Posts Tagged ‘boards’

First Official Isle of Wight Surf Club Trip

The very first official IoW Surf Club trip was to Newquay at Easter in 1967 just after the club was formed. It seems like the Stone Age now.

The thinking was it would be relatively warmer by then and it would be a chance to surf some proper waves. It was the only available time off work so ferries were booked. Sleeping bags were bought from the army surplus store and old tents dug out as no one could afford a hotel then or even a guest house, that’s if they would let us in!!!!!!!!

The chance to use the newly acquired ‘MALIBU’ boards in Cornwall was too good to miss. Rudimentary wetsuits were acquired over the winter, being diving based or just sleeveless tops. Beaver tails were all the rage, being early examples of neoprene up to ½” thick, ideal for being slammed into a sandbar.

Of course there were some who had surfed all winter without one and didn’t think much of these new fangled things, ‘what’s wrong with a thick woollen jumper!’, Ned was a great exponent of this philosophy especially after a few pints.

The boards were bought in the autumn of the previous year, at the end of the season sale at ‘The Paint Spot’ which was located in the Diggey, an old area of Newquay which is now the Co-Op behind Towan beach. They were ex-hire boards and ranged in size from 9’6” – 10’6”, single fin jobs, slightly heavier than today’s slithers, almost resembling aircraft carriers, but when going would really fly.

These boards were a huge advance on the heavy wooden boards in use at that time, plywood traditional belly boards used with swim fins were soon obsolete and Malibu long boards were the thing with one downside, no leashes then, probably a good idea as one of these boards tied to your leg would have caused quite a bit of damage.

The enthusiasm for going to Cornwall was all wound up with the emerging surf culture, Bilbo’s surf shop and factory where a board would be made there and then to your spec and meeting Rod Sumpter who had just come back from California coming 5th in the world championship!!!!!.

So the Thursday before Easter soon came round and arrangements were made. We were to meet up at the pub in Crantock not far from Trevella camp site in the evening, as some could finish work early and get a surf in before dark, while others were still travelling down having to work till late.

A far as I can remember there was myself (Rog Backhouse), Sue Ellis, John Ainsworth, Rusty Long, Colin Burgess, Geoff ‘NED’ Gardener and Kev Digweed, but as they say about the Sixties ‘if you remember it you weren’t there’.

What a motley parade of antiquated cars there were from a Mini, a Standard 10, an A35, and a Hillman Minx, all with strange wings attached to the roof. Today we take it for granted, dial in the post code set the nav, select the play list on the whatever, load the drinks holders and off you go, 4hrs max. Not then, just getting off the Island was a complete pain following the directions of the British Rail staff onto the old tea tray of a ferry running at that time. Rough waves would come right through the car deck and out of the stern. There were far more rusty cars on the Island than anywhere. On foreign soil, the great north island, which way to go?? Head west on the A35 not quite Route 66 but that’s all we had, no dual carriageways, roundabouts, traffic lights and endless little roads going right through the main towns all the way.

Dorchester, Bridport, Axminster, the tunnel at the top of Charminster, and on to Exeter, occasionally the road became three lanes, with a suicide lane for overtaking, scary. And so onto the moors and Launceston with its really scary left turn round the castle walls. Fish and chips in Bodmin and pray it wasn’t foggy over the last bit to Indian Queens and then the relaxing bit into Newquay, knowing it wasn’t far and waves were waiting.

You might tell that I’ve driven this route many many times, driving down after work on Friday and coming back Sunday late, through the construction of the many bi-passes and motorways over the years. The worst drive ever was being stuck in Exeter on a August Bank Holiday when it took 18 hours to get home.

Were there waves? Of course, Great Western was really going off and we dragged our weary limbs down the beach and caught some really good right handers at high tide. If you know it, you’ll know what I mean. After a good surf, down the town to get something to eat and dry the wetties in the launderette at Towan and a look at the new boards at Bilbo’s.

There was and probably still is only one pub, ‘The Sailors’ in Newquay and many a story was told in there and plans hatched for trips all over the world as this was the time of the Hippie trail to India, and new discoveries and no boundaries to limit the new found freedoms.

Off to Trevella to put the tents up and get ready for the night and then to the rendezvous at Crantock where we said we would meet to discuss where to surf in the morning. There was no such thing as a surf forecast then, no Magic Seaweed or mobile phones, just a hunch or a quick look at the back page of the Telegraph newspaper for their Atlantic pressure chart.

After a long wait Ned eventually arrived and had a quick pint to liven himself up and told us about why he had been held up. Not knowing the road that well he had to take evasive action while taking the infamous corner in Launceston, and guess what the constabulary were waiting for just that occasion. After greeting the officer with his best imitation of Neddy Seagoon, “Evening Gilbert” a long conversation took place about where he was going with that strange thing on the roof, and ‘next time be a bit more careful son’. Whew !! at least the officer was a bit more humane and interested than official!!!!

After a long day it was time to get some sleep, some sleep was not what we got. Every half hour a tremendous roar was heard and a large aircraft barely made it over the camp sight, what was happening? Are we at war? Have aliens landed? Eventually all the noise died down and a little bit of exhausted sleep was had, but it was freezing, Easter in England!!!!!!!.

Soon the noise started again and to add to the discomfort the wind got up and there was a heavy squall with hailstones and sleet, retreat to the cars was the only option. Morning eventually came, a cup of tea and off into Newquay for breakfast and to check the surf out, but considerably slower than the day before, a sort of malaise had set in.

Fistral was big and exposed to the wind so back round to Towan and some nice shaped waves, others were already out making it quite crowded, 6 people. After parking up, donning wetties and lugging boards down the beach, the tide was going out.

A confusion of coastguards, police and council workers descended on us. Were we illegally parked? Had ‘Neds’ encounter the night before stirred things up? Were we being invaded? We were told quite forcibly to clear the beach immediately, but why?

Someone eventually told us what was going on, the tanker Torrey Canyon had run aground in the Scilly Isles and was spilling thousands of gallons of oil all along the coast. Answers to all our questions, the aeroplanes that had kept us awake were Long Range Shackleton Reconnaissance planes flying out of RAF St. Mawgan. A long way to come for no waves perhaps the little old Isle of Wight waves weren’t that bad. This was to turn out to be the worst environmental disaster to ever hit Cornwall and even the whole of the South West, of course the Government had no idea of how to deal with it.

This was a serious wakeup call as spraying had an even worse effect on the environment eventually leading to the bombing of the wreck by Buccaneers of the Navy. Although pretty depressing, it has lead to more stringent rules and regulations being introduced over the years, with protest movements having great effect over authority. Yet time and time again it has happened and probably will in the future.

A long drive back through the Easter traffic and a final catastrophe, I had lost my return ferry ticket!!!!!!!!

There was a lull in visits down west, but after a couple months the beaches were deemed usable and trips continued through ‘67. But a slight hic-up came, my future wife ,Sue, refused absolutely and completely forever ever to go camping in a tent ever again which lead to the purchase of a split – screen 1200cc, 6volt Volkswagen, under-powered or what!!!!!!!!!!! Porthtowan for the National Championships, Aggie in the badlands and good old Crantock.

Throughout 67-68 surfing equipment was evolving at a rapid rate, with the influence of the Aussies, V-bottoms, shorter boards and new ways of attacking waves but that’s another story……


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.


The Surf Cub is formed by Keith Williams

Sue came up & introduced herself and I remember her asking my girlfriend if she wanted to become a full member or just a ‘beach bunny’. That was the start of the best period of the Surf Club for me. In a matter of weeks the membership had grown to 90+ due in no small part to the CP ad. Friday night was the highlight of the week, with Clare Cottage bursting at the seams for the club meetings. Very soon there were movies being shown, mostly taken on 8mm by Dave Bottrell, and skateboarding down Spring Hill. I well remember Sid remarking that Merry Hughes (a quite well endowed young lady) had done a 6 point landing having fallen off her board halfway down. Hands,knees & boobs for those with no imagination. Also, a decision was taken as to where the club would be surfing at the weekend. Bear in mind that the majority of members had no board & were reliant on the good will of the established members, mainly the Ventnor crew, to borrow boards, thus meaning that everyone had to turn up at the same place at the same time. My belated thanks to Rog & Sue, John Ainsworth, Rusty Long & Colin Burgess.


‘The start of surfing on the Island’ by Pat Morrell

‘The start of surfing on the Island’ by Pat Morrell Hutch and I started body boarding at Compton in 1955. My parents rented one of the huts that were out there then. The boards were just flat plywood sheets – the “posh” people had boards with curved up noses but ours were home made. We […]