Posts Tagged ‘1970’s’

Dave Gray R.I.P.

I asked Dave Gray if he would let me interview him for Wight Surf History and eventually he sent me this. We actually planned to do a proper interview and he was going to dig out some old photos but sadly it never happened. A history of surfing on the I.O.W. by David Gray aged […]


Sid Pitman R.I.P.

Sid Pitman sadly passed away while on holiday in the Mediterranean last week. Sid will be greatly missed by the whole Isle of Wight Surfing Community.  Are thoughts at this time are with Sid’s wife Jan. Sid started body boarding during the early sixties with a homemade plywood board, curved at the front and painted […]


1978 South Coast Contest

Wight Surf History have been given some great pics taken by Rog Powley of the 1978 South Coast Contest, including shots of Dave Gray, Keith Williams and Sid Pitman. The winner of the competition was Guy Penwarden from Wessex Surf Club. In 1976 surfing for Shore Surf Club, ex English Champion and Honorary President of […]


The Noble Art of Varp Lighting

The Noble Art of Varp Lighting – From a 1977 edition of the Isle of Wight Surf Club’s magazine ‘Wight Water’. (Or the quickest known way of clearing a Crantock Pub of locals) You may have been fortunate or unfortunate enough to have taken part in one of the IOWSC’s trips to the West Country. […]


Wight Water – Issue No 2

Issue No 2 of the Isle of Wight Surf Clubs magazine ‘Wight Water’ came out in the autumn of 1976. It included a write up on the IOW Surf Club longboard competition won by Tad Ciastula, 2nd Dave Jacobs, 3rd Keith Williams, Pete Brown and Dave Grey. It also covers the IOW Surf Club Darts […]


Colin Williams

Colin Williams remembers all of his family holidays spent on the isle of Wight where he learn’t surf during the 60’s and 70’s. The Isle of Wight was and probably still is my favorite place in the world. I must say that Australia, for me,is the one of the greatest places on earth; however, a […]


Wight Water Magazine

Colin Graham became the Isle Of Wight Surf Club Chairman in 1976, with Mike Smith and Dave Jacobs also on the committee. Roger Powley was given the job of putting together the IOW Surf Club’s 1st magazine. Wight Water Magazine was born, Rog edited the magazine with help from Colin, Mike, and his wife Lyn […]


Island Surf – British Style

Isle of Wight featured in issue number 4 of what is thought to be the one of the first ever British Surfing magazines. British Surfer magazine no1 came out in March 1969. Surfing UK magazine published by Lindsay Morgan in Porthcawl in Jan 1969 pipped it to the post by a few months to be […]


Isle of Wight Surf Club Hut Moved

The Isle of Wight Surf club were very lucky to be given use of one of the huts owned by the National Trust at Compton. The club paid a donation every year to the NT which gave them use of the hut and free parking at Compton. The original hut was used to store surfboards […]


F.A.R.T.S. by Dave Gray

‘Fantasy: The Art of Riding Tubes’ (F.A.R.T.S. for short) by Dave Gray A piece in a 1979 copy of ‘Wight Water’, the Isle of Wight Surf club’s magazine In addition to his undeniable talents as a malibu surf rider, Dave Gray has submitted the following piece for inclusion in this August periodical. An ostentatious little […]


Tad Ciastula

Tad Ciastula started shaping boards with fellow British Hovercraft Corporation (B.H.C.) apprentice Dougie Clarke, spending their spare time out in the old tin shed at the training centre near Osborne House designing and shaping a knee board like the one George Greenough rides in Crystal Voyager with a scooped deck. Surfing became a big part of […]


Island feature in ‘Surfing In Great Britain’ 1972

Isle of Wight featured in the 1972 book ‘Surfing In Great Britain’ by Carl Thomson Obviously prices, telephone numbers and much of the information given below is now not relevant and only for historical interest. For example please do not expect to get a ferry for £1.50. Extract on the Isle of Wight below: Isle […]


IOW Surf Club Skateboarding

Roger Powley, Mike Smith and Neil Fordham started going to the castle car park to skate. They originally went skateboarding at Shanklin Old Village car park Other sites Roger remembers are the entrance to Blackgang Chine by the pirate figure, St. Marys roundabout subway and the old rocket site at the Needles. During the mid […]


Surfs Up for Freshwater Parish Council

Last night the Freshwater Parish Council invited Paul Blackley to be guest speaker at their Annual General meeting at Freshwater Memorial Hall. Paul showed the Councillors and members of the public a slideshow of images taken form the recent Exhibition at Dimbola Museum and Galleries and talked about how the Wight Surf History Project. With […]


Isle of Wight Surfing History in Pictures

Isle of Wight Surfing History goes back over many decades and in 2012 Wight Surf History put together an exhibition including images at Dimbola Museum and Galleries at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight. The Exhibition closed with an amazing Jubilee party with live music from Sam Scadgell, Black House Crows and The Shutes. Here are […]


Wight Surf History Exhibition now at The Waterfront

Both Wight Surf History Exhibition Prints are now displayed at The Waterfront Bar and Restaurant, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight. If you somehow missed the exhibitions previously then get yourself down to Totland Bay. It may not have great waves but it has to be one of the best places on the Island to enjoy […]


UNDERGROUND EXPLORER: ROB WARD

The story of British surfing would not be complete without reference to its underground surfers – those who passed up competition, fashion and media exposure for hard-bitten travel. These are the “soul” surfers such as Rob Ward and the late Nigel Baker. Rob Ward was a lover of French waves. “The early days surfing France had to be the best time of my life. I was totally focused on riding big waves at Guethary,” says Rob. “In 1967 I lived in a tent in the Cenitz valley, then in later years stayed in a villa with early Newquay immortal Alan McBride.” Rob was a standout big wave surfer and a hard-core adventurer. “Growing up on the Isle of Wight, in the south of England halfway up the English Channel, I never saw anyone surf,” says Rob. “But one day in 1961 I found an article on glassing a surfboard torn from a magazine and lying on the floor of a garage at the back of my dad’s hotel. I tried to make a board upstairs in the hotel, but lacking the right tool or materials, it was not a happy experience, and I never finished the board.”

Educated at the Nautical College at Pangbourne in Berkshire, Rob went on to become an officer in the Royal Navy. “In 1964 I was a Midshipman in HMS Jaguar on the South Africa/South America station,” says Rob. “I’d been pestering a South African lieutenant aboard with the question of whether people surfed in South Africa. I had a day’s leave on the Friday of the week. I took a taxi to Cape Town from Simonstown naval base and arrived just after the shops had closed. I found a shop with a surfboard in the window and banged on the door until they opened. They gave me a board and took £30 pounds (a month’s wages) from me. The sporting taxi driver shoved my prize halfway into the boot of his car and drove me back ‘home’. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen—brownish, distinctly bent and with the name Sunsurf announced by an orange sticker with an impressionist rendering of the principal feature of our solar system near the nose.”

“I surfed in South Africa, South and Central America and returned to the UK,” says Rob. “During my third year at the Britannia Royal Naval College (in Dartmouth, Devon), I tendered my resignation with some trepidation. I had, after all, been in an institution since I was six. Within a few months, a friend and I had bought an old diesel van, some blanks from a defunct surf business in Newquay and, after building a dozen boards in the Isle of Wight, headed down to Guethary. Then followed nine months of bliss. We built a small factory on the outskirts of Bayonne with a French partner. I grew my hair for the first time in my life and surfed every day it was possible. At first I entered in the competitions that the French Surf Federation had newly inaugurated. I won an international paddle race taking Felipe Pomar’s record for the course by five minutes.” 1965 World Champion Felipe Pomar was a go-for-broke Peruvian big wave surfer, famous for his power paddling.

Later Rob turned his back on competition, travelling extensively in California, South Africa and Australia, often seeking the more obscure, high quality big wave locations as his hang out, such as Outer Kommetjie in Cape Town, Margaret River in Western Australia and Cactus in Southern Australia, many years before these places were reported as make-the-barrel-or-die big-wave breaks. Rob also had an innovative attitude towards surfboard design and had a long relationship, spanning decades, with experimental shaper Tom Hoye, Precision Equipe, in California, who would ship him his latest, sometimes quirky designs, to ride wherever he was in the world. “I recall in 1972 coming from the surf in the desert in South Australia. There had supposedly been a large shark sighted. But the waves were extraordinary,” says Rob. “I spent an hour alone with both fear and elation and when I came from the water I actually fell on my knees and thanked God for my existence. It was the sort of peak experience that will carry you through a lifetime of the normal, and less common, trials. Bliss indeed. Thank you surfing.” In one of those impossible to predict moments in an obscure place on the planet, who should Rob bump in to during a spell at Cactus but ‘Moby’ – Dave Patience, one of Newquay’s earliest surfers and Guethary pioneers.

In the ‘80s Rob lived in Cornwall and ran a surf shop in Newquay called Ocean Imports. “During that period,” says Rob, “a friend encouraged me to buy a 26 foot boat with him and smuggle hashish from Morocco. Of the six-year prison sentence, I served four years. I had no excuses. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I was grateful for the opportunity to study Romantic Poetry at the Open University.” Upon release, Rob started building 40 foot catamarans. In the Orinoco Flo he made a global circumnavigation, financed by paying surfer passengers for the surf break stops along the way. These included pioneering visits to the Easter Islands.

Rob’s surfing passion has always been focused and intense. He possesses a driven quality recognised among that breed of surfers like Laird Hamilton who “have to be there to ride the big waves.” Well-educated and highly articulate, Rob has also been able to share his love of surfing. His performances have been inspirational, and he would have been better known, but for his low level of interest in surfing contests. Even in current surf sessions he sets a high international standard for his age. “I just completed a 27 kilometre paddle race beating paddlers 20 years my junior,” says Rob. “Now 60 and looking back at 40-plus years dedicated to surfing – seeing that I abandoned a naval career my father had set his heart on for me; considering the jail term that I served as an arguably direct result of the economically barren years in the back of a van in Mexico and California, a station wagon in Australia and under the stairs of a villa falling down a cliff on the Chemin des Falaises in Guethary – I suppose I should harbour some regrets. A surfer will know that I do not. Joseph Campbell, in one of a series of interviews made shortly before his death, declared – ‘Ah, fortunate is the one who finds his Bliss.’ It’s an odd phrase but that is what surfing has been (and remains) for me. And I feel fortunate indeed.”


Roger Cooper

Roger Cooper

Roger Cooper started out as an apprentice with Dave Bulford working on Tractors and Combine Harvesters. Dave saw some magazine article about making a surfboard. Roger and Dave saw some postcards in Cornwall with surfboards on but didn’t see anyone surfing so based their first surfboard design on what they had seen on the postcards. These boards were made using polystyrene and sealing them with cascamite and then resin resin.

While shaping their own boards they didn’t realise that there others on the Island like Roger Backhouse who were already surfing

Dave dropped out as he took a long time finishing his surfboard and had lost interest in the idea. The following year Roger Cooper started travelling in search of waves.

Roger soon got to know some of the other surfers on the Island and remembers Jon Jon Ainswoth, Rog Backhouse and Sid Pitman being the very good. Roger says that ‘Jon Jon stood out from the rest making walking the board look easy. He was brilliant.’

In 1966 Roger bought his first surfboard from Bilbo. At that time the new thing was the radical v-bottom boards and so while waiting for his Bilbo, Roger started making his next board with a v-bottom.

Roger started shaping on the island in a small shed at home. Roger says that getting blanks and resin was difficult and all had to come from Bilbo until Bob Groves started supplying them which made it much easier and better. Roger used to make about 20-30 or more surfboards a year.

Roger’s early boards had many names, Sister Sticks, Yamma, Zippy Sticks to name a few. Roger says there were so many he can’t remember them all. ‘Back then you didn’t use your own name, it was all about coming up with the next brand names,’ said Roger.

In 1968 Roger took his first surf trip to France with Rusty Long in his car Cortina with BH Rusty and Dave Botterill and one other person but can’t remember… They had planned to spend the time camping but also rented an apartment as the weather was so awful.

The next winter at the end of 1968 Roger set off to Morocco with Rob Clarke, Pete Barden and spent the next 3-4 months away surfing.

When Roger came back he met Sandy and the two of them would work the winters and then go away for the summers surfing in France. They carried on doing this for about 4 years. This meant they were away for the famous 1970 Pop Festival in France but Sandy’s Grandfather was there and painted the amazing painting of the 1970 Pop Festival that is up at Dimbola

Roger and Sandy moved to Wales in 1974. Roger says he had great trips to Wales with IOW Surf Club, great waves, lovely country and obviously a bigger surfing population so it made sense. Determined to shape more boards and build a successful business and start to live the life. Roger would shape all summer and go away surfing all winter.

While away he would lots of great ideas and couldn’t wait to get back start shaping again. ‘Travelling was very inspiring’ says Roger.

The Zippy Sticks range was born in Wales. I asked Roger why nearly all the Zippy Sticks I’d seen were orange. Roger laughed at this and didn’t realise but said that orange was one of the easier colours to do. Dark blue was difficult but orange and yellow was easier. Roger joked that he made his early boards too well.

Rogers had his first factory for 6-7years but it burnt down while away surfing in Hawaii. He had his 2nd Factory for 6-7 years too but now has settled into his latest factory and says he’ll not move again

Roger is still surfing, Aberavan is one of his favourite spots in Wales, a left hander which is really good, sometimes sensational, also gets down to the Gower, Porthcawl, breaks in Pembrokeshire and Llantwit Major

Roger remembers bumping into Rob Ward in France and says his surfing was so much better than all the others. Roger said they met up with Len Haworth in Europe and he showed them around much as Rob had done with Len in previous years. Roger says it was almost like walking in Rob’s footsteps.

One memorable day was at Guethary at double overhead and closing out, when they got out there, they just got absolutely killed, said Roger.

Roger also remembers some guy from Ventnor who was a great surfer but couldn’t swim, when wiping out he would grab hold of his board for dear life but eventually, probably after a couple of near misses he gave up. Does anyone else remember this guy?


Island Surfers make history

One of the biggest challenges putting the exhibition together was finding and collecting all the memorabilia from people. Surfboards that had been kept for 30-40 years were obviously things that were going to be items that had great sentimental value. When I rang Roger Cooper to see if he would be able to make the opeing night and he said he had his original Bilbo (the first board he ever bought) and that did I want it for the exhibition I was stoked.

On the Tuesday evening before the opening night Jon Hayward and myself were putting up the board rack when we suddenly realised as we were putting in Archie Trickets board that the ceiling was only just over 9′ high and there were beams above the rack. I didn’t know the size of Roger’s Bilbo so I made a quick phone call to him and it was 9’6″. We quickly decided that the only way to get it in was to mount it on a slant and we’d have to do a bit of guess work.

Rog, Jimi and Paul – photo by Jason Swain

Roger and Sandy arrived at Dimbola on Thursday morning and luckily we had allowed enough room for the board although it was a tight squeeze. Jason took a few pics of us with Rog’s board next to the Jimi Hendrix statue and while chatting Sandy said that her Grandfather painted the amazing painting of the 1970 Pop Festival that was up in Dimbola.

Sandy & Rog next to her Grandfathers painting

Everything else slowly slotted into place in time for the opening night and it was a great night. Thanks again to everyone for all the help and to everyone who came on the opening night.

Opening Night – photo by Gerhardt Potgieter


Opening Night Pics by Kimmi Piggott

Many thanks for these great opening night Pics by Kimmi Piggott, Dimbola Museum and Galleries.


Opening Night

It may have been Friday the 13th but the opening night was a great success with Dimbola packed to capacity. Thank you to everyone who came along on the night and a huge thanks to Sam Scadgell for playing guitar and singing for us. If any of you have any more pics please send them in to me.


Wight Surf History Exhibition Starts

The Wight Surf History Exhibition officially starts tomorrow. The first exhibition of surf memorabilia and photography from the last 50 years at Dimbola Museum and Galleries, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight on Saturday 14th April 2012 and runs for 10 weeks.

The exhibition will show how boards have changed through the decades, from Archie Tricket’s homemade wooden surfboard from the early 1960s, Bilbo longboards, the early shortboards and modern equipment, including surfboards from three-times Women’s English Champion Zoe Sheath and 2010 British Champion Johnny Fryer.

We also show how wetsuits have changed from the early ‘duck tail’ two-piece wetsuits to the warm winter wetsuits of today. Other items on display will include Trophies, leashes, wax, Isle of Wight Surf Club sweatshirts and magazines. The exhibition will also have photographs showing many of the characters who have influenced surfing on the Island over the last 50 years.

In the early 1960s, surfing was something a small number of friends had started to experiment with on the Isle of Wight. Many of these pioneers started out with belly boards, while some took to the water on homemade wooden surfboards.

There were small pockets of surfers scattered around the Island, all experimenting with surfing in their own ways, until Roger Backhouse and friends – Susan Ellis (Backhouse), Kevin Digweed, Geoff ‘Ned’ Gardner, John Ainsworth, Russell Long and Colin Burgess – decided to try and start an Isle of Wight Surf Club. An advert was put in the Isle of Wight County Press and this brought surfers together from around the Island, including Keith Williams, Glyn Kernick, Ben Kelly and Sid Pitman.

The first meetings of the Isle of Wight Surf Club were held in a tent on the cliff tops at Ventnor. They later moved to Mrs Backhouse’s (Roger’s Mum!) Bed & Breakfast in Ventnor. During the summer Pat Morrell and a ‘Woodwork Teacher’ Mike ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson would join them with their homemade wooden boards.

Once some club members had acquired wheels, it wasn’t long before trips to Cornwall were arranged and wages and savings were spent on the new fibreglass surfboards that were available. Rob Ward had come back to the Island after being in the Royal Navy and had learnt to surf in South Africa and South America. Rob’s surfing was more advanced than many of the island surfers, and in the 1970s, he travelled much of the globe in search of waves. Ex-British Surfing Champion Roger Mansfield and author of The Surfing Tribe once said ‘Rob is the most buccaneering, big wave-riding surf export of IOW’.

During the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Tad Ciastula and Roger Cooper had started shaping boards on the Island and both went on to become renowned surfboard shapers. Meanwhile, Derek Thompson started making the famous Cosmic leashes.

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a young Dave Gray had started to dominate the Isle of Wight Surf Competitions and went on to compete in the English Nationals. Many of today’s top Island surfers will say that Dave was a major influence on them and they aspired to be as good as this Island legend. The Isle of Wight Surf Club started its own surf magazine in the late 1970s and many articles joked about other surfers not bothering to enter competitions if Dave turned up, as he only needed to wax down his surfboard to win an event!

In the early ‘90s, Stu Jones took over the mantle of best surfer on the Island, pushing the limits and starting a new generation of surfers who wanted to do aerials and the other latest tricks. In 1994, a young Craig Sharp took the South Coast Champion crown from Stu Jones and was one of many Islanders who took off in search of waves and adventure abroad. At the same time, 10-year-old Johnny Fryer was just making his mark by winning the Under-14 or ‘cadet’ category in the 1994 South Coast Championship.

Johnny dominated the Island surf scene until he moved to Cornwall, and he went on to become British Surfing Champion in 2010.

Into the Noughties, and young Zoe Sheath, daughter of Gail (an early member of the Isle of Wight Surf club, who started surfing in the ‘70s), began to shine. Zoe went on to become English Women’s Surfing Champion in 2007.

Many others have made a big contribution to Island surfing, including Barney Barnes, Ceri Williams, Keith and Steve Williams, Clive Richardson, Dave Phillips, Rog Powley, Xav Baker, Joe Truman and many, many more.

More recently, with the help of the Island-based Rapanui clothing company, the IOW Surf Club has been reborn, with Matt Harwood taking the helm alongside Oliver Harvey, as they successfully ran the Frost Bite Series of competitions in 2011 as well as the South Coast Surfing Championships.


Elite Clique Surf Club

Elite Clique Surf Club – I can’t quite remember how it went but evidently we weren’t allowed to compete for a reason that still escapes me, so John Ainsworth, perhaps Len and I started our own club in about three days and had it ratified by the British Surfing Association – if that was the name of the umbrella organisation. We competed and I think we might have won. It was a bit of politics and I honestly can’t remember who was behind it and what the motivations were. But I think the IW surf club had made it difficult for us to enter and be a part of the contest. That would have been about 1969. I was on my way to Australia.

What we did was silly (the name was intended to be) and to make a point.

I can report that the inverter works the coffee grinder. Tomorrow I’ll charge the MAC on it and after that, the world’s our oyster.

When I built the canopy for the ute, I bonded-on 2 20-ply bookshelves. Today I loaded an unfeasibly extensive line of books and had heaps of room for more! Rog Mansfield met me first when I was camping at M, Etchegoan’s valley and he was the reciprocal guest of Francois-Xavier Moran, the junior French champ, I think. He’d been a friend when we lived at the Villa Baccharis on the Chemin des Falaises. (Cliff Road.). Etchegoan was a lovely old dipsomaniac with a tiny herd of Friesians that used to wake me with their lovely cold, wet, black noses when they peered through the tent doors. I was under instructions from my friend Douglas Jardine (then in his late 60’s – he died in his 90’s) to leave the old dear a bottle of Martinique Rhum. Which was done. I can’t remember what the little pair of left and right reefs was called… ooops (‘Seniors’ Moment) it was Cenitz. I had a tent full of books then. Among them Arthur Koestler’s “The Act of Creation”. I must have been afraid that tent book-critics wouldn’t take me seriously as I also had Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy”. My reflections were sophisticated: “What the f### are they on about?” Roger later credited that as a guiding moment in his ambition (to beat me?) into print!

Busy day, setting up solar panels, getting inverter to work, 3 board repairs, loading box on roof with long-term food-stuffs.

I’m hoping to get off some time after Monday. If, by any chance, the ‘blog’ – if that is what it is – gets a bit raw, it will not be to provoke but merely where I may happen to be (“at”, as American hippies used to say.) I hope I may have your collective indulgence. One needs to trust those whom one imagines one’s readers to be. And yet not alienate. It’s hard to guess where that line might be with people one has not met. And looking at about 4 months alone on the road or in the desert (though not by accident but of free will) it is not always possible to anticipate how it may go. This is by way of a wavering and uncertain pre-emptive apology if things go a bit pear-shaped.

On a lighter note, I leave the light on where the basin is during the nights so I can find my way there from the ute where I sleep without, perhaps, stepping on a snake. Yes, it can happen! I came out of my office to find a large Brown snake 3 paces away and quite alarmed. (The snake, actually). It could get no traction on the concrete so spun its wheels for a bit before it was able to gather some composure. It slid off and out of the building by descending one of the small tunnels made by the corrugated steel overlapping the concrete slab. Finding itself in bright sunlight, which perhaps offends a snake’s delicate sense of privacy, it immediately returned to the shed and finding me not much of a threat, relaxed for a while before having another go at outside. But that’s by the bye. The light has been attracting some lovely insects. Today a 6″ long stick insect. It can’t feel very comfortable against the white paint. On any of the ten million trees that cover this Island it would be invisible. The two previous days a couple of bright green mantises wandered in, intent to make the most of the sterile surroundings. If you watch them closely they swivel their triangular heads this way and that and it is impossible not to conclude they are having a very good look at you. They also oscillate from side to side at about 3 movements per second. Whatever it is they grab and eat (head first if it is a mate) perhaps struggles to decode this endless movement. A good friend called Neil Harding, kept preying mantises wrote two books, one of which was called “Bizarre and Macro Mantids”. He was obliged to learn German as the main field work had been done by German entomologists. (Always a struggle to know if one means to say “etymologist”).

And that leads rather smoothly to a joke. Since I can only ever remember one joke at a time I rather hate to tell them as it is more or less inevitable that my audience will have heard it. That’s always assuming I don’t fluff the punch line, which happens often. Far safer to write them:

At a convention of philologists in Costa Rica (obviously this was suggested by the reference to etymology… IF I have that one right… my 2 volumes of the SOED are somehow packed in the ute) a Latin American philologist addresses an Irish visitor to the convention.

“Tell me, por favor, senor (sorry can’t do the enya!) do the Irish have a word equivalent to our “manana”?”

Looking up from his pina colada, the Irish man replied,

“To be sure, oi don’t think we have a word with quite that pressing sense of urgency!”

Going back, finally to snakes, I have never suffered a desire to kill them or throw things at them. DH Lawrence wrote a shamed poem about a snake who visited him in his garden in (?) Corsica. He heaved a stick at it and the poem was born of remorse. I have a picture of myself taken by a Cornish friend at Cactus 40 years ago. I am playing chess and have my head in my hand looking at the board which is supported by a Post Office cable spool serving as a table. As I straightened up I looked down to my right and there was a Red Bellied Black snake curled up asleep touching my right thigh. I was delighted and said to my friend, “Hey, Tris, look at this”. Unfortunately this disturbed the snake which quietly slid up the small bush-covered dune at my back. Two friends and I had a more serious brush with a large Western Australian Brown snake locally called a Djugait. These are really poisonous and, with the quantity of venom they pack, out-kill (measured in units of hypothetical dead sheep) the King Cobra. We had been diving for fish and were walking back loaded with wetsuits, lead weights and spear guns. We were chatting about the fish we had missed and in so doing, in a clearing with lawn-short grass on it, found ourselves on top of this 2M Djugait, whose head was raised about 300mm to strike. My friend on the left managed to get out one word,

“Stop!”.

We were in a diagonal line, he was behind me on my left and my other friend was less in harm’s way to my right. I did stop, with my bare right foot in the air above the snake. For the longest time (at least 3 seconds!) it was a stalemate. I had plenty of time to admire the beauty of it. A lovely fox red-brown with a belly of lemon yellow, clearly apparent from its raised portion. It moved off slowly in quite an odd manner, with its raised head remaining so and slightly turned back toward us. There wasn’t a moment when any of us felt any fear, which perhaps tells us something about the nature of fear. It is only useful in preparation for an event. In the instant, it has no use. Last week a friend, (Doctor) Ross Shiel was surfing when he looked up to find himself being charged by a large Tiger Shark. He told me about it 2 days ago. Astonishingly he reacted perfectly in the instant. He paddled hard AT it. It stopped 1M from him and he was able to gauge the width of its body at twice the width of his board, that is, it was a full metre wide in the body. I guess there was a moment of stand-off and the thing took off, thrashing water into Ross’s face, almost one imagines with childish pique. Tigers are scavengers and I have seen a documentary showing young Tigers trying to get the hang of catching and eating seabirds afloat on the water. It was far from impressive, but one finally got a bird down its neck. Well, I’d better not follow this line of discussion as Stradbroke has too many tales. In fact you can see some of them around you. Bruce, who drives the small car ferry to Moreton Island (to the N) has one leg. He was surfing at Main and a Tiger shark took his other leg. He tells of the relief when his leg came off as he was on the bottom and close to drowning.


Gail (Sheath) Broomfield

I suppose I have always considered myself a surfer.

I was brought up in Joberg, South Africa, but holidays on the coast at Morgans Bay and Port St Johns near Durban always involved belly boarding on the wooden boards.

It was in Port St Johns in 1970 that I spotted “proper” surfing for the first time, I thought then that’s what I wanted to try. The beach boys came into the café and sat at the table combing their hair, which my mum considered very uncouth, they made a tremendous impression on me as a ten year old.

When we came to live on the IOW it was only a couple of years before I realized that you could surf on the Island, Mr Munt from the teashop steered me towards the Surf club and in 1975 I joined up. Dave Jacobs sent me a nice handwritten letter of welcome and a sticker to “stick where I wanted to”.

I didn’t have a board or a wetsuit, so spent up untill December surfing in a leotard on the rather interesting selection of mals from the surf hut, my favourite was an old blue Bilbo with a split nose. I got a real pasting and went home every week on my moped covered in bruises.

Finally I had a wetsuit made up at the Diving centre in Appley, Ryde, A Beavertail thing with knobs on that were definitely not designed for paddling prone.

I also bought a 6ft pink board that was far too small and traded it in for Diggers green gun that was far too fast. I think every learner has to go through this wrong board thing.

Finally Keith and Jake took pity on me, showed me how to push up, paddled me out back and lent me a suitable board. A 7′ 5″ shortboard that was nice and wide.

The first surf trip I went on to The Gower in Wales in April 1976 was so cold that the wetsuits froze on the hedge outside, as did the loaf of bread for breakfast but the cider was so strong you couldn’t feel a thing.

The next trip to Newquay in September was memorable for a classic swell at Crantock, meals in the Golden Egg, Americans playing pool in the Sailors, in check shirts and caps, how cool, and the first rains for 2 months, and how it rained.

Those were golden times and the club had a real good feel to it, we had BBQs on the beach and played volleyball, met in the 3 Bishops on Fridays and played darts and rode the first skateboards of the era up in the Castle car park and down Staplers.

I’d told everyone I was 18 so I could go to the pub with them, I lied but dipped out, as I couldn’t have a birthday for 3 years!

I think Dave Gray (Digger) summed it up one day when we were all sitting post surf on the beach and a crowd of grockels sat alongside us, rather white and pasty, he looked at them and quoted from a popular advert at the time, “we’re the Prize guys and they’re the thin yoghurts.” We all knew just what he meant.

Surfing continues to be a big part of my life, and I get in at Compton whenever I come back to the Island and miss the camaraderie of the car park. I now live in Newquay and work at Fistral beach, so waves are plentiful, both my daughters surf (much better than I ever will) and my Dad still surfs on his 1950’s Ride the Crest wooden belly board.