Barney Barnes

Barney started surfing in 1971 when he was 17 years old and living in Plymouth. His school friend Phil Hill bought a 8’6” longboard and they went to Bantham beach to try it out. Barney says he only stood up for a second but it was a life-changing experience which led him to want to go surfing everyday for at least the next 15 years. Initially hiring boards but eventually buying a 7’2” South Coast, single fin from the Bilbo Surf Shop in Plymouth he started surfing the South coast of Devon and Cornwall as well as Newquay and Constantine on the north coast.

Scooter with board rack

In 1973 Barney started teacher training at Weymouth College and enjoyed the many breaks along the Dorset coast; Boscombe, Kimeridge and Ringstead in the winter months. He also set up the Weymouth Surf Club organising film shows and other events. A couple of the early films were ‘Cosmic Children’ and George Greenough’s ‘Innermost Limits’. Trips to North Devon and Woolacombe became quite regular while in Weymouth too.

At the end of his first college year Barney hitched across Ireland with his board after reading an article in ‘Surf Insight’ magazine, surfing at Easkey, Spanish Point and Lahinch. He met up with a couple of local surfers Brendon and Dermott, and says it was popular with Welsh and Nothern Irish surfers at that time.

In 1974 he met his future wife, Chris, and they spent the summer travelling to South West France with friends Ivan and Pete staying at Chambre d’amour, Biarritz and also travelled across Spain to surf Figuera De Foz and Peniche in Portugal.

Barney at Gwithian

Chris and their friend Vaughn walking down to Boobies

During the summer of 1975 Barney found work at St Ives Bay Holiday Camp working behind the bar and surfing St Ives Bay especially Godrevy whenever the waves came up.

Godrevy

Godrevy

Barney started teaching in Dorchester in 1976 spending the summer holidays exploring the north Cornwall coast. In 1977 Barney and Chris were married and they decided to take time out from work and hitch down to Gibraltar where they hitched a lift on a yacht across to the Caribbean where they spent 6 months staying on the Virgin Islands.

Barney & Chris outside the presidents mansion

From the Virgin Islands they traveled onto America, working their way across to the west coast. They stopped in North Carolina to stay with Barney’s sister Rosie who was at university there. Word had got around about Barney and Chris’s travels through Europe and across to the Caribbean and onto the U.S.A. and the university president had questioned Barney’s sister Rosie where they would be staying. When he found out that they were staying at her small flat he made arrangements for them to stay at his mansion. The staff  were never to remember Barney and Chris’s name properly and they soon became known as Bonnie and Clyde by the them.

They left North Carlonia and travelled to Santa Barbara surfing at Rincon on a borrowed board. Rincon was packed even back then, but Barney still remembers it as one of the best point breaks he has seen.

When Barney and Chris got back to the UK after their travels they were very keen to live in Cornwall. In late 1979 they first lived in Penzance before starting teaching at Helston School and moved to Porthleven, home to one of the best known UK reef breaks.

Barney at Porthleven

At that time ex British Champion, Roger Mansfield was teaching geography at Helston as was the other Porthleven local Jim Taylor.

When the surf was working they soon had the perfect routine of an early surf at Porthleven before school for the day, then straight back to Porthleven for an evening session. He remembers this time as one of the best periods of his life, as Porthleven still had quite a reputation and didn’t get crowded like it does today.

The 80’s were a time of great boards and not too many crowds. Barney being a goofy footer also enjoyed surfing a small left that works at Porthleven at low tide. When the reef wasn’t working there was Cornwall’s north coat to explore and Godrevy became a favourite spot over the next 4 years.

Barney still had the urge to travel and in 1983 they went back to the Virgin Islands and did some private tutoring and a little boat work. Barney enjoyed surfing at Little Apple Bay where he got some great surf but started to become frustrated with the long drive from Beef Island where they lived to Little Apple Bay, only to often find it flat or un-surfable. There was a Windsurfing School nearby and Barney was able to borrow the equipment whenever he wanted, teaching himself to windsurf. It wasn’t long before Barney was windsurfing around the Islands.

Barney in the Vigin Isles

Barney surfing Little Apple Bay

Returning to the UK in 1984 Barney had an idea to start making windsurfing sails. Barney bought a windsurfer and sail and set about to make him self a smaller sail. When it was ready he took it to Colwell Bay to try it out. A guy came up to Barney asking about the sail and eventually persuaded him to make one for him. Barney made these first sails in the back of Chris’s dad’s garage. By the spring of 1985 Barney had opened his own shop in Sandown, ‘Barnstormer Sails’.

Barney sailing

After a visit by Roger Cooper (ex islander and surf board shaper now living in Wales) to the shop, Roger persuades Barney stock a few surfboards. Initially Barney has a few of Roger’s custom surfboards and some Chapter popouts, he also decided to stock a range of skateboards and accessories.

Barney making sails in the loft

The Shop

In The shop

When Barney first came to the Island he took a trip over to Freshwater Bay to check the surf. A quick look and the Bay looked pretty flat. Not knowing Freshwater Bay Barney didn’t wait around to see if he was between sets and drove along the coast to Compton. Compton was overhead with a nice east south east breeze making it almost perfect. One guy was just getting out of the water and Barney persuaded him to go back in with him for a surf. This surf convinced Barney that he made the right decision to move to the Island.

That afternoon Barney met Dave Gray, Ray Hutchings, Steve Williams and some the other surf club members. Barney kept close ties with the surf club and would often get a mention in the club newsletters or in Tube News (A Pre-Gran Slick Era Report from Sea Area Wight – by Steve Williams). Barney was stocking the latest range of wetsuits and surfing clothing which previously you would have needed to travel down to Cornwall or Devon to purchase.

The winter of 1985 saw some of the Isle of Wight Surf Club members becoming concerned that there was a lack of youngsters taking up surfing. Barney was a good friend of ex British Champion Roger Mansfield. Barney organised an evening talk and movie show with Roger Mansfield in the loft of his shop. It was the first time I had seen a british surfing magazine and Barney had two issues of ‘Wavelength’ for sale which I bought both.

The following year Barney came 4th in the Isle of Wight Surfing Championships being narrowly beaten by Steve Williams who got 3rd place. The winner of the competition was Ray Hutchings.

Barnstormer Sails & Wight Water

About a year later Ian Williams from Wight Water approached Barney about amalgamating the two shops together. It seemed perfect sense and soon Barney was to move Barnstormer Sails into the their loft in 19 Orchardleigh Road, Shanklin. The shop became Wight Water and Barnstormer Sails.

Barnstormers

After a few good years Barney eventually sold his part in the shop to Ian Williams in 1988 and after a bad year financially in 1989 Barney sold Barnstormer Sails to Airwave. Barney started to work for Airwave, learning to fly the gliders and eventually becoming designer and test pilot within a year.

Barney went on to captain the British Paragliding Team and in 1993 he won the International Paragliding meeting at Monte Grappa near Bassano. In 1996 Barney went on to become British paragliding Champion.

Surfing had now started to take a back seat as Barneys family and children, career and paragliding had taken priority, but each time they went on holiday the surfboard was always the first thing to be packed on to the car.

Barney found he was surfing less and less until eventually Roger Mansfield persuaded Barney get a longer board. Barney now rides and 9’2” longboard but also has a 8’6” and a 7’2” and says he is surfing more than he has done in a long time.

In recent years Barney has travelled worldwide getting to East Australia twice enjoying Byron Bay and Stradbrook Island, he has also had a couple of trips out to New Zealand where he has scored great waves at Raglan. Other trips have been to Tonga surfing at Sharkies and Razers and on Bali getting to Uluwatu.

Barney is now an SEO Consultant providing ethical Search Engine Optimisation and Search Marketing services for Hampshire and Isle of Wight business.

2 Responses to “Barney Barnes”

  1. Arnie says:

    What an amazing story “You old hippy” you might be a surfer but you have to try harder at your golf (I’ve seen you furkeling in the bushes at the bot’m of the downs looking for you know what) but apart from that great to see the picks and a super write-up.
    Hope your doing well,myself just a jibbering wreck died 8 weeks
    ago but the electric shocks were just to much and the buggers brought me back again. hope to see you soon for a game of golf.
    ATB Arnie

  2. Ritchie says:

    Great story – much respect. I remember buying my first board from Barney’s shop in Sandown in ’86. It was a 6’6″ single fin with a winged rounded pin tail, previously owned by Steve Williams I believe. I had it for about a year before moving on to a 6’0″ Critical Section thruster which was a bit better suited to Compton………

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