Posts Tagged ‘Mick Thomson’

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.


Fearless at Freshie Bay

Saturday saw a huge swell hit the Island and I heard it was going off almost right around the Island (Would love to see some pics of the other side of the Island if anyone has any?). I managed to sneak down to the bay for an hour with my camera (was our wedding anniversary so I was supposed to be elsewhere) at lunchtime and then for a bit at dusk to see Chris Mannion, Matt Harwood, Will Rome, Phillip Skelley, Mark New and a couple of others take on some monsters. By lunchtime there was a light SW wind and it mean’t only half of the waves coming into the bay were makeable but it didn’t deter the boys from having a go.


Keith Williams & Friends

Personalities

Well, there have been so many. Some have had a mention earlier, others worthy of inclusion in this tome would be, in no particular order:-

Derek Rust, always known as BH Rusty, to differentiate him from Rusty Long, so called because of his propensity to exclaim ’Bloody Hell’ to everything. Derek worked in London during the week, always having to wear a suit & tie, and so when at home on the Island at the weekend, went about looking like a scarecrow. He owned a 1950’s Austin Metropolitan coupe, in which he would roar into Compton car park, jam on the handbrake & leap out before the thing had come to a standstill. Inevitably, one day he miscalculated & hit something, unfortunately I can’t remember what. Derek was always enthusiastic & would talk you into going in on rubbish because he’d convinced you ( & himself!) that the waves would get better as the tide came up / went out / wind dropped / picked up etc. After a sojourn in California he’s returned to the Island and can still be seen eying up the waves at Compton now & again.

Robert Haines, better known to one & all as Rex started surfing in the 70’s with his buddies Mike Thomson & Dave Downer & ran an old Ford Anglia until it was well past it’s sell by date. Rex was always there when the surf was up and was always up for a trip away, at least until he & the other Island surfers with him got thrown off the Trevella campsite for being drunk & disorderly!

Ron Munt, not a surfer, I know, but as dispenser of teas, coffees & High-energy fruit pies, most of us oldsters will remember him with some affection. Not, however, the lady who asked him for some water one day with which to take some medicine; he said that the water was free, but he’d have to charge her 2p for the cup!

Geoff ‘Ned’ Gardener, now sadly gone for many years. Ned was introduced to me all those years ago on my first visit to Clare Cottage as the club’s Big Wave Rider. And it was true, I saw Ned take the biggest wave at Compton from right out back on a gnarly, wind blown, winter swell on a long board with no leash or wetsuit & he rode it, white water & all, right up the beach. Rory Angus was coming down the hill from Freshwater towards Compton Chine & saw Ned take off & Ned was just walking up the beach as Rory got out of his car at Compton; that’s how far out he was. I also remember one club evening at Clare Cottage when Ned came in & announced that his new board had arrived from Bilbo’s. At that, we all trooped off to his house to have a look. I don’t think his Mum was too pleased to have 30 or so surfers crowding into their lounge to admire Ned’s board which had pride off place, nestled down among the cushions on the sofa. Ned liked a beer now & again and at one of the Porthtowan Championships that we attended, he staggered back from the bogs in the Porthtowan Inn mumbling about a dog that was as big as he was. We eventually discovered an ordinary sized dog & drew the conclusion that Ned had been on his hands & knees at the time! Ned also had the endearing habit of calling everyone ‘Gilbert’.

Bob Ward’s family ran the Bugle Hotel in Newport & I have fond memories of having days out with him & Rusty Long, chasing waves. I don’t think Bob had a car at that time & Rusty would occasionally pick him up as well as me on the way out to Compton. Bob could be a bit brash at times, but he was a better surfer than Russ & I put together, and then some, and he would always ask us up to his room in the hotel when we got back & order up a huge tray of tea, toast & marmalade in a catering sized tin for us all. I remember one big swell at Freshwater when Bob decided that it would be easier to paddle out from the beach on the west end of the bay, rather than out from in front of the Albion. It took him ages & I didn’t think he would make it as he was getting hit by every wave. He was determined, though, and after about half an hour’s paddling, he made it outside.

Clive Richardson is another guy that deserves a mention here, not necessarily because of great adventures shared, but for the many, many laughs we had together. Remember the Pork Scratchings, Clive?

Then there was Dave Paddon, again, gone now for many years. Dave was a hardened smoker & could often be seen knee paddling out on smaller days with a cigarette between his lips. He even took to wearing a wide brimmed hat, which he said kept his fag dry if he had to punch through a lip!

There were, and are, of course, many, many others, too many to mention individually, but I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for making my life so much richer than it may have otherwise been.

Up to Date

In the early 90s I injured my back & had to lay off surfing for a couple of years until it got better. When I restarted, I spent about 9 months trekking out to the coast in search of waves, but there seemed little to be had. One weekend, the weather charts looked good for Sunday, & it was an early tide so I dragged myself out of bed and pulled into Compton by 6 o’clock only to be faced with a swell of about 6 inches. “That’s it” I thought, “I’m not going to waste any more time or money on this” and so more or less gave up surfing on the spot. As it happens, my back problem recurred shortly after and has only receded in the last year or so.

When I look back to the 60s, it’s a wonder that anyone surfed on the Island. None of the essentials were available locally, you couldn’t even get baggies (are they a thing of the past now?) & surfing sweatshirts on the Island. Perhaps that’s why so many people made their own kit & why Rog Cooper, Tad Ciastula & Derek Tompson eventually became fairly major suppliers in the industry.

They say that there are Surfers, and people who surf. I’ve always considered myself to be a Surfer and still do. I still go to the Basque country for my holidays when I can, and I still manage to boogie & bodysurf in the nice warm waters down there. A holiday isn’t a holiday unless there are waves to be had. I still have my 9 foot BoardWalk board and harbour some ambition to make a serious attempt to start surfing again when I have more time on my hands. I can’t think of a better way to keep fit into retirement; I’m sure that my years of surfing have helped me to keep reasonably fit until now.

I guess I’m old fashioned in that the modern trend for tricks, aerials, 360s etc is not how I want to surf. For me Surfing is about joining with nature, harnessing its power and going with the flow (typical ‘60s hippy outlook!), and not about obliterating the wave and trying to become absolute master of it. Humans will never become masters of the sea, it may allow them to utilise it for their own ends for a while, but they will never truly be its master.

Surf on.


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.


Andrew Haworth

Andy Haworth

All of you who came to the movie night back in October will remember the great surf movie ‘Devon Lanes and Longboarding’ by Andrew Haworth. Andrew made the film to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Andrew’s sister was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer just over a year ago. So far the film has made over £2,500 for the charity. If you are interested in buying a copy of the movie you can get by going to the website is www.born2surf.info.

Andrew has ties to the Isle of Wight Surf Club from the late 1970’s when he was studying at Portsmouth University. ‘Between 1977 and 1980 I was a student at Portsmouth Uni (then Poly). A mad keen surfer I started a university surf club there.’ Andrew had no transport at the time but had a board with him. In 1978 Andrew wrote to the IOW surf club president (Steve Williams?) to ask about surf on the island and if he could get a bus from the ferry to the beaches.

Andrew was referred to another member (Clive Richardson) who offered to pick him up, stay with him and drive him round all the breaks for a whole weekend! ‘How friendly and hospitable! It was brilliant’, says Andy.

The first time Andrew came across to the Island, Clive turned up in his customised VW Beetle (the Raspberry Ripple he called it) ‘as a young 19 year old I thought it was all so cool. He showed me all the breaks and I even think we managed to find a wave at Compton.’

‘Many other such weekends followed and I had a great time, went to a few surf club social do’s etc.’

Andrew remembers that Steve Williams had an older brother Keith who surfed and remembers going to a film evening one night at Mike Smith’s house. He was a local surfer who was into 8mm filming.

Andrew also remembers that club members used to create huge mud slides down the cliffs at Compton when the surf was flat. ‘Great times – even had some good surfs!’

‘VW Beetle ‘Crystal Voyager’ I’m sure is the successor to the Raspberry Ripple owned by Clive. I remember he inherited the car from his Mum in the very early 1980’s – and couldn’t wait to customise it of course!’

‘I remember bringing a few guys from the Uni Surf Club over to the Island for a weekend, it would be 1979 or 80. We came across in an old Ford Cortina Mk2 Estate car and smuggled 2 of the guys in the boot as we couldn’t afford the full ferry charges. Happy days!’

IOW Surf Club Members 1979-1980 who may remember Andrew’s visits.

Dave Downer
Cathy Watson
Mrs Carol Crawley
Graham Baldwin
John Wykes
Den Butler
Rog Butler
Mick Thomson
Colin Richardson
Clive Richardson
Martin Trigg
Ian Burnham
Dave Long
David Jones
John Hartnell
Steve Williams
Graham Skelley
Dave Phillips
Ray Hutchings
W. Hawkins
H. Vertiy
Sid Pitman
Malc Dredge
D. Williams
H. Giffin

Couple of shots taken at Compton. I think its around 1983/4. My wife and I went camping on the Island to see Clive. I’m guessing it was around June time. We spend the day on the beach, it was hot and sunny and there was a small clean wave. Don’t know who the surfers were, but you or other locals might be able to identify them. Hope they’re of interest.


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.


Perfect Swells

“one of those days that will be etched in everyone memory as being one of the best swells anyone has seen for a long time”