Posts Tagged ‘1980’s’

Construction and 1st 5,000 Miles of The Midnight Hour – by Rob Ward

The Construction and First 5,000 Miles of The Midnight Hour From-Multihull International, March 1990 By Rob Ward With merely my third year’s subscription form for MI on the desk it may seem a bit presumptuous to put a new ribbon and double spacing on this battered Olympia and write a few words, the need to […]


Surfers win Cracker Race

IOW Surf Club wins the Annual Ventnor to Sandown Cracker Race – by Tony Macpherson

This race took place in the early 80’s. We had a surf club meeting in the Castle Inn in Newport and this peculiar race was mentioned. It got everyone interested and we decided to enter.

I offered to build the cracker and others were happy to do the run.

The rules required a cracker which was 12ft long by 3ft diameter. It had to be decorated and six runners had to complete the course with it in fancy dress. The race was from Botanical gardens in Ventnor to Sandown pier.

Annie and I worked on the cracker, it had a 6 inch x 12ft plastic water pipe as the backbone, courtesy of Southern water, six carrying handles, two telescopic handles front and back for passing through narrow spaces and several hula hoops as the frame. Annie and I covered and decorated it ready for the run.

On the day the surf club ran superbly and won, we also won best decorated cracker. My memory is not so good on the next details but I think we won the following year as well.

In the third year we failed to win as some teams broke the rules and used collapsible crackers which could easily pass through the narrow spaces along the course. Not sure what happened to the race after that.

The runners were Dave Jacobs, Mike Smith, Colin Graham, Dave Downer, Neil Smith and Simon Richardson.


Rob Ward

I am heading off into the South Australian desert in a week or so to Cactus. If you Google Ceduna South Australia and go west 60k to Penong, Cactus is on the coast 20k roughly south. Nothing there except vast ranges of dunes to the west and the extensive Point Sinclair where there are 3 lefts and one of the best rights in the world. Cactus is only the surfers’ name for the area. It is not on the map as such. I’m figuring out the intricacies of inverters, solar panels and deep cycle batteries. In the 1970’s I went there about four years in a row for period of up to 3 months.

I don’t know how the writing will go at Cactus. I am taking a table I have made (Foam Sandwich/Carbon/Formica) , and hope to be better set-up than I have ever been in the past. But I’m not an electrician and my ability to write ANYTHING (pen and paper? Are you kidding me?) is contingent on my yet-to-develop competence in assembling the deep-cycle battery, the inverter, the alternator and the 2 solar panels (when they arrive) in an order that is not mutually explosive. Or, even, that produces a trickle of usable MACjuice.

There is no broadband or telephone reception there and I shall have to do a ?weekly, ?Fortnightly trip to Ceduna to hook up.

There is some resistance to surf photography at Cactus these days. If you look on any website that speaks of Cactus (any that I’ve seen, anyway) you’ll be pushed to find a decent wave. A brilliant bit of reverse propaganda. Dunno how they do it. Violence, I suspect.

I have a lot to do between now and the next 10 days finishing off work at “Mermaid Composites” and preparing the Ute.

I wonder if you have read Fred Mew’s “Back of the Wight”. That’s more or less the Old Testament when it comes to getting into the surf. Of course, this was largely about getting in with rowing boats at night in horrendous storms to pull people out of sinking or grounded ships on the IW SW coast (the “Back of the Wight”). That, and smuggling and a little messing up the excise man.

I’ve lived in California and South Africa as well as sailing around Australia (whilst I was circumnavigating in Orinoco Flo) and I’ve driven across this country 3 times in cars costing from $50 to $200. But it is no pose to say that a great wave at Freshwater or Compton, for being so rare and beautiful and for its almost bizarre context and improbability remains as much of a thrill in my memory as any waves I have surfed around the world. And I do suffer a small nostalgia for Sid and the boys and girls, who so wisely and happily continued to make the lovely Island their home. I have a friend in Western Australia, Glyn Kernick (and his wife), who was also an early (and conscientious) member of the IW Surf Club and may be able to help you with pictures and memories.

I built Orinoco Flo with a heroic small crew of surfers whom I did not pay. (Even at £10 an hour, 15,000 man-hours was going to break the project!) I did what I could with caravans and work-for-dole projects and whatever it took. But they were all champs. I’ll spell out the money for you one time but be quite certain that, when I sold Midnight Hour for £35,000 it was less than 1/6th of what was going to be needed. God is Good and I knew none of this before I started and (Allah be Praised) never employed an accountant who may well have made discouraging noises. I started her in 1992. I had built a less technical 35’ catamaran; Midnight Hour in the late 1980’s mostly alone, although a surfer from Sandown, Pete Singleton, came down from his job in London as a despatch rider to help every other weekend. The object was always to get to surf, though of course the boat building travelled under the guise of “commercial enterprises” but no-one was deceived, least of all the first ex-wife who moaned fairly constantly. With Midnight Hour I spent a year in the Canaries chartering, mostly to surfers before going round the Atlantic and selling her to a Welshman. We had good access to Isla Lobos off Fuerteventura. It’s essentially just a volcano with a brilliant lava bottom right point break peeling down the west side. One South African described it as, “more fun than Jeffrey’s.” I’d agree with that. I lived at Jeffrey’s Bay for 6 months in about 1975 having gone there by boat from Western Australia. A Newquay surfer, “Moby” (David Patience), travelled with me. I had met him in Newquay when I was at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth after my midshipman’s year. But I didn’t know him very well at that time. After the winter in Jeffrey’s we cycled about 1000k to Cape Town, mostly along the Garden Route, but also via some inland areas like Oudtshoorn where (if I remember right) ostriches are bred. We made some good mountain passes like the Outeniqueberge and the famous (for being a bastard) Schwartberg Pass.

I finished an Honours in well, all sorts of things like The Romantic Poets (Distinction! eh?), Shakespeare, The Enlightenment, Modern Art and Modernism and so on and so forth. Yes, it was done at about double the Open University usual speed. This degree was the counterbalance I needed after being battery-reared in the sciences to further my lost career in the services. The Navy took me to South Africa and South America where I had started to surf and that was the rest was my life. Not the one my parents imagined or wished for.

Flo was the biggest thing I have done and my best memory of all that is the achievements of the young surfers on the build who went on to get jobs in France and Spain as top boat builders. Andy Rose married a beautiful Spanish lady (Teresa… daughter Zoe)) and worked on the build crew for the Spanish Americas Cup. Luke managed a boat builders yard in France and they both did major parts of the circumnavigation. Andy the first half and Luke the South-about round-Oz and Indo leg. I built Flo with two experimental flexible rudders that I built like Tuna-tails. The new owners of the Oricnoco Flo are mostly surfers and she has done 17 Round-the-Atlantic voyages (about 9,000 miles each) to charter in the Caribbean each winter. And last year she completed a second circumnavigation.

My longest-serving Island friend is Marcus Lloyd from Sandown. I met him on my return from South Africa in 1970-something when he was 14. I was getting up a business in jewellery-making and used to take him out to the West Wight. Marcus was to be making this trip to Cactus with me and continuing on to Western Australia.

We recently agreed that a trip we made in (Oh, you know.. “back in the day”…) to France, Portugal and Morocco, taking the entire winter, was one of the best times of our lives. And the beginning of mine once I left the beaten path

France was my break-out and the crucible in which I transmuted from a young, middle class, would-be naval officer to a committed lifetime surfer. It is a pleasant interlude to recount and if you will be patient, I will write it for you as well as I can. Your other references I shall put straight where needed. I should start by saying that others made the real contributions to surfing huge Ireland. I did go there for my honeymoon as the customs had temporarily removed my passport. A Vietnam war vet loaned us his caravan at Easkey (damned if I can remember the Gaelic spelling but it had at least 5 x the number of vowels). And no doubt rendered properly all the subtleties of one of the dozens of Irish accents. I surfed big Easkey alone. Except for some really big sharks. It’s at the mouth of the river and they were no doubt gathered for the salmon run. I almost doubted my eyes but others will tell you that, at Spanish Point, (in the pub?) you can find fotos of huge sharks and the anglers that caught them off the beach. Also, when I got out of the water my wife who was warming my undies on the car heater and pouring an Irish Whisky for me, said “Did you see those sharks?” Before I married, I drove around all of the UK and Ireland when I returned to the UK from Australia, selling jewellery. I made three circumnavigations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, living from a Fiat van.

I did a lot of surfing by myself. I don’t think many people could truthfully say that they really enjoy surfing alone. I did so on Lanzarote long before there were locals there and of course the place is fairly intimidating. But I had a lovely surf on the huge beach just south of Malin Head. I had spoken to a local woman in a cottage and she said that there could be surf there that extended to the horizon (or some like Irish exaggeration) but there was none the day I was there. I’d come over on the ferry from Scotland where I’d been surfing as well as (er?) working. So I went for a run and halfway up the beach (a mile?) I came across a beautiful 5′ peak, light offshore in clear blue water. So! I ran all the way back to my van, got my board, ran all the way to the peak and surfed 2 hours with the 1000′ high cliffs disappearing, blue to the south. Magic day.

We all had people who influenced us and perhaps gave us the courage to make a break with what we were “supposed to do” with our lives. I’ll mentioned one or two I’d like to credit as we go.

I followed your links and it is bonkers how nostalgic it is to see the old fotos and the old faces. Please do send my very warmest regards to Sid, Rog and Sue Backhouse, I always remember for their brilliant house at the bottom of which cliff? where? Rory I remember for the green ? Bilbo with the terrific arrow on the deck. I swear it made the board go twice as fast at Compton Fields. John Ainsworth was a lovely, gentle fellow and a good surfer. For the record, I’m as full of admiration for those people who made the Island their home and the centre of their surfing existence, as for any emigrants from the Island! Of course, Islanders took their adventures in the wide world. But they returned home to a place unique in the world. Has anyone else seen the Shingles Bank going off? I did once at about 6-8′, from somewhere near the Needles! A left and a right peeling down each side.

Today is Saturday. I’ve got some clients coming to pick up a race paddleboard and surfboard I’ve built with Chilean Myrtle veneer and a vacuum-bagged epoxy laminate with some carbon. I really only make boards for my own amusement. I can’t get properly paid for that sort of work but I am past bored with what I call (with reference to the band), “Average White Boards”. The board’s a quad. I veneered the paddleboard too which was shaped in Styrofoam. I’ve got to get a lot of stuff ready for the 5000k round trip drive to Cactus and I’ll enjoy writing the story if I get my electrickery spot on.

I’ll start with France as it launched from the Island………..


Old Clarks’ Glossary of Surfing

Image: Chris Slater riding the wave at Compton with Dougie Saunders in the line up. The image has no relation to the below article.

Old Clarks’ Glossary of Surf – taken from Wight Water Magazine 1981

Being an Authoritive Guide to an Old Sport and New Pastime, in Alphabetical Order and Fully Cross-Referenced. Essential to Gremmie and Old Salt alike. First Pub. at Hulverstone 1981. Compiled by JW and RA Clark.

A

Awful Tea. Brewed by the National Suss (q.v.) since AM 1979 (After Munt q.v.)

B

Burt’s – often used in cases of depression (q.v.) or packs of six, but works better as a laxative.

Bogs – (at Compton), locked in winter, full up in summer.

C

Cretin. Species of lunatic, (see Grockle)

D

Dumper truck, suitable for removing burnt out remains of Surf Club Huts

E

Ephriam Prenderghast; obscure missionary and collector of Hymenoptera, sent to the Pacific Islands in 1850 to convert natives. Last seen ripping six foot tubes and lying on the beach surrounded by dusky maidens. Coined the phrase ‘far out’. (q.v.)

F

Flat; no surf (see summertime)

Far Out! – uncertain meaning, perhaps applied to low tide (q.v.)

G

Grockle; much suffered complaint of NW Frontier, viz., pain in the Khyber Pass

H

High Tide – alcoholic soap powder.

I

Isobars; Lines on a map connecting pubs at the same height above sea level.

J

Join – the Isle of Wight Surf Club!

K

Kelp; Health food, manure and an unholy stinking fly-ridden beach on a hot day.

L

Low Tide – Little soap powder left.

Laxative; The Bay at 10 feet.

M

Mortgage; essential for buying a new surfboard.

Munt, Mr. Friendly local capitalist, now retired.

N

National Suss. Brewers of Awful Tea

O

Ocean. Large Volume of oxidised hydrogen containing dissolved salts, and other people’s rubbish. Causes many problems, mostly by not coming across with the necessary.

P

Polysiphonia Elongata – does not mean ‘many long drawn-out tubes’ but does mean you can get very tangled up whilst surfing (see Kelp).

Q

Queen. What the hell’s she got to do with it?

R

Rubber Suit; protective device.

S

Summertime. Period of year given over to flatness (q.v.) Grockles (q.v.), and fickle sunshine.

Surfboard; expensive implement of self-torture often connected with Rubber Suits (q.v.)

Surf; inferior soap powder.

Sand; ingrdient of beach lunches, tea and canned beer. Occurs naturally in shoes and socks; used as a floor covering during Summer (q.v.) in VW Micro-buses (q.v.) and French bordellos.

T

Ten; Hang Ten. Pointless excersise popular in the 1960’s now almost impossible of boards of current length.

U

Underpants. Essential element incorporated in the Davy Lamp Principle as described in Sid Dipman’s ‘Varp Lightning’, previously published in a back number of Wight Water, and abstracted from the greater work ‘Things to do on Flatulent Days’.

V

VW Microbuses; for transportation of picks, shovels, surfboards and other implements of destruction.

W

Wistful, waiting, watching, weather map and Winter – (c.f. Summertime), period of year given over to Rubber Suits (q.v.)

X

Xenoiphobia; pathological dislike of foreigners (see Grockle).

Y

Yesterday (overworked word).

Z

Zone

Sub-littoral surfing area
O – you can smell it at low tide (q.v.)
Disaster; Swimming Area
Forbidden; Good Surfing Area
No Parking; Right next to the Good Surfing Area
Erogenous; After-Surf entertainment
Inter-tidal; Rubbish tip
War; Surfing Area

Zombie; soulless corpse given the appearance of life by witchcraft (see Grockle)

THE END (See Grockle)

(slightly edited to protect the innocent)


The Exlife File

She was riding intuitively, riding on nerves and instinct, with no time for thought or rational assessment. It was all happening so fast – yet she’d been on this wave all her life. The stoke was unbelievable! Every manoevre better than the last, flying out of the turns and, well, just plain rad! Ooo-ee!! The boys would love this one! As the wave humped up, steepening for its final attack, Gran Slick marshalled all her faculties – and pulled off the best re-entry of her short career, a vertical magic carpet ride which defied description.


Archie Tricket

Just over a week a go Archie’s daughter Sarah put her fathers name into google and one of the early Wight Surf History articles came up with a small mention about Archie being one of the first people to surf on the Island. A few emails and phone calls later and I got to meet Sarah and Archie’s wife Betty at Betty’s home in Brighstone. Sadly Archie now 89 has alzheimers but he did manage to surf right into his 70’s.

I vaguely remember Archie turning up at the beach in an old Ford Anglia with his homemade wooden surfboard and old wetsuit in the 80’s and early 90’s. Archie was a guy that just loved life and loved the ocean. I spent a lovely hour or so, chatting to Betty and Sarah. They told me it all started on one trip to Compton when they saw a couple of people with wooden bellyboards catching the waves. As soon as they got home Archie was in his workshop making wooden bellyboards for all the family. It wasn’t long before Ron Munt owner of the shop on the clifftop at Compton saw how much fun they were having and got Buckets the builders in Brighstine whom Archie worked for to make them for his shop to sell.

Archie and family were very good friends of the Colemans and Jim Coleman the father was a boatbuilder. Sometime during the early 60’s Jim Coleman being a person who also loved the ocean decided to build a surfboard (Betty hopes to find out where he got the plans from). Jim had pondered how he was going to stop the deck being too slippery and decided the best method was to use sand. This obviously worked very well but was very painful and sometimes led to bleeding … Ouch!…. Not long after this Archie had copied his design making his own surfboard (minus the sand).

Sarah remembers all the family learning to surf on Dad’s surfboard, Archie pulling her into waves when she was only 7 years old on this huge and very heavy wooden surfboard. Sarah says they nicknamed their surfboard the QE2 while the Coleman children called their surfboard the Queen Mary and would often be seen paddling the two big boards around Compton Bay and the old wreck.


The Great Storm of ’87

On 16 October 1987, one of the worst night of storms in most peoples memories hit the south of England. Coastguards on the Isle of Wight said the winds were too strong to be measured on their instruments. The storm hit the Island at about 2am, and Shanklin Pier nearly a century old, disintegrated into a pile of wood overnight. It was broken into three pieces as a result of huge waves. Plans to rebuild the pier were abandoned, and the rest of the pier was demolished. A monument now stands in front of what used to be the pier entrance.

I had gone to the Court Jester Night Club in Sandown and driving home just after 2am we found that roads were already blocked by fallen trees but we were still unaware of the full power of the storm and the damage it would cause during the night. When I woke the next morning I was already late for work as my alarm hadn’t gone off because of a power cut. I threw on my clothes and set off for work at HW Morey’s in Newport. There were slates and tiles all over the roads and pavements and when I got to the Morey’s gates I saw that a house opposite had most of its’ gable wall littered all over the road. As you can imagine it was very busy at Moreys’ that day with firemen and builders rushing in the get materials but all I could think of that there must be some awesome waves somewhere on the Island.

On the Saturday I managed to get a lift to the beach with Steve Williams and we headed straight for Shanklin, by this time the swell had dropped and was very messy but the devastation we witnessed was something I will never forget. Shanklin beach was littered with driftwood, fruit machines bits of metal and the remains of the pier. At Compton the Isle of Wight Surf Club hut had been completely demolished and the surfboards were to be found in farm fields all along the Military Road (Where did those boards end up?).


1985 Isle of Wight Surf Club Calender

In 1985 The Isle of Wight Surf Club produced a calender for sale to its members. It was pre-printed with all the years events, meetings and the tide times at Compton at the weekends. Highlights for that year were;

Thursday 3rd January – Slides/Talk by Roger Mansfield (Former UK Champion) 7.30pm, Sail Loft, Union Road, Sandown

Friday 18th January – Agm/Video, Teachers Centre 7.30pm

Friday 8th February – Fancy Dress Disco

Saturday 2nd March – Jumble Sale, Wilberforce Hall, Brighstone

Saturday 16th March – Swim Marathon

Friday 12th April – Surf Film/Video

Sunday 26th May – Longboard Contest 3.00pm and barbecue

Sunday 9th June – (Back up date for Longboard Contest) 3.00pm

Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd June – Camping Weekend/Compton Farm

Saturday 6th July – Open Day/Barbecue 12 noon onwards

Saturday 10th August – Paddle Race/barbecue 4pm onwards

Saturday 7th September – Barbecue/Frisbee Contest

Saturday 28th September – Shortboard Contest 10am

Sunday 13th October – (Back up date for Shortboard contest) 10am

Frday 15th November – Surf Film/Video

Sunday 15th December – Cracker Race

If you can shed some light on any of these events please get in touch. Some one told me that the IOW Surf Club won the Cracker Race in Sandown? 3 years in a row???


The Camper Era

The Camper Era

After returning from this trip, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world, I bought my first camper van, an ancient Commer with a nice conversion in back. This opened up the way for me to get away to the West country more often and to retrace my steps back to France & Spain once a year, not to mention numerous weekends camping out at Compton. There was a trip to Rhosilli at Easter one year with a bunch of other guys who camped in tents. It was so cold that Jake put all his clothes on to go to bed and the boards were covered in ice in the morning.

Needless to say, I was snug & warm in the Commer. On a trip to Newquay in the Commer in September 1976, Jake & I would surf Great Western in the morning on a rising tide and Crantock on the ebb in the afternoon as the edge was taken off the swell.

One afternoon, we were out in the line-up at Crantock when Dave ‘Turf’ Salero & Brian Hill turned up on the beach, but couldn’t get out through the crunching inside section. We’d just remarked on this, when Jake saw a monster set rear up out back. As he was clearly a bit nervous, I said, “Don’t worry Jake, it’s only water”. Funnily enough, that didn’t seem to reassure him. Suffice to say that we were both cleaned up & washed in and felt no desire to venture out again that day!

That Commer eventually gave way to a bigger Commer Highwayman. This was a coachbuilt conversion & would sleep 4 in comfort. It was a big, slow beast though & the journey back from Freshwater West in Pembrooke with Mick Thomson & Magic took all day. In time, that van was superseded by a rising roof Bedford.

Unfortunately, a coming together with an 80mph drunk a week before a planned trip to Ireland meant the Bedford was written off, to be replaced, eventually, by a VW. That served me well for several years with trips back to Biarritz, Spain, Ireland, Wales & the West country before being replaced by another VW.

One day I was talking to a bunch of guys, a couple of whom I knew, when one of the guys I didn’t know very well said, “You’re Keith Williams aren’t you? You’re the guy who caught the best wave ever at Compton” I was a bit stunned by this pronouncement, as you can imagine. Having thought about it, I remembered a Saturday afternoon a few months previously, in October 1986, when the conditions were the best I’d ever seen at Compton. The swell was 6-8 feet on a rising tide with no wind to speak of. At the time, I’d gone back to long boards and had a ‘Chapter’ popout. I’d caught a couple of 4-5 footers and got tubed on the inside when I saw a big set approaching. I was able to get outside everyone else and was lined up just right for the first wave. It peaked & peeled perfectly and I decided not to attempt anything clever, so as not to risk falling off this beauty prematurely. I crouched and dragged my hand, easing forward on the board and tucked up into the curl for what seemed like several minutes before pulling out over the top as the wave closed out nearer the beach. There were many other waves on that day, but none came close to bettering that one; so maybe that was the one the guy meant. I was so stoked with the session that I hardly slept that night, still buzzing on the adrenaline rush.


The 1980 Trip – by Keith Williams

Was it coincidence that saw 18 Islanders make the journey to Biarritz in the summer of 1980? I think not. As I heard someone say at the recent film night, the surf club was different then; we all knew each other pretty well from years of surfing together and the trip was arranged as much as a social event as a surf trip.

Having arranged to meet up with Sid, Jake et al at the camp site at Moliets Plage, I arrived there one sunny afternoon and on enquiring at the reception desk about where Les Anglais, Monsieur Jacobs et Monsieur Pitman might be pitched, I was told, after much misunderstanding & arm waving, that they were not registered on the site. Disappointed, I decided to head on to Bidart, where I was sure I’d meet up with them, arriving early enough for a surf before dinner.

I don’t now remember the details, but one by one we began to assemble. I do remember being in the bar at Tamarisk Plage with Sid, Mick Thomson, Magic & my newly arrived brother Steve, when a tremendous thunderstorm hit & all the lights went out.

Steve’s VW CamperSomo
Steve’s VW Camper

I headed off to Somo for a few days to meet up with Rob Clark & enjoyed a few quiet days on the beach there before returning to Bidart. We used to be able to drive onto the breakwater at Plage des Cavaliers & park up in those days & I remember sitting on the rocks lining the breakwater with Sid watching the waves.

The best waves we had all trip were at Cote des Basques. On several days running we had 4 – 6 foot waves peeling fast across the beach in glorious sunshine & warm water on a rising tide. I know Jake was made up with it, especially after 4 o’clock, when the local schoolgirls paddled out for a few waves! The weather was hot & sunny most of the time & poor old Sid’s head suffered a bit with sunburn. Even in the hottest weather, it was common in those days for doughnuts to be sold at the beach. At Bidart, a rather overweight youth used to stagger up & down the beach with a tray slung round his neck, full of apricot doughnuts. These were actually quite delicious and we reckoned that the youth was so fat because he had to eat all the unsold doughnuts at the end of the day.

There were many visits to the cafes in Bidart square & I remember Sid discovering wine in plastic bottles with flip off tops in the local Carrefour for about 30p a litre. The best bit was that they didn’t break if you were too pissed to hold onto them properly!

Cote De Basque
Cote De Basque

Whilst in Bidart, I parked the VW up on the beach road, behind the shed that housed the beach cleaning machine. The advantage of parking there was that you were shielded from the headlights of cars coming down the hill during the night to check the surf, or other nefarious activities; the disadvantage was being woken up at 6 a.m. every morning when the cleaning guy started the massive diesel engine & clattered off down to the beach. Perhaps not though, as an early start always got me into some solitary offshore waves, well solitary apart from Rob Clark who was also parked up at the beach.

Living by the beach at Bidart was one of the most unforgettable experiences. An early surf, followed by breakfast, preceded a walk up to the village (much quieter than it is today) for essential shopping & the first visit of the day to the café. Back to the beach for a sunbathe & a doughnut, followed by another surf before the tide gets too high. Then a long, hot, lazy afternoon before dinner and another walk up to the village for some more serious drinking & maybe a visit to the Pelote au Chistera at the Municipal Fronton before staggering back down the beach path to bed. I remember many evenings sitting on the wall overlooking the beach with Jake, watching the lightning storms over the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, hoping that they would clear by the morning, as they invariably would.

There was also a massed dinner one night at the restaurant by the traffic lights at Guethary, now sadly a double glazing shop, with most of the 18 of us in attendance.

France Crew 1980

The thing from this trip that really sticks in my mind was getting stranded at Cherbourg on the way home by a French fishermen’s strike, which closed the port for 3 days. It was a bit of a bore, but bearable for me as I had all the comforts of home with me in the VW, but for others, particularly families with young children, trying to live in car packed with holiday paraphernalia, parked up in the port with hundreds of others, it was no joke.

I remember the first ship to break the blockade was a Townsend Thoreson ferry which had charged through the picket line of French fishing boats with the fire hoses aimed at the strikers and ‘Rule Britannia’ being broadcast over the ships tannoy! I could even make out one of the officers on the bridge wearing a Viking helmet! This really annoyed the French, though, and negotiations to lift the blockade were brought to a halt, but their action did give us stranded Brits a psychological lift. When the time came, it was a relief to finally get onboard to sail home. The final indignity, though, was being docked 3 days pay for being late back to work!

I don’t suppose there will ever be another trip like the 1980 trip. That was just about the last year where there was the freedom to park up anywhere (except Guethary, eh Magic?) and stay overnight and before the advent of Ryanair flying vast hordes of horrid English people into Biarritz for £1. Bidart, in particular, has changed almost out of all recognition with development, new hotels, car parks, crowded breaks & hordes of the aforementioned horrid English people, although once on the beach, it is possible to lay back with your eyes shut & drift back to the golden era. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


Extreme Skateboarding

Surfers started Skateboarding on the Island back in the 1960’s after hearing about the craze taking off in California. It all started with wooden boxes or boards with roller skate wheels slapped on the bottom. Eventually companies were producing decks of pressed layers of wood similar to the skateboard decks of today.

By 1963 there were already big downhill slalom or freestyle competitions taking place. By 1965 it seemed that skatebaording had died and that it was just a craze. Coincidently it was probably about this time that surfers on the Island started their own experiments with wooden planks and roller skate wheels.

In 1972, Frank Nasworthy invented urethane skateboard wheels, which are similar to what most skaters use today but it was to be many years before this new invention was to be seen on the Island. In 1978 a skater named Alan Gelfand (nicknamed “Ollie”) invented a maneuver that gave skateboarding another revolutionary jump. He would slam his back foot down on the tail of his board and jump, thereby popping himself and the board into the air. The ollie was born, a trick that completely revolutionized skateboarding.

By the end of the 70’s skateboarding looked to be having it’s second death. Public skate parks had been being built and on the Island I remember one at Golden Hill Fort, but by the 1980’s they had started to crumble and were in a terrible state. Skateparks were starting to be forced to close. Through the 1980’s skateboarders started to built their own ramps. Skateboarding began to be more of an underground movement, skaters making the whole world their skatepark.

In April 1990 the first known advert for a mountainboard appeared in a freshly-formed Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. Although many people tried off road wheels on skateboards over the years no one has a true claim to have invented the first All Terrain Skateboard.

During the late 1980’s I remember being at Compton on a very small wind blown day and it was the sort of day you could guarantee that Dave Grey, Jason Matthews and a few of the others would be found skating the car park. There were a few of us hanging around chatting when I noticed Dave and Jason checking out the the grassy slope that was the way down to the beach (Where the top steps now are). This is long before anyone had thought of, or even seen off road wheels for skateboards on the Island. I grabbed my camera from Clive’s car thinking I was going to get some pics of great crashes.

Jason and Dave soon mastered the top bank and would come down the new concrete path a great speed each time eyeing up the muddy bank down to the beach. It was just too un-even and muddy and they eventually had to give up on the idea of getting all the way to the beach (but not without giving it a pretty good go). Dave wasn’t prepared to give up now and started to climb the cliff to the side of the path. At this point I really thought it was going to get messy but Dave get persevering. Although the drop from the top of the cliff turned out to be impossible Dave managed a pretty hairy drop from at least half way up the cliff.

Were Dave and Jason the first to achieve off road skateboarding on the Island, probably not, but here is the proof that they did it.


The Club Hut – by Keith Williams

The Club Hut – part 3 by Keith Williams

As mentioned in part 2 ‘The Surf Club is Formed’, the club was lucky enough to be able to rent one of the wooden ‘Bungalows’ at Compton from the National Trust for a very modest fee. In fact, I believe it was free, but we made a donation towards the upkeep of the car park each year.

The Surf Club Hut at Compton with John Ainsworth reading the National Trust notice board

In addition, parking in the car park was also free, provided you displayed your club membership card in the windscreen. I remember in the early days, the Hut was in quite good nick & you could ‘book’ the place to stay in over the weekend.

As is usual with communally owned property, it all went down hill, doors being forced, stuff broken and, horror of horrors, boards stolen. Gradually, the cliff edge got closer & closer to the hut; it was originally the inland end of a 3 hut ‘terrace’, but over time the two huts nearest the sea had been demolished as the cliff encroached.

Eventually, the time came when either our hut was demolished as well or it was moved or rebuilt back from the edge. At that time Sid worked for Cheek Brothers & was able to persuade their mobile crane driver to go out to Compton on a Saturday morning & lift the whole thing back to a new position away from the edge.

There was a lot of preparation to do making up a lifting sling arrangement, but the job was a good ‘un, despite the hut door never opening properly again! Eventually, the lease on all the bungalows in the compound ran out (they’d been there since the 1920s) & the National Trust wanted the structures removed to return the area to its natural state. After much lobbying the NT agreed that we could erect a new hut in the corner of the site near the toilet block. That meant that we had to raise the funds to have a new, custom made hut. It took a couple of years with jumble sales, film shows etc, but we eventually got our new hut in October 87.

As it was being installed on site, I said to the supplier, ‘It gets pretty windy here, how are you going to secure it to stop it blowing away?’ He replied rather off handedly that he wasn’t going to do anything about it.

The installation wasn’t complete in one day & he said he would come back the following weekend & finish off. Some of you may remember the Great Storm in Oct 87, mayhem all along the south coast, but one item that never made the news was the fact that the Isle of Wight Surf Club’s new hut had blown clean away & been smashed into a thousand pieces spread all along the Military Road!

There was quite an argument that followed. We refused to pay as we’d not received the goods & the supplier tried to take us to court, but legal opinion was in our favour as the keys to the building had not been handed over & therefore ownership had not passed from the supplier to the Surf Club. A new hut was ordered & constructed & eventually erected on site. By this time though, the club had gone into a bit of a decline, no-one wanted to leave an expensive board in the hut, & many surfers had acquired vans by this time, so few people used the hut for changing. Eventually the hut disappeared, but I had lost connection with the club by this time & I don’t know the reasons why or where it went.


Surf’s Up with IW History on Film

Sidney Pitman

‘Surf’s Up with IW History on Film’ by The Isle of Wight County Press