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.
All of you who came to the movie night back in October will remember the great surf movie ‘Devon Lanes and Longboarding’ by Andrew Haworth. Andrew made the film to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Andrew’s sister was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer just over a year ago. So far the film has made over £2,500 for the charity. If you are interested in buying a copy of the movie you can get by going to the website is www.born2surf.info.
Andrew has ties to the Isle of Wight Surf Club from the late 1970’s when he was studying at Portsmouth University. ‘Between 1977 and 1980 I was a student at Portsmouth Uni (then Poly). A mad keen surfer I started a university surf club there.’ Andrew had no transport at the time but had a board with him. In 1978 Andrew wrote to the IOW surf club president (Steve Williams?) to ask about surf on the island and if he could get a bus from the ferry to the beaches.
Andrew was referred to another member (Clive Richardson) who offered to pick him up, stay with him and drive him round all the breaks for a whole weekend! ‘How friendly and hospitable! It was brilliant’, says Andy.
The first time Andrew came across to the Island, Clive turned up in his customised VW Beetle (the Raspberry Ripple he called it) ‘as a young 19 year old I thought it was all so cool. He showed me all the breaks and I even think we managed to find a wave at Compton.’
‘Many other such weekends followed and I had a great time, went to a few surf club social do’s etc.’
Andrew remembers that Steve Williams had an older brother Keith who surfed and remembers going to a film evening one night at Mike Smith’s house. He was a local surfer who was into 8mm filming.
Andrew also remembers that club members used to create huge mud slides down the cliffs at Compton when the surf was flat. ‘Great times – even had some good surfs!’
‘VW Beetle ‘Crystal Voyager’ I’m sure is the successor to the Raspberry Ripple owned by Clive. I remember he inherited the car from his Mum in the very early 1980’s – and couldn’t wait to customise it of course!’
‘I remember bringing a few guys from the Uni Surf Club over to the Island for a weekend, it would be 1979 or 80. We came across in an old Ford Cortina Mk2 Estate car and smuggled 2 of the guys in the boot as we couldn’t afford the full ferry charges. Happy days!’
IOW Surf Club Members 1979-1980 who may remember Andrew’s visits.
Mrs Carol Crawley
Couple of shots taken at Compton. I think its around 1983/4. My wife and I went camping on the Island to see Clive. I’m guessing it was around June time. We spend the day on the beach, it was hot and sunny and there was a small clean wave. Don’t know who the surfers were, but you or other locals might be able to identify them. Hope they’re of interest.
What a day Saturday the 9th of October turned out to be. The swell started to grow from only a couple of foot first thing to an epic swell that saw Compton, Freshwater Bay and The Pearl all fireing. I checked Compton early and a few of you were either in or going in and it was about 2 – 3ft and building. The wind looked a little strong, making the waves hard to catch but as the swell grew it got better and better. I knew I was only going to get one go at getting a few waves so opted to come back in a couple of hours in hope my timing would pay off. Will still alot of things to finalise for the movie night I did about 15mins filming and the shot off to try and get as much done as possible in 2 hours.
While I was away my phone didn’t stop. I had messages saying nearly every break from Freshwater Bay right round to Sandown were breaking. When I came past Freshwater Bay there was too much water and I couldn’t wait any longer. At Compton I met up with Andy Haworth (Devon Lanes and Longboards) who was already on the cliff top filming (Can’t wait to see the footage Andy). After quick introductions he exclaimed that in all his times on the Island he had never seen Compton like that. While talking a set came through and I hadn’t seen anything like that at Compton for a very very long time. I then ran back to my car to get changed and get in. With only about 15 – 20 people in the water it was perfect, I managed to get a couple of the big set waves right to the beach. When I wasn’t catching waves it was just great to watch some of you guys getting some great waves and the standard of surfing on the Island is very high. I don’t know all of you, but being out there on Saturday really showed that all those days surfing in small wind chop, onshores and just getting in when there was any wave has produced some excellent surfers on the Island.
I only had a short time at the beach and only managed to photograph Compton for about an hour. If any of you have any good photographs of anywhere on Saturday please send them in to us and we’ll put up a gallery of all your shots. I have seen some great shots of The Pearl and Freshwater Bay on Facebook so send them to us too.
Havig such a great swell during the day it couldn’t have been any better for the Movie night. With everyone buzzing from the waves earlier in the day the Sandpipers was soon full to the brim and a wall of noise as everyone talked about the waves. We started the evening with ‘Devon Lanes and Longboards’ by Andy Haworth (If you are interested in buying Andy’s movie go to his website here Devon Lanes and Longboards ). This was followed by a great movie by Sid Pitman ‘Surf Rats’. We also had Strat Cat Productions who very kindly set up a screen and played movies in the Sandpipers big hall all night from ‘Brown Water’ by Sid, ‘Isle of Wight Surf Club’ by Annie Macpherson and Andy Haworths footage from the day. A big thanks to Mark, Nigel and the boys for helping making it a great night. The evning was to finish with ‘Fusion’ by Ross Johns and you can also buy his movie at surfclips.co.uk. At this point I think most of the Ale in the bar had gone and people still wanted more, so by popular request we put on Bert’s ‘Wight Water’. We went on playing movies well into the early hours and raised over £100 for the Freshwater Lifeboat. Many thanks to all who came and especially Jason, Andy, Ross, Annie, Sid, Bert, Al, The Sandpipers Hotel, the West Wight Landscape Partnership and all who helped to make the evening a great success (Apologies if I forgot anyone).
If anyone took any photos during the Surf Movie Evening we would love to put a few on here too, so send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org