of his career on the CT but when things come together he still rates with the best in the world, his victory at the six star Highland Open in 2006 proved that. He is a natural competitor and still competes on the WQS  ‘home’ events but he now has other priorities being a family man and embarking on a coaching career. For the past two years he has competed on the #UKProSurf Tour and has shown the grommets the step up needed to compete on the world stage. Whenever he competes he draws a crowd and you can often see them wince when he smashes his blazing top turn, “pound for pound he is the most powerful surfer in three foot” as Slater once said, and that is certainly still true today for British surfers as it once was for world tour surfers – and his recent blistering display at Tynemouth proved that.

As for comparisons with Slater, who is still on top of his game well into his thirty’s, well Russ certainly is by far the most difficult surfer to beat in the UK, you really do have to have a good day to get anywhere near him, and his tactical nous and confidence are second to none, (which is very slateresque). Russell has been on top of his game for twenty years and shows no sign of letting up, the man is a living legend and quite simply THE best UK surfer ever.

© Ester Spears

Pictures from the Relentless SS Fistral event taken on Canon 5D w/ 70-200mm f2.8 IS

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