Rush Broderick, 16, goes to school in the United Kingdom, but he flew across the Atlantic to represent the Virgin Islands in Puerto Rico last month. (Photo: Provided)

Alongside surfing greats like Gabriel Medina and John John Florence, three young men from the Virgin Islands faced off against some of the world’s best surfers last month in Puerto Rico.

After nine days of fierce competition from Feb. 23 through March 3, the VI ranked 48th out of the 55 represented nations during the 2024 International Surfing Association World Surfing Games in Arecibo — despite the absence of female surfers in the VI’s other three point-scoring positions.

All told, 225 points were scored by 16-year-old Rush Broderick, 18-year-old Teshawn Jones, and 21-year-old Zebedee Bamford.

Brazil claimed the top spot at the final qualifying event for the 2024 Summer Olympics from July 26 through Aug. 11 with 3,696 points out of a perfect 5,180. France came in second with 3,360, and Australia third with 2,895.

Tales from the swell

As Mr. Jones waded into the water on his first practice day after arriving in Arecibo, the conditions were poor and the reality of global competition began to set in.

“It’s a bit intimidating at first because there’s so many good surfers out there in, like, the worst conditions possible — messy, lumpy,” Mr. Jones said from his home beach in Josiahs Bay after returning home. “And they’re pretty much [surfing their hearts out], and the contest is two days away.”

Later in the practice sessions, however, the conditions began to improve.

“The waves were firing, and they were so crowded out there because I guess everyone’s trying to prep for the contest, because that’s where it was being held,” Mr. Jones said. “Day one and day two, the waves were really good.”

Mr. Jones admitted to initial anxiety, but he said it didn’t last. And although the VI surfers didn’t make it past day three of the nine-day competition, Mr. Jones said they were thrilled to be there.

“At first, it was pretty intimidating: ‘Oh, God, I gotta surf with all these people watching me, and the water and the waves are good. Will I be able to do good and actually surf my best, or am I gonna fail miserably?’” Mr. Jones said. “But once you get in the water, it’s like you just don’t really care anymore. You just go out there to have fun. It’s a really cool feeling.”

Now, the BVI National Surfing Association — which was formed hastily to enable the surfers to compete in Puerto Rico — is ready to continue representing the VI in future competitions to come.

“The door is open now for the BVI surfers, and it’s not about to close,” said BVINSA Media Relations Director Al Broderick, who is Rush Broderick’s father.
He added that the VI team made an impressive showing for a first-time competition.

“I think there were like 65 countries competing, 300 competitors — of which we had three,” he said. “We didn’t have a lady’s team, unfortunately.”


Zebedee Bamford, 21, arcs across the face of a Puerto Rican wave in Arecibo. (Photo: Provided)

After returning home from Puerto Rico, Mr. Broderick was asked to speak at a Rotary luncheon, where he began making the case to assist the association.

“If you look at the ages of our competitors, Rush is 16, Teshawn is 18, and Zebby is 21. The next Olympics is four years away, which is a long time in a young man’s life. They’ll be in their absolute prime,” Mr. Broderick said. “I would suggest because they’ve made a good showing, let’s do something with that and get these boys trained up. Send them to some different breaks around the place; get them some professional coaching.”

Aside from the Olympics, the ISA hosts the World Surfing Games every year, which could act as a consistent benchmark from which to gauge improvement in VI surfing talent. Other countries often host invitational surf competitions as well.

“I was saying to [Rotary], ‘Guys, wait. Maybe one day you can host these World Surfing Games yourself.’ Because the ISA, they do all of the [logistics],” Mr. Broderick said. “I said, ‘You don’t have to build an arena, a pitch, a stadium.’ I said, ‘Mother Nature is your arena of play.’”

Teshawn Jones, 18, can often be found surfing Josiahs Bay on Tortola. Last month, however, he represented the Virgin Islands in Puerto Rico at the International Surfing Organisation’s World Surfing Games.
(Photo: Provided)

Mr. Broderick travelled to Puerto Rico to watch his son surf against some of the best in the world.

“In his first heat, because of the way they allocated seats, he was up against the fifth seed in the world, Joan Duru, who came second in the whole competition,” Mr. Broderick said.

Following the 16-year-old’s first heat, which was also the first of the competition, Mr. Broderick said he “interviewed” his son on the sand.

“He was just loving every minute of it,” Mr. Broderick said. “I said, ‘What’s the best thing about it?’ He said, ‘Firstly, to be out on that amazing wave with just three other guys,’ and then he goes, ‘Also, we’re in Puerto Rico. That’s awesome.’”

Though the VI surfers didn’t finish at the top of the pack, Mr. Broderick couldn’t keep his pride from his voice.

“For me as a parent, I was just mind-blown,” he said. “Just to see [your] kid on any kind of coverage, it’s great. I’ve watched those clips probably more than I should have.”

‘We did pretty good’

Mr. Jones said he too was pleased with the team’s results.

“We probably could have done better, but, like, for [the] first time BVI’s ever competed in a surfing contest on that scale, or in general, I’m pretty sure we did pretty good,” he said.