Local surfer wins team title
BYRON BAY surfer Neil Cameron has returned home as part of the Australian team that won the world surfing title in Panama.
Twenty countries competed in the championships, which were held at Santa Catalina, with Cameron fifth in the Over-50s division.
“I never imagined that I would be surfing at the world titles,” he said.
“The trip was a real experience for me and my wife Janice, and just to get to Santa Catalina took 28 hours.
“We arrived at 2am and found that we were locked out of the team house.
“A friendly neighbour presented himself, drew a gun and fired shots into the air.
“Welcome to Santa Catalina!”
In another hair-raising incident, the Camerons and fellow Australian surfer Sandra English were confronted by 12 members of the Panama Drug Squad armed with pistols, bullet-proof vests and shotguns.
“They didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish, but they’d been told there were drugs in our house,” Cameron said.
“It was pretty heavy and went on for an hour before two members of the International Surfing Association (ISA) turned up and defused the situation.
“Our story spread through the surfing community, to TV stations and finally resulted in a personal apology to the Australian team from the President of Panama.”
Cameron said the presentation and closing ceremony was huge.
“The celebrations raged on into the early hours of the morning with a crowd of 5000,” he said.
“It’s an experience I will never forget.”