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Making waves on the world stage

Craig McLachlan’s journey from small-town hobby to national titles and international competition.

When a young Craig McLachlan watched his older sister’s success at local surfing competitions, he was determined to get out on the board himself. Recently claiming the Scottish Adult National title for the 3rd time at this year’s Scottish Championships, he is now at the top of the game.

We sat down with Craig to chat about his journey with the sport and how, what started as a hobby has taken him all across the world.

Where it all began

When he joined his local surf club in Thurso at 10 years old, Craig became one of the very few juniors.

“There were only about 20 surfers in the club at that time, maybe even less,” Craig told us.

Due to the lack of surfers his age, Craig quickly got used to surfing with adults and later, on his own.

“There has never been a huge amount of opportunity to get coached and train properly here, so it's really been a case of getting tips here and there from the older guys and then going out on my own,” he explained.

A solo venture 

Aside from one or two annual trips away with the Scottish Junior Team, Craig is still largely going it solo in terms of training.

“Most of the time it's just me and my board,” he explained,

“I use my own clips to see where I need to improve and do my best to work on those areas myself, it’s a really fun and rewarding way to progress.”

Craig’s level of self-determination shines through when speaking about his training and how he motivates himself to keep heading out for the waves.

Surfing almost every day, he explains that because his sport is so weather-dependent, every week looks different. He said:

“Some days I’ll be out two, three times and others it just isn’t possible due to the weather.

“I have also been guilty of staying out for hours on end and coming home very hungry and dehydrated. But when the waves are so good it's difficult to stop!”

A pure love for the sport

As well as his recent success at the Scottish Championships, Craig placed 33rd at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Rio De Janeiro at the end of last year. It was a busy year for Craig competing in the Scottish Junior Series as well as the British, European and Junior World Championships.

Despite his impressive array of achievements at a young age, Craig remains incredibly grounded, emphasising that his motivation will always come from his love of the sport.

“Surfing is totally different to every other sport. It’s hyper-captivating and so addictive,” he said.

“There have been times when I have woken up at 3.30 in the morning, when it was minus degrees outside, and gone out looking for waves. I have had to pour water over my wetsuit to unfreeze it so many times.

“As a surfer, you’re willing to go through a lot to do your sport and that’s what I think makes it so special.”

Reflecting on his success in the sport, he said:

“I never started surfing to get to this level and I’ve always gone in with the mindset that any results, sponsors, support etc are just a bonus.

“I surf because I love it and everything that has followed is a byproduct of that.”

Home and Away

Back home in Thurso, Craig works part-time at the local leisure centre and helps his sister out at her surf school, North Coast Watersports.

“I’m a qualified surf instructor so I’m able to help my sister out at the surf school during busy periods which I really enjoy,” he told us.

Joking about his fears that his parents will soon be encouraging him to find a full-time job, Craig said that for now, as long as he can fuel his car and occasionally get away surfing, he will be ‘more than happy’.

Craig is grateful that when he does go away, some of his travel costs are covered by the sportscotland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS).

“I’m really lucky that surfing has taken me all over the world.

“Last year I was in Brazil, South Africa, and I went to Portugal four or five times,” he said.

Living in the very north of the Scottish mainland means an added leg to the journey for Craig, often having to set off on the long drive down to Edinburgh Airport the day before and paying for an overnight stay.

Craig explains that these additional expenses paired with the high cost of flying with surfboards mean the bill for his trips soon rack up.

“The ATAS funding is super helpful in alleviating some of those extra costs that come with living so far from the central belt,” he said.

Looking ahead

With 2023 being Craig’s last year as a junior, he is looking to step up in the year ahead. Having already claimed the Scottish Adult National title earlier this month, we’d say he’s not off to a bad start.

If all goes to plan, you will be able to catch Craig at competitions throughout the year including Board Masters, British Championships and the QS World Qualifying Series.

“The QS World Qualifying Series events are around the world and if I do well in that, I could qualify for the Challenger Series where some of the best surfers in the world compete.

“That would be pretty awesome.”

Find out more

  • The sportscotland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) supports travel costs for Highland and island competitors to help talented athletes from the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and Highland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland. Successful applicants benefit from up to £1,500 to support travel and accommodation costs in attending training and competitions.
  • To find out more about the ATAS fund across the Highlands and Islands, visit: Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) - sportscotland the national agency for sport in Scotland

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