Posts Tagged ‘portrait’

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?


The Shutes

The Shutes are a four-piece from the Isle of Wight who make well-crafted indie-rock with psychedelic and surf flourishes. The Shutes are Chris Jones, Michael Champion, Dave Champion and Rob Potter.

“The most far our rock ‘n’ roll joyride to leave the Isle of Wight since August 31st 1970, when Hendrix’ trailer pulled out” – NME

The band grew up on the Isle of Wight and still live and record on the island, taking their name from a long, winding pathway known as ‘the Shute’ which runs down the cliff edge to the shore near their homes.

The band formed about 5 years a go when Mike, Chris and Rob got together for a jam having met through playing in other bands. Within a few months they were playing gigs in London and released their first cd soon. The band has toured Europe three times, playing in Hamburg, Berlin, Zurich, Vienna to name but a few. They have supported the likes of The Go! Team, The Bees, Alexander Ebert and Peter, Bjorn and John and will be supporting Level 42 at Northwood Park this Jubilee weekend.

In recent years The Shutes have headlined at the ‘Barfly’ and Koko in London and closer to home have played the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival for the last 4 years. In 2011/12 The Shutes recorded in London studios their latest release, ’Echo of Love’ which was released earlier this year.

Chris and Mike met through surfing on the Island. Mike grew up surfing around Niton while Chris’s local breaks were Compton and Freshwater Bay. It was a few years before they both realised they had a passion for music.

Mike was inspired by the likes of Raff with his retro style and Chris started surfing with people like Dougie Richards, Ian Pacey and friends.


Beach Clean a huge success

A huge thakyou to everyone who made the effort and put in some really hard graft in the cold a wet weather to help clear up the rubbish from the beach last Saturday. We shifted at least 6 big Biffa bins (6600 litres) of plastics and other debris from the beach at Compton Farm Beach (Fields).

A couple of weeks a go I posted a picture of some of the rubbish and asked it anyone would get together with me to help clear some of the rubbish at Compton Farm Beach. It got a fantastic response and then I disapeared off to Wales for a nice long weekend. When I got back Oli Harvey and Matt Harwood from the Isle of Wight Surf Club had done an absolutely fantastic job organising everything. They had got in touch with the SAS (Surfers Against Sewage), Robin Lang at the National Trust and Biffa bins, done advertising, organised bags and gloves. Great work guys and a big thank you from everyone who enjoys Compton Beach to all involved.

The majority of the rubbish was from boats and mainly plastics but also lethal entaglements of fishing line and ropes. It is very concerning for our marine and bird life along our coast. I am sure you have all seen what can happens to these animals if they get caught up in fishing lines or rope.

Well done, it’s your beach so take ownership of it.


Compton Farm Beach Clean

This is my favourite beach on the Isle of Wight but not how I wish to see it. 20-30 people with a black bin bag could have it all cleared in an hour or two. Surfers , walkers and other beach users walk past like it isn’t there. I know the National trust employ a beach warden for the summer months and eventually they will have it all cleared but with the warm spring 1000’s of people have been down on the beach since those lovely weeks in February. This is the home to the Glanville Fritillary Butterfly amongst many others but it looks like a rubbish tip right now. Most of the waste is from storm/tide/ships but there is also plenty of rubbish every year left on the grass & cliffs by people having bbqs/camp fires etc

Anyone interested helping me get this cleared up please let me know. Provisionally we are looking at Saturday May 5th 2012.


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.


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.


Isle of Wight Surfing Exhibition 2012

The ‘Wight Surf History’ Project opens its 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.


200 Years of Art in Surfing

If you are planning a trip west this year this is a must see. Pete Robinson and his team at the British Museum of Surfing are opening their new exhibition in Braunton this weekend 6th April 2012. They have done a fantastic job over the last few years, uncovering great stories going back over 200 years and have also collected some amasing artefacts, surfboards, wetsuits, pictures and much much more….


Wight Surf History Exhibition 2012

The ‘Wight Surf History’ Project opens its 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 […]


Zoe Sheath

English Nationals “As for the Women it was Zoe Sheath aged only 15 who took both the Womens Open and Under 18 titles. Zoe pulled out big backhand snaps and floaters in the final to claim her prize as Headworx English Womens Champion. She explained “the standard has really improved over the years for the […]


Chris Thomson

Chris Thomson grew up on the Isle of Wight, learning to surf at an early age with one dream, ‘surfing’. Chris left school at 16 and went to Newquay to live his dream, he became a surf coach and had a successful competition career with big name sponsors O’Neill and Fat Face before starting ‘Errant […]


SAS Big Spring Beach Clean 2012

SAS needs your hands on the beach at Grange Chine, Sun 25th March, Arrive 15:00

The annual SAS Big Spring Beach Clean has been removing marine litter from UK beaches for many years with the help of community volunteers. SAS are today calling on the coastal communities across the UK to join them for the SAS Big Spring Beach Clean at beaches nationwide on 24th & 25th March to help make this year’s event the biggest ever.

Spring time sadly reveals the true severity of the marine litter issue. After a long winter of storms, before local council beach cleaning operations begin for the summer season, the accumulation of litter can often seem at its worst. The amount of marine litter found on UK beaches has almost doubled in the last fifteen years, with a shocking 1,969 litter items found on every kilometre of coastline*. Typical examples of marine litter include rubbish from beach users, sewage-related debris, waste from commercial shipping, nets and fish boxes from fishing vessels and medical waste.

SAS Big Spring Beach Clean events will be led by SAS Regional Reps & SAS Lead Volunteers, with confirmed locations including:

Be there people! Open to everyone. Bring some gloves and plastic bin bags, we will have some to borrow but if you bring your own it will be really useful.


Groms – Frost Bite 2012

Saturday saw the first Rappanui Frostbite Event of 2012. Due to small waves, it was decide that just the Juniors should run. With a clean but small swell the groms took to the water.

Semi-final 1 saw Matt Townsend dominate the heat with a tight battle for the second spot to the final. With some great surfing and long rides Kirra Bell just edged out Jamie King and Toby Green.

Semi-final 2 was another tight affair but Dylan Hamlet styled through in first spot but it came down to a tie and a count back to determine the second place. Dom Arnold in the end just edged out Tom Francis for the final’s berth.

The final saw a dropping tide and swell but the finalist made the most of the conditions. Dom caught some great waves, Kirra contiued to find some really long rides but it in the end despite some great turns by Matt Townsend it was Dylan Hamlet with some really stylish surfing who won through. Island legend commented on how well he thought all the groms were surfing especially Kirra and Dylan.

Great to see the groms getting better all the time. With only one event down the Rapanui Frostbite series is wide open.

1st Dylan Hamlet

2nd Matt Townsend

3rd Kirra Bell

4th Dom Arnold

=5th Tom Francis

=5th Jamie King

7th Toby Green

Massive thanks to Ollie, RDK, Mandy, Bump, Joshy and Dave Gray for his Horn!


Two Closely Matched in Senior Final

A Stiff onshore breeze rendered the three to four foot surf bumpy and unpredictable for the IW Surf Club’s 17th annual competition at Compton Bay on Sunday, but an increasingly high standard of surfing was displayed as the competition progressed.

A close first heat saw Clive Richardson, Graham Skelley and Steve Williams proceed to the next stage in favour of Wayne Bradley, Mike Smith and Gail Streets, the only lady competitor.

Heat two produced and clear winner in Ray Hutchings. Barney Barnes and Dave Downer knocked out Roger Butler, Colin Graham and Dave Jacobs, thereby joining Hutchings in the final.

Meanwhile, a thriving junior section enabled the club to stage a special event for the under 16’s in which they demonstrated the rapid progress made this summer.

A worthy winner of this section was Paul Blackley who was presented with a trophy.

Conditions for the senior final improved with the diminishing wind, making for smoother if slightly smaller waves.

Hutchings, Richardson and Williams quickly established themselves with good, solid surfing in the available action., and a close result became likely.

Barnes, Skelley and Downer all surfed with competence but were eventually outclasse.

Richardson consolidated his earlier success with several long, left and right breaking waves which earned him thrid place.

Williams, riding a conventional single-fin board, and Hutchings, on a tri-fin design, were closely matched throughout the event.

It was Hutchings , however who edged ahead in the closing stages with a right-breaking wave, tightly ridden earning him a high score.

Final placings awarded by judges Dave Jacobs and Ann Macpherson were –

Ray Hutchings, 82 points
Steve Williams, 76
Clive Richardson, 67


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………..


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……


IOW Surf Club – 10 Years on

In March 1977 the Isle of Wight Surf Club became 10 years old and in the winter issue of Wight Water magazine, Keith Williams wrote a great piece on his personal view of the previous 10 years.

Ten Years On: A Personal View – by Keith Williams

Not until reading this will many people know that in March ’77, the IOW Surf Club celebrated its 10th birthday. “So what?” you may ask. Well, my first excursion on a “Malibu” surfboard was 11 years a go. The board was 9 ft. 6″ long, made of polystyrene foam sandwiched with plywood and coated in polyester resin, made by Mike Hutchinson.

1966 and Mike Hutchinson’s board

“Sure”, he said , “You can have a go. Just lie on it, face the shore and paddle for the white water – don’t shoot the curl!” I was lost – what did ‘shoot the curl’ mean; how did you paddle, in fact how on earth did you lie on the bloody thing without falling off? Some time after the disatrous outing, I went out surfing with Mit Sidpan and Ben Kelly of Kelly’s left fame. Watching Sid was a help to me even though I still couldn’t catch waves. It wasn’t until I joined the IOW Surf Club in March ’67 that I began to see the light.

All the surfing terminology was soon explained and because most of us were still at the learning stage, we all seemed to help each other with learning techniques. Developement was still very slow: I remeber that it took me nearly 3 months to get a ride in which I didn’t wipe out within 3 seconds of standing up, and that was on a longboard too! Compare that with today when newcomers are given the benefit of up to 10 years experience by established surfers. People who, until now, have had only one winter’s worth of waves are really getting it together, considering the greater difficulties involved with short boards.

People like Rog Backhouse and John Ainsworth, (who was one of the best surfers on the Wight when I joined the Surf Club), are still surfing. Most of the original members have drifted away through marriage, mortgage or moving. Some veteran surfers do make comebacks, Ned Gardner is getting into the water again after a lay off of about 6 – 7 years, and really enjoying it. Nice one Ned. Some of the old timers still appear now and again, although they seem to have lost the vitality and aggression that made them good durfers 10 years a go.

During the last 10 years every aspect of surfing and surfing equipment has improved. Foam is lighter and stronger, as is the fibreglass itself; wetsuits are especially tailored to the surfers’ needs and readily available now. Even skateboards have undergone a technological revolution. Obviously during a period such as this when hardware has improved, surfing performance must have improved at a proportionate rate – today’s average surfer can easily outperform yesterday’s hot dogger, although grace and style of a longboard surfer is hard to achieve on today’s boards. Surfing has become a very individual thing, there are almost as many styles and techniques as there are surfers.

Even after a long period of development, a surfer’s individual style is still recognisable, his attitude and posture on a board still having the same characteristics, which seem to be an integral part of the body even carried through to other activities like skateboarding.

Surfers are much more self sufficient now than in the 60’s, when about 30 of us used to sit around the downstairs room at Clare Cottage on a Friday evening, debating where we would get the best swell conditions on the following day. Once decided, everybody without exception, would duly arrive at the appointed place. Nobody would go in on their own, it was usually “I’d come in if you want to go in”.

Surfing equipment in those days covered a wide variety of construction techniques and design concepts. Plywood/Polystyrene sandwiches; hollow ply construction with solid rails (usually necessitating at least 2 drain plugs); polystyrene sealed with either ‘Cascamite’ wood glue or, less successfuly with papier mache, and glassed over the top. These were just a few of the combinations tried by home constructors. Designs also followed almost as many different avenues as construction techniques – whilst I was endeavering to make an 8 ft. x 24″ polystyrene – cascamite – glass virtually flat board with a removable fin in an aluminium skeg box, Rog Cooper was making an 11′ 3″ monster of similar construction with a hollow scooped bottom and an 1/8″ thick aluminium skeg – specially honed for the annual influx of grockles!

Durfing these early days many were the arguments that raged on a Friday evening at Clare Cottage about the relative merits of this and that. However, as time passed, better communication with the outside world by way of magazines, films, and trips away taught us the basic construction methods and what we could expect from each type of board design. All this was upset in 1969 when the shortboard and vee bottom revolution hit the surfing world. This revolution wss orginated by the so called Power Surfers of Australia. Bob McTavish and Nat Young really shook up the rest of the surfing world when they took their short, deep vees to Haliewa in Hawaii. Since then surfboard design has evolved again along many different avenues. Construction techniques have also undergone a critical scrutiny from major manufacturers. Honeycomb construction, hollow boards, even back to Balsa strips, have been tried in the last few years. However it would seem that the basic construction of polyurethane foam and GRP is here to stay. Board designs are developing all the time, short to long, to side to narrow – where will it all end? Probably when you as an individual do not want anything more from your board. Some people may never reach that stage; their surfing improving all the time – searching in vain for the perfect vehicle!

So where does this leave the IOWSC after 10 years of change and of fluctuating levels of interest? Gone are the days when any one who was vaguely interested in surfing automatically became a member. At present there are a number of surfers on the Island who show no interest in the club whatsoever and many more who sometimes pay their yearly subs, and sometimes not, but who still attend the club functions and use club facilities. These absentees, however temporary, must be drawn (back) into the club to strengthen it in as many ways as possible – not least financially. Obviously the more members there are the more each member can get out of the Club, not only in enjoyment of more films etc. but in communication, competition and companionship.

The IOWSC has contributed to making the last 10 years the most entertaining and fulfilling years of my life, from the day I walked up the path at Clare Cottage and met a ginger haired bloke in faded jeans and a sloppy jumper (John Ainsworth as I later discovered).

Now, after 10 years I hope that the club has given and will give in the future as much enjoyment to the rest of you as it has to me.


Successful Year For Surf Club

Article from a local paper 17/2/68

The first annual meeting of the I.W.Surf Club was held at the Clubhouse, Ventnor on Friday week.

Mr R. Backhouse (chairman) said that surfing was a new sport to the Island and he had encountered literally hundreds of people who had said it could not be done here, but members had surfed successfully and gained much experience. Mr Rod Sumpter, the European Surf Champion and Honorary President of the club, had commented that Freshwater Bay was one of the best point breaks in the British Isles.

From a nucleus of six founder members last April, the club had grown to the present membership of 70 enthusiasts. Well over £1000 had been invested by the 38 individulas who had purchased the costly surfboards. A dozen members had invested in wetsuits at a total cost of £250. Surfers had rescued three swimmers out of their depth at Compton Bay during the season. The Management Committee of the Sandown Shanklin Rugby Football Club (The Hurricanes) had approved in principle a proposition for the Surf Club to use their new Clubhouse at present under construction.

Mr R. Long (hon. treasurer) reported a balance in hand of £16. The membership fee was raised for the coming year from 13s to 21s.

Officers elected were: President Mr Rod Sumpter; chairman, Mr P. Bardon; hon secretary, Miss L. Kent; hon. treasurer, Mr R. Long; Committee, Messrs. R. S. Pitman, I. Vallender, K. Williams and D. Paddon.


Dave Gray wins the 1980 IOW Surf Club Contest

The 1980 Annual was finally wrapped up on 22 March. A meaty depression prowling round the mouth of the Channel produced totally maxed out Compton with onshore gales and waves breaking way out in the bay half way between the carpark and the most westerly visible point of the Tennyson Down. There was no alternative but to most the contest east of Niton to Hope, where it underway at midday.

A disappointment after the Saturday which was gutsy at 4-5 feet with very nice inside sections, the waves only managed to struggle up to 2 feet at most for the first heat. However, the six contestants in this heat made the most of a bad job, with Marcus Lloyd dominating to the accompaniment of raucous cheering from the kids on the cliff above and ‘Come on Marcus, give it some welly’ from his girlfriend. Mike Smith slid a few to the very inside, as did Dave Jacobs, but Simon Rolfe and Chris Hollis really needed bigger waves to show off their repertoire to its best advantage. Who didn’t?

Heat Two ripped, slashed and bogged out in similar waves – in fact there were a couple of reasonably-sized sets to break the monotony! Perennial champ Dave Gray adopted a ‘ride anything’ policy which paid off – he won his heat. Steve Williams and Mark Todd followed him through to the finals.

Yes, finals! As the tide dropped out, allowing the swell to break a bit bigger and more consistently, the six finalists paddled out for the decider. Keith slid from further out on a borrowed longboard (the right tool for the job?). Steve broke his fin off half way through a kick-out in the shore break and had to swap boards before many minutes of the final had passed. Dave and Marcus, being goofy, rode mainly lefts, the latter obeying his beach-callers instructions, giving it welly wherever possible, whereas the other four shared the remaining rights amongst them.

Final results were:1 Dave Gray, 2 Marcus Lloyd, 3 Keith Williams, 4 Steve Williams, 5 Mark Todd, 6 Dave Jacobs. Thanks to everyone who helped with the contest, in particular the judges Ann Macpherson and Dave Bottrell; Tony Macpherson for providing the duck-caller (modern technology!) and gallons of frothing tea; Steph for the coconut; especially our hallowed Hon Pres, Sir John, for traipsing from one side of the Island to the other with us, in search of waves – bless their cotton Damarts!

(taken from a 1980 issue of Wight Water Magazine)


Turtles, West Java in 1994

While travelling in New Zealand, Richard Holmes from Newcastle, Richard Harvey and myself (Paul Blackley) had been told of a secret spot in West Java called ‘Turtles’. We had learnt of a place where there were no crowds and epic barrels but that it was well off the beaten track and would take at least a couple of days to get there from Bali.

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It sounded too good to be true, after all those years of watching ‘Morning of the Earth’, ‘Crystal Voyager’, Endless Summer’ and other classic surf movies I couldn’t believe we were actually on an adventure to surf somewhere that was still thought of as a secret.

After some great waves on Bali we travelled across to the western tip of the Island and the port of Gilimanuk to catch the ferry to Ketapang and Banyuwangi in Java. I think the Bemo driver was having a laugh with us as he dropped everyone off, but took us another mile down the road where we had to get another Bemo back to the ferry port. On the ferry we met a very friendly Javanese guy who insisted we come and eat dinner at his families’ restaurant once we had disembarked from the ferry.

The train journey ahead was a long one and we were not prepared. Everything we did was on the cheap so to maximise our stay (the full 2 months we had on our visas) in Indonesia. We had opted for the economy class train (it must have saved us at least £2 each) which took about 14 hours to get to Surabaya. What we didn’t realise was that it stopped 3 times at every station. Just before the station to let the street sellers on, and then again after the station to let them off. You can only understand how crazy you start to feel after a few hours of this, if you have experienced it yourself.

Being the only Europeans on the train we got a lot of interest and always had people wanting to talk to us and the sellers always trying to get us to buy fruit, rice and all sorts of other things. It was a great way to try new things and we ate rice out of big green leaves and tried some very spiky and knobbly looking fruit.

Obviously being on a train for that many hours at some point nature calls and I needed to know if there was a toilet on the train. Thankfully the lady next to me said I would need to go to the end of the carriage. When I got to the end of the carriage, which took some time as the train was extremely full now, there were two guys standing in the open door of the toilet. I gestured that I needed to go in there and they just squeezed to one side to allow me in. I now realised that the toilet was just a cupboard with no door and a whole in the floor and the tracks zooming by beneath me, which I was now sharing extremely closely with two other guys. At this point I decided that nature must have been calling someone else and I went back to my seat.

At some point during the journey a young lad/lady (not sure which but you know what I mean) spotted us and started to talk loudly in Javanese to us. We had no idea what he/she was saying but everyone else on the carriage thought it was hilarious at which point he/she decided to sing to us. The carriage was so crowded all we could do was sit and smile politely. Richard Harvey won’t remember any of this because he was so traumatised by the whole experience. Don’t worry Rich, he/she wasn’t interested in us, only Richard Holmes (the good looking ex model – so he kept telling us). Getting no reaction from us the he/she quickly moved on.

After a couple of train changes, travelling through Surabaya and Yogaykarta we eventually arrive at Bandung where we spend the night feeling a little frazzled. We now need to find transport to take us south. It was really hectic, all we wanted was to get to the beach and get some waves. Eventually we think we’ve found a Bemo that is going where we want to go. The driver takes our surfboards and to our horror attempts to tie them to the roof with a bit of string and our leashes, before piling on crates of chickens and suitcases and anything else that won’t fit inside the Bemo. He assures us everything is fine and ushers us into the Bemo. If you haven’t been in one of these little mini buses in Indonesia you will find that they don’t tend to use their brakes very often and just honk the horn a lot. We saw quite a few bemos in ditches, or with passengers helping to turn them back onto their wheels after rolling, luckily not the one that we were in.

The Bemo drops us off at the closest stop to Turtles and we decide to spend the night in this tiny village. All we knew was that Turtles was near Genteng, so we found a losman for the night and walked to the nearest restaurant. There was one person in the Restaurant, a very tall man dressed in an extremely smart military uniform who came straight over to talk to us. He turned out to be the General of the near by Air Force base and his name sounded something like Superman, I wasn’t going to argue with him. The General turned out to be really friendly and at the end of the evening paid for our meals.

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The next morning we arranged for someone to drive us to Mamas Losman a mile or so from the break we’d heard so much about. When we arrived at Mamas we were greeted by an Aussie, Ben White from Cronulla. Ben was really pleased to see us as he was there on his own and hadn’t surfed that day, saying a couple of others had left the day before. Ben was in the middle of repairing a broken fin on his surfboard and said he wasn’t keen to surf Turtles on his own. We soon get settled in and get our mosquito nets up in our rooms.

Located in front of a prawn factory, the local spot name is Pangumbahan, but known as Turtles because it’s near the Turtles nest. With luck you will surf with the Turtles (I think I was the only one NOT to see any Turtles – Gutted).

Turtles lurches abruptly onto the dead coral reef, making the take-off critical, and then leading into some hooked walls and nice barrel sections at lower tides. It gets classic and is pretty consistent although the south easterly winds usually pick up throughout the day, so best early morning. You must remember to kick out before the sudden shutdown section at the rusty pipe pylons.

We were told we would probably need a couple of boards to cope with what it could throw at us. A quiver here would be shortboards from 5’9″ – 6’6″ (with swallow tail, roundpin tail, round tail) or semi-gun 6’8″ – 7’4″. You need fast board if you want to make the really fast left hand Barrels, but at high tide, you can ride a much smaller board. (Designs have changed a lot since the earlt 90’s so this may be slightly inaccurate now)

The very next morning after an amazing breakfast, (I think it was like a rice pudding but was delicious) we headed off down the track towards Turtles in anticipation. I was quite nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Along the way a dog from the local village joined us darting in and out of the bush chasing something (that didn’t help my nerves).

Once we reached the break, I must have stood there for a few minutes with my mouth open. It was one of the most amazing waves I’d ever seen and quite close to shore. The sea was a gorgeous blue with these perfect head high barrels breaking over the reef. Ben explained where we should try to enter the water, right between the pilings where it looked to be sucking dry over the reef.

Rich Holmes went down onto the beach to do some yoga to warm up and I decided to grab a few pics. As Ben entered the water he made it look easy paddling out to the line up very quickly. Next up was Rich Harvey, he looked nervous and stood and watched it for a while. Eventually Rich went for it and it looked like he got sucked out to the line up very quickly. After Rich Holmes had paddled out it was time for me to get in. I had brought two boards with me and had opted to go with the bigger board which was a 7’4” x 18″ x 2 1/4″ (we were riding very thin, narrow boards back then) MCD semi gun shaped by Kym Thompson (Watercooled surfboards) until I felt comfortable (lol). The other three were goofy footers with me being a natural, it meant I was on my backhand (and I’ve never been great on my backhand).

I stepped up to the pilings and watched a wave come up and jumped in. It all seemed ok to start with and then as the water rushed out to meet the next wave it got very shallow and the reef was only an inch or two under my knuckles. I knew if I’d got this wrong it was going to get messy and it was looking bad as the next wave started to close over the reef. The 7’4” wasn’t the easiest thing to duck dive and with only a couple of inches of water under me, I just made myself as small as possible and shut my eyes. Somehow the last rush of water pulled me just under the lip and I was spat out the back.

Once in the line up the first thing I noticed was that the waves seemed to come out of nowhere. You couldn’t really see much of a wave looking out to the horizon but a few feet a way they would rise out of the deep. With only 4 of us in the water we just took turns grabbing waves. The only problem with this, was there was no waiting to grab a small one for my first wave. The smaller waves through the inside actually seemed to have a more critical take off than the set waves out the back anyhow.

Ben had told us the take off was critical and that we needed to be quick to our feet but I wasn’t ready and first wave up and I went over the falls. It felt like I had been dragged up and thrown over a second time before I came up, but it wasn’t too bad. I went back for more and soon mastered the drop and found I could push as hard as I could, driving through the bottom turns on my backhand.

Once out on the face of the wave, initially I would just try to go as fast as I could to safety, but as the tide pushed up I started having a blast. Rich Holmes was on a 6’6” and he was about 6’ tall. I watched him go over the falls on take off over and over again but eventually he got it sussed, I’ve never seen anyone take off so late. Our first days surf and we were stoked.

Everytime we turned up to surf at Turtles the guys from the prawn factory wwould come down to watch. They were all really friendly but communication was brief as we knew very little Javanese and they didn’t know any English.

When we got back to Mamas two more surfers from Cronulla, had just turned up, Francis Crossle and Ken Cantor. Francis is a physiotherapist who a few years later was physio for Tina Turner when she played in Sydney. Ken Cantor was a water photographer and Knee Boarder who had had two cover shots for Tracks magazine. Francis and Ken couldn’t believe that they had travelled to this tiny remote spot in Indonesia only to find three Pommies already there. It was soon time for dinner and more great food was laid on, with lots of freshly caught fish and rice.

Next morning we were all up early looking forward to more great waves. The comradeship in the water was the best I’ve ever experienced with guys I’d only known a day or two, shouting each other into waves and hooting every time someone took the drop. It definitely helped when it was my turn to go and I was lined up for one of the bigger sets with the other guys shouting go go go…..

Francis would charge anything and Ken was taking some of the latest drops I’d ever seen on his knee board and getting really deep in the barrel.

Over the next few days as we all started to gain more confidence and take more chances. This resulted in injuries and I think I was first with a nice fin cut to the side of my foot that needed paper stitches and busted fins on my board.

That afternoon I decided to keep out of the water but still go and take some pics. The swell had got up, but the wind had picked up too, making some challenging conditions. Francis seemed to be in his element taking some big drops, but Ben who had been getting barrel after barrel earlier was struggling to do the same in the bumpy conditions only making it out of about half this session. After being pitched a few times Ben came in and his back looked raw after being scraped along the reef.

The next morning when we got to the break there was a guy already out. Where did he come from? He wasn’t staying at Mamas and as far as we knew there was nowhere else to stay. The guys name was Ashley from Western Australia and he was staying with a family from the local fishing village with his sister and two of her friends. Ashley seemed to know the break pretty well and was pulling into barrel after barrel.

That night we invited Ashley and the girls back to Mamas for a few drinks and surf trip stories. Ashley and Ben were both on a search for new waves and secret spots. Ben had already spent 2 months in Indonesia and been over to Thailand to refresh his visa (you could only get a two month visa for Indo) and come back to Java. Ashley seemed to know of a few breaks on some of the other Islands that I’d never heard of and it wasn’t long before plans were being made to get to these other breaks.

All this talk of waves and secret spots was great but we hadn’t been in the company of girls for a couple of weeks. Ben and I persuaded a couple of the girls to come down to the secluded beach to watch the sunset.

All that week we had perfect surf. Every morning it was offshore with light winds picking up by lunchtime and dropping again late afternoon. It really did feel like we had found the perfect spot. One morning when we turned up we could see a surf charter boat out to sea, so we hid behind the bushes until it was gone so they couldn’t work out where the waves were. (These days I think lots of people go there by boat and some of the reviews I’ve seen haven’t rated it as a good wave. But if you make the effort to learn about the break and be there at the right time, by getting there early morning and and at low tide it’s epic).

On the second to last day Rich Harvey was sitting slightly inside and paddled for a wave but decided not to go at the last minute. He was too late, as he tried to pull back, sitting back on his board he was sucked over the falls. Rich was slammed into the reef head first coming up with blood all over his face. Luckily nothing was broken but it was enough to put Rich off going in again.

I remember one morning this huge set came through cleaning up everyone except for me. I just managed to punch through the lip of the first wave and found myself alone in the line up and in position for the next huge wave. I started to paddle for it before backing off as I realised that this wave was different and was just closing out right across the bay. As I sat back and watched the wave break, I realised it was going right across the bay and as far as I could see in both directions. I also realised I was a lot further out, and out of position for the reef. The two waves washed everyone else in towards the shore and both waves went right up the sand on the beach. Normally we surfed over the reef on the point which hooked around towards the beach before closing out into a shore break. At the time it just seemed odd, but about a month later I picked up a copy of ‘Surfing Life’ magazine and there was an article about a tsunami that had hit East Java early that morning on that day. Over 200 people had died and many surfers had been caught up in it at the surf camp at G-Land. Had we been caught up in the tail end of the tsunami? I guess I’ll never know for sure but those two waves were very different.

One evening someone from Mamas told us that the wave that broke right out front of where we were staying was sometimes ridden. It was a long way out across the reef but we thought we’d go and check it out. The wave raced along really fast but it just looked much too shallow, so none of us fancied giving it a go.

On the last day we had really good size waves and I had to go out on my smaller board. I found I was taking really late drops and although I pulled into a few barrels, I wasn’t coming out of many (actually I only made one or two). Eventually I pushed my luck too far and got really worked. When I finally popped up, I was right in the impact zone so my first thought was ‘I’ve got to get out of here’. When I finally made it to the line up it was starting to get dark and Ben was the only person still in the water. My leg didn’t feel right and I glanced back to see lots of blood. I shouted at Ben to see if he would have a look at my leg and see what I’d done. Ben went very pale when he looked at my leg and just said ‘you gotta get out of the water’ and promptly caught a wave to the beach leaving me on my own.

Thought’s started to race through my mind, ‘it’s getting dark’, ‘there are lots sharks around (having seen what was at the local fish markets)’ and ‘I’m bleeding a lot’. I very quickly paddled towards the beach and away from the reef. Glancing over my shoulder at my calf I was sure I could see things that weren’t supposed to be on the outside. I wasn’t sure If I’d be able to stand so I stayed prone all the way to the beach. I don’t know what sliced me open but it had made a big hole in my calf.

Ken and Francis came down and helped me get up the beach while someone went back to arrange a moped to come and get me and take me back to Mamas. Once we were back at Mamas the pain had kicked in but Francis took over and went and got his medical kit. Being a physio he had just about everything in it. Francis cleaned up my leg and I think a few of the boys sat on me while they put iodine on the wound (that brings tears to your eyes, I think they use Betadine these days which doesn’t hurt). Francis said he had stitches but had never stitched anyone up before and he wasn’t sure if I needed internal stitches, so he patched me up as best he could.

I needed to go to some sort of medical facility and it was now mid evening and very dark. The nearest hospital we knew of was in Pelabuhan Ratu which was about 5-6 hours drive away. We didn’t have any transport and you didn’t just phone for an ambulance. I was in a remote location in a third world country and I needed a doctor. ‘Oh crap’ is as polite away of saying what was going through my head at that time.

Someone from Mamas very kindly said they would drive me in to hospital in their minibus, but they didn’t have enough fuel. There wasn’t a local garage but they said it wouldn’t be a problem as long as I had money. I grabbed all the cash I had and my walkman and was helped aboard the minibus. Rich Harvey came with me and we set off in search of fuel. I was in a lot of pain and just put on my walkman with some Celibate Rifles cranked right up. I suddenly noticed we seemed to be going door to door around the local houses. The driver was trying to get fuel from people he knew from the village. I just handed over my cash; I didn’t care what it cost.

After a couple of hours we stopped and the driver got out and what looked like a couple of nurses came to the minibus. I didn’t know what was going on as I knew it was at least 5 hours to Pelabuhan Ratu. There was a discussion between the driver and the nurses and then they looked at me. I looked at Rich, he had the translation book. From what Rich could work out, was that this was a training school and they didn’t normally treat people like me but they’d have a go. I wasn’t interested in someone ‘having a go’, I would have rather stayed at Mamas and let Francis ‘have a go’. So we carried on until we got to the proper hospital.

When we go to the hospital I was shattered and still in a lot of pain. I was helped into some sort of theatre and put on the table. It wasn’t quite like being at St Mary’s Hospital. It didn’t look particularly clean and the doctor and nurses uniforms were pretty old and grubby, but at least the instruments were clean. I had actually brought needles and syringes with me that I bought from a chemist in Australia.

Before they would do anything, some forms were thrust at me to sign and I had to pay them. It was all in Javanese so I didn’t have a clue what I was signing. I really didn’t care by then, I just wanted it stitched up and some pain killers. Although I did joke with Rich that I hoped I hadn’t just signed away my kidneys. As I lay on the table being stitched up I realised I was watching geckos running up and down the walls and there were mosquito’s buzzing around my head.

I must have fallen asleep on the way back to Mamas as the trip didn’t seem to take as long, not being in so much pain helped. Once back, all that was left for me to do was to pack up my things. A few of the boys had an early surf and Ben had decided to go in search of more secret waves with Ashley.

Rich Harvey, Rich Holmes, Francis and Ken arranged for transport back to Pelabuhan Ratu where they could get some more waves at Cimaja. On route to Pelabuhan Ratu Francis suddenly asked the driver to stop at a little village. Francis had spotted a guy who was working on the side of the road. He turned out to be the local wood worker. Francis had broken a fin and wanted to know if this guy would be able to make him a wooden one. The whole village seemed to turn out to greet us and in no time at all this guy was shaping Francis a new fin. It was amazing to watch him work with such basic tools and turn out a beautifully carved fin from a tree trunk. We watched the whole process, from cutting a plank from a huge log to the final sanding. Francis was so impressed that he got him to make him another one as a souvenir (I had an email from Francis recently to say he still has the fins on his mantle now, over 17 years later).

We all stayed in one big room in Pelabuhan Ratu and in the middle of the night I heard someone quietly getting cross. I couldn’t sleep as the pain killers had worn off and was very uncomfortable. I’m also a very light sleeper and Francis was snoring for all of Australia. I realised the person sat up in bed getting cross was Ken. I pretended to be a sleep, but in the morning I spoke to Ken about it and he said he hadn’t had any sleep the whole trip due to Francis’s snoring.

The boys came back from surfing Cimaja saying what a great little wave it was but that the water was very murky and they thought they had touched something swimming under water. I didn’t like to tell them about all the sharks I’d seen at the local fish market when I’d hobbled along to the telephone exchange to make arrangements to get home.

From Pelabuhan Ratu, Rich Harvey and Rich Holmes got the train back to the other side of Java to go back to Bali. I went onto Jakarta with Ken and Francis who were flying on from there. My flights home were supposed to be out of Bali but I was hoping that Quantas would let me change my flight so I could leave from Jakarta. Jakarta was an eye opener for me, as on some streets you had people in total squalor on one side of the road and people in suits driving Porches and Mercedes on the other side the road seemingly oblivious to the plight of the people across the road.

When we got to the airport Quantas were very kind and changed my flight arrangements free of charge, but there wasn’t a flight out until the next morning. Ken and Francis weren’t flying out until the next day so we went and found a place to stay. That night we spent the night drinking in the bar and I spent the last of my money drinking bottled Guinness, something I hadn’t had since I left the UK some 12 months previous.

Ken and Francis dropped me at the airport early as they had to get off and I suddenly realised how difficult it was with two boards, a huge rucksack and my camera gear. I had help all the way to the airport but now hopping about on one leg with all my gear it was quite difficult.

A very kind lady who worked at the airport called Monica Retno saw me struggling and came over and helped me get my gear onto a trolley and then got me to my gate. I had completely forgotten that I needed to pay airport tax and had spent all my money in the bar the previous evening. Monica must have seen my look of panic and paid my tax for me. A ‘Huge Thank You’ to you Monica if you ever read this.

Once on the plane, I found that the plane was completely packed and was so pleased that I’d managed to get a seat. Then I realised that I was sitting between to huge guys who seemed to be taking up the whole three seats. I squeezed into my seat and was just thankful that I was going home. My leg had started to hurt quite a lot and I was worried that it had gotten infected. Francis had been changing my dressings regularly but in the climate and the fact that it had taken so long to be stitched up, the chance of infection was high.

Once back on the Island I went straight from the ferry to A&E at St Mary’s Hospital as my calf was throbbing. The nurses couldn’t believe the state of my leg when they removed the dressings. The wound had to be opened up again and cleaned thoroughly with all the infected stuff squeezed out of my leg. I was then advised to leave the wound open and let the air get to it. After getting a tetanus I was allowed to go home.

After seeing my family the first thing I wanted to do was go to Compton. I couldn’t go in the sea but just wanted to get back to my home beach. I jumped in the car with my brother and drove to Compton. Walking along the beach I bumped into lots of friends and it suddenly dawned on me how so little had changed, yet I had experienced so much in the last year and I had changed. It was kind of comforting and I appreciated what we had here on the Island a little more too.

The accommodation was really good at Mamas but sadly Mama’s has now been sold and is now a surf camp as far as I know. I have also seen reports of illegal surf camps right on the beach in front of the wave ‘Turtles’. They’re built on environmentally friendly land that’s there to protect the turtles habitat. Many of the charter boats that look for surf along the Javanese coast visit Turtles too now. I have also heard reports of it being dangerous to visit as there are certain religious army training camps near by. I hope this is not true as it is an amazing part of the world, very beautfiul and very friendly people.


IOW Surf History on BBC Countryfile

A few weeks a go I was contacted by BBC Countryfile saying they were filming on the Island later in the month and had come across the Wight Surf History website and were interested in showing the history of surfing on Island on the show. One of the BBC Countryfile presenters would have a surfing lesson and speak to some of the surfing legends about the legacy of the sport on the Island. One of the people they were particularly interested in talking to was Betty Tricket and too see Archie’s old surfboard and wetsuit.

The BBC Countryfile team turned up at Compton on Thursday morning in style with a lovely blue VW Camper from Isle of Wight Camper Van Holidays. Ellie Harrison met up with Scott Gardner of Wight Water and son of Geoff ‘Ned’ Gardner, (one of the first to surf on the Island back in the sixties) to have a surf lesson.

The car park was a busy place while the film crew got ready for the days shoot and Scott got Ellie set up with a board. Ellie got a few tips from Sid Pitman one of the first members of the Isle of Wight Surf Club that was formed in 1967.

The conditions weren’t ideal with strong onshore winds but the sun came out and there were waves and Scott went out and grabbed a quick wave showing Ellie how it’s done. After a few lessons on the sand and a some warm up excersises Ellie and Scott finally hit the water for the lesson. After a couple of initial tumbles Ellie looked like she was getting the hang of it and having a blast at the same time. By the end of the lesson Ellie was up and riding waves and getting huge cheers from everyone on the clifftop (sorry I missed you standing up Ellie, I’d gone to pick up Archie’s surfboard).

Rob Drake-Knight from Rapanui (and recently ‘Come Dine with Me’ fame) went in the water as spotter for Jules Benham the BBC Countryfile researcher and water cameraman. After Ellie’s lesson some of the guys from the Isle of Wight Surf Club went out and grabbed a few waves too. I just got back in time to see Joe Truman take out a 1970’s Tiki single fin surfboard to try out.

Ellie then went onto speak with Matt Harwood (Chairman of the Isle of Wight Surf Club), Mart Drake-Knight (Rapanui), Alan Reed (British Masters Longboard Champion), Mark New with Betty Tricket about Archie’s surfboard and wetsuit from the sixties.

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Alan Reed then got to take Archie’s homemade surfboard for a surf. Archie had surfed until he was 74 and the board hadn’t been in the sea for 15 years. Betty was really looking forward to seeing the board in the water again and remarked as Alan started to paddle it out that it reminded her of seeing Archie paddling the board all those years a go.

Al came in after catching a few waves saying how well it rode and it was a really lovely moment when Betty walked up a agve Al a big hug. Archie’s surfboard got a lot of interest and many of the the boys said how the shape of the board was actually ahead of it’s time with quite a lot of rocker in it.

At the end of the days shooting I bumped into Steve Williams who remembered Archie when he used to turn up the beach in his old Ford Anglia and walk down past the wreck to catch a few waves.