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.
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.
Cathcing up with some action back in December and here is a short movie from the 16 December 2011 at Freshwater Bay with Lee Webster, Joe Truman, Andrew Court, Will Rome and others enjoying a nice swell. Below are some great images of the boys getting in the Christmas spirit in costume – Santa, his Reindeer and Elves catching a few waves.
Congratulations to the Isle of Wight Surf Club for a very successful Surf Club Paddle Race. The event had a great turn out and was very well supported from the beach. Alan Reed came in winner of the prone surfboard paddle race winning a beautiful wooden Oar and winner of the SUP division was Toby Donbavand.
Isle of Wight Surf Club Fundraiser Paddle Race
24th July (24 July · 10:00 – 13:00)
Wighwaters Dunroman Beach Lake
SUP / PRONE PADDLE & TEAM EVENTS – BOARDS TO RACE ON ARE SUPPLIED
Rapanui Frostbite Surf Series Event 5 May Bank Holiday Monday saw the fifth and final event of the 2010/11 series take place at Sandown. After a poor run of swell no contest took place in April but a fortuitous Easterly wind-swell arrive at the start of May. With strong winds & currents it was going […]
Recently, Rapanui has been proud to support the Isle of Wight surf Club. The brand contribute to the club financially, making rash vests and giving away all the clubs prizes, and their web development guys made and maintain the clubs site. The Surf club was re-established after the lads started chatting to Matt Harwood, local hero, who came over to wish the boys good luck when he heard about Rapanui – back when the company was still run from a bedroom. Along with Oli Harvey and a bunch of other Island surfers, Rob and Mart are excited about the recent positive happenings on the island surf-wise – “the surf club, the beach cleans, and other projects like Wight Surf History celebrating the Island surf culture is not just interesting – it really contributes to what we do at weekends. More friendly line ups, more mates and more waves. Island surfing has given us so much and these kinds of projects really do give something back, so we’re stoked to be a part of it”
The Isle of Wight Surf Club held the 4th event in this Winters Frost Bite series at Ventnor on Sunday. Conditions were difficult and wave selection was a quay part in scoring highly in heats. The semi finals saw Al Reed, Chris Mannion and Jamie Whittle get knocked out as the competitors found it hard to find high scoring waves.
The final came down to Matt Harwood (current leader in the championships standings), Joe Truman, Josh Jupe and Mark New. It was another closely contested final with Mark coming out the winner, with Josh 2nd and Matt 3rd. Congratulations to the Isle of Wight Surf Club and all the people who helped make this another successful event.
Eco-clothing super brand Rapa Nui have put their hand into their pockets in these austere times and produced brand new competition vests for the Isle of Wight Surf Club. The club has had resurgence over the last year with a brand new committee and winter surf league.
“Rapa Nui have been such an enormous help to us this, by donating the coloured vests we are able to run smooth and effective competitions on a regular basis” said Matt Harwood (IOW Surf Club Chairman). He went on to say that “We are an ambitious club that want to offer Island surfers a competitive arena, coaching of all abilities, a social focal point and a voice for island surfers in regards to the environment and our beaches. Rapa Nui has been instrumental in helping us with our web-site. We’ve already used the vests in our Frostbite winter surf series. They were well received by competitors and looked fantastic”
Rob Drake-Knight (co-founder of Rapa Nui) says “We are all about local projects and surfing and the ocean is a big part of our lifestyles. Rapa Nui is only too pleased to help the surf club. It’s just awesome to see our vests being used already in the winter Frost-bite series”
If you want to know more about Rapa Nui or the Surf Club check out rapanuiclothing.com and iowsurfclub.com.
IOW Surf Club Frost Bite Series – by Oliver Harvey & The Isle of Wight Surf Club
The first ‘Frost bite’ competition of six being held this winter, sponsored kindly by the boys at Rapanui was a great success.
Greeted with pretty grim onshore head-high waves at Compton, first up we saw the groms test the water. Both Robin & Dylan snagged plenty of waves each but Robin gradually took control with a couple of good waves to take the first event. The waves continue to prove challenging for the mens Open, as the pool of 16 riders entered the water in 4 man, 20 min heats.
Julie Tortajada, in the first quarter final, took the Ladies title getting several fun waves. From the first round the following progressed into the semis:
2. Jamie Whittle
1. Nick Whittle
2. Foz Heat
1. Jo Truman
2. Al Reed Heat
1. Doug Richards
2. Matt Harwood
Semi One saw Douglas Richards start to show his quality, making some nice aggressive turns , and following him after a somewhat slow start, Jo’s local knowledge paid dividends, hooking into some good little rights, his smooth style saw him up his wave count and into second place only 0.5 points behind Dougie & just ahead of Rich who surfed well in both his heats.
In Semi Two, Matt, keen to progress, started with a bang – getting several scores on the board in quick succession. Al also posted some scores whilst Jamie & Nick, who both showed good form earlier on, were quiet until the last quarter, when Nick started to make a come-back, but too little, too late saw Al & Matt progress into the final
The Final was closely fought battle , the waves failed to improve, which saw the judges favourite going into the final, Doug, making a subdued start. We did see glimmers of his solid style, but the waves just didn’t go his way. Matt, with a great high scoring first wave, continued to post some respectable scores, streaking ahead on wave count alone, Al found a solid right all the way into the inside, showing some style with cross-steps & smooth cutbacks. Jo’s consistency and nack for finding those fun inside walls, meant he edged ahead of Al into second and Matt taking the top spot with skill & tenacity.
1.Matt Harwood 11.83
2. Jo Truman 11.53
3. Al Reed 10.16
4. Doug Richards 9.63
The IOW Surf Club would like to say a big thank you for all turning up to make it a great little event. Hopefully we’ll see even bigger competitor numbers, in the next round in the IOW Surf Club Frost Bite series, as what seems like a 1/3 of the IOW surfers return from their Indonesian adventures! Boys, you missed out today !
A big shout out for all girls & groms wanting to get involved. I’m sure Julie, Robin & Dylan would love to beat you in heat & there’s hoodies, t-shirts & other prizes to be won !
It costs £2.50 per comp for existing members
£10 for non-members, which gives your Isle of Wight Surf Club Membership also including your BSA Membership www.britsurf.co.uk/bsa-membership
And that brings me to a last big thank you to Rapanui , who are very generously sponsoring every event of the Frost Bite Series.
For those who haven’t heard of them, Rapanui are an award winning Eco-Fashion company based/born’n’bred on the Isle of Wight.
They make some damm tasty ethical clothing using natural organic fabrics and manufactured using renewable energy in a Fair Wear Foundation audited, wind powered factory. Check them out:
All images coutesy of Emma Powell and Nick Martin