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.