When Holly Bassett, a 16-year-old from West Wittering, left to take on the waves of Nicaragua, she was Britain’s youngest Paddle-surfing champion. Now she’s ranked 11th in the world.
The talented teenager won her first British title last October and was invited to compete in the International Surfing Association Paddle-Boarding World Championships in the Pacific resort of La Boquita.
The week-long event brings the world’s top paddle-surfers to one shore and despite being the youngest in her discipline, Bassett was on top form, finishing as the 11th best female in the world.
As well as some of the sport’s biggest names, the teenager also competed alongside six other British athletes including former British champion Maria Buchanan.
Bassett, who celebrated her 16th birthday while in Nicaragua, said: “I was the youngest. Most were professionals from countries like America and Australia and they have access to some great waves all the time.
“It was a really good experience to meet them and I learned and improved so much while I was there. It was a really good thing to compete at their level.”
Following an impressive opening ceremony in the streets of Granada, each country was seeded and split into heats of 15-20 minutes.
Bassett’s first heat was against the 2013 world champion Nicole Pacelli as well as the top-ranked Costa Rican surfer Jenny Kalmback.
Despite the gulf in experience the teenager made it through three days of heats going through the reportage stage to finish in a spectacular 11th place.
Bassett, already British women’s and junior champion, started paddle-surfing at a young age with her dad Simon, owner of local water-sports company X-Train.
He was delighted with her performance, saying: “It was a hard contest but it was a great experience for her and she had a really good time out there. I honestly don’t think she could have got any higher in the rankings – she was absolutely brilliant.”
The pair have seen the popularity of the sport increase dramatically since it first gained recognition in 2005.
It is believed to have originated in the pacific island of Hawaii but gained much of its popularity in California where a couple began producing and selling equipment to locals and tourists.
Paddle-boarding in this country has seen a meteoric rise, with places such as Cornwall and West Wittering now important hubs for the sport.
But Bassett is now looking to put paddle-surfing and the excitement of the worlds to the back of her mind and is already back at Seaford College, where she will take her GSCEs.
Asked how her friends had reacted to her efforts, she said: “They think it’s really cool! They were watching it on the live stream and some of them even stayed up past 11. It’s such a high out there on the water but it’s definitely nice to be back to normal.”
The youngster has one eye on retaining her British title and is already hoping to be on the plane to next year’s World Championships, saying: “I’m just thinking about my exams now and then after that it’s back to training. I really want to retain my title of British champion so I can go back to the worlds again next year.
“There may be a little added pressure as there will be some new up-and-coming people this year but I’m going to train hard and hopefully keep progressing.”