The Isle of Wight Surf club were very lucky to be given use of one of the huts owned by the National Trust at Compton. The club paid a donation every year to the NT which gave them use of the hut and free parking at Compton. The original hut was used to store surfboards […]
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 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
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)
She was riding intuitively, riding on nerves and instinct, with no time for thought or rational assessment. It was all happening so fast – yet she’d been on this wave all her life. The stoke was unbelievable! Every manoevre better than the last, flying out of the turns and, well, just plain rad! Ooo-ee!! The boys would love this one! As the wave humped up, steepening for its final attack, Gran Slick marshalled all her faculties – and pulled off the best re-entry of her short career, a vertical magic carpet ride which defied description.
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.
On 16 October 1987, one of the worst night of storms in most peoples memories hit the south of England. Coastguards on the Isle of Wight said the winds were too strong to be measured on their instruments. The storm hit the Island at about 2am, and Shanklin Pier nearly a century old, disintegrated into a pile of wood overnight. It was broken into three pieces as a result of huge waves. Plans to rebuild the pier were abandoned, and the rest of the pier was demolished. A monument now stands in front of what used to be the pier entrance.
I had gone to the Court Jester Night Club in Sandown and driving home just after 2am we found that roads were already blocked by fallen trees but we were still unaware of the full power of the storm and the damage it would cause during the night. When I woke the next morning I was already late for work as my alarm hadn’t gone off because of a power cut. I threw on my clothes and set off for work at HW Morey’s in Newport. There were slates and tiles all over the roads and pavements and when I got to the Morey’s gates I saw that a house opposite had most of its’ gable wall littered all over the road. As you can imagine it was very busy at Moreys’ that day with firemen and builders rushing in the get materials but all I could think of that there must be some awesome waves somewhere on the Island.
On the Saturday I managed to get a lift to the beach with Steve Williams and we headed straight for Shanklin, by this time the swell had dropped and was very messy but the devastation we witnessed was something I will never forget. Shanklin beach was littered with driftwood, fruit machines bits of metal and the remains of the pier. At Compton the Isle of Wight Surf Club hut had been completely demolished and the surfboards were to be found in farm fields all along the Military Road (Where did those boards end up?).
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.
Was it coincidence that saw 18 Islanders make the journey to Biarritz in the summer of 1980? I think not. As I heard someone say at the recent film night, the surf club was different then; we all knew each other pretty well from years of surfing together and the trip was arranged as much as a social event as a surf trip.
Having arranged to meet up with Sid, Jake et al at the camp site at Moliets Plage, I arrived there one sunny afternoon and on enquiring at the reception desk about where Les Anglais, Monsieur Jacobs et Monsieur Pitman might be pitched, I was told, after much misunderstanding & arm waving, that they were not registered on the site. Disappointed, I decided to head on to Bidart, where I was sure I’d meet up with them, arriving early enough for a surf before dinner.
I don’t now remember the details, but one by one we began to assemble. I do remember being in the bar at Tamarisk Plage with Sid, Mick Thomson, Magic & my newly arrived brother Steve, when a tremendous thunderstorm hit & all the lights went out.
Steve’s VW CamperSomo
Steve’s VW Camper
I headed off to Somo for a few days to meet up with Rob Clark & enjoyed a few quiet days on the beach there before returning to Bidart. We used to be able to drive onto the breakwater at Plage des Cavaliers & park up in those days & I remember sitting on the rocks lining the breakwater with Sid watching the waves.
The best waves we had all trip were at Cote des Basques. On several days running we had 4 – 6 foot waves peeling fast across the beach in glorious sunshine & warm water on a rising tide. I know Jake was made up with it, especially after 4 o’clock, when the local schoolgirls paddled out for a few waves! The weather was hot & sunny most of the time & poor old Sid’s head suffered a bit with sunburn. Even in the hottest weather, it was common in those days for doughnuts to be sold at the beach. At Bidart, a rather overweight youth used to stagger up & down the beach with a tray slung round his neck, full of apricot doughnuts. These were actually quite delicious and we reckoned that the youth was so fat because he had to eat all the unsold doughnuts at the end of the day.
There were many visits to the cafes in Bidart square & I remember Sid discovering wine in plastic bottles with flip off tops in the local Carrefour for about 30p a litre. The best bit was that they didn’t break if you were too pissed to hold onto them properly!
Cote De Basque
Cote De Basque
Whilst in Bidart, I parked the VW up on the beach road, behind the shed that housed the beach cleaning machine. The advantage of parking there was that you were shielded from the headlights of cars coming down the hill during the night to check the surf, or other nefarious activities; the disadvantage was being woken up at 6 a.m. every morning when the cleaning guy started the massive diesel engine & clattered off down to the beach. Perhaps not though, as an early start always got me into some solitary offshore waves, well solitary apart from Rob Clark who was also parked up at the beach.
Living by the beach at Bidart was one of the most unforgettable experiences. An early surf, followed by breakfast, preceded a walk up to the village (much quieter than it is today) for essential shopping & the first visit of the day to the café. Back to the beach for a sunbathe & a doughnut, followed by another surf before the tide gets too high. Then a long, hot, lazy afternoon before dinner and another walk up to the village for some more serious drinking & maybe a visit to the Pelote au Chistera at the Municipal Fronton before staggering back down the beach path to bed. I remember many evenings sitting on the wall overlooking the beach with Jake, watching the lightning storms over the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, hoping that they would clear by the morning, as they invariably would.
There was also a massed dinner one night at the restaurant by the traffic lights at Guethary, now sadly a double glazing shop, with most of the 18 of us in attendance.
France Crew 1980
The thing from this trip that really sticks in my mind was getting stranded at Cherbourg on the way home by a French fishermen’s strike, which closed the port for 3 days. It was a bit of a bore, but bearable for me as I had all the comforts of home with me in the VW, but for others, particularly families with young children, trying to live in car packed with holiday paraphernalia, parked up in the port with hundreds of others, it was no joke.
I remember the first ship to break the blockade was a Townsend Thoreson ferry which had charged through the picket line of French fishing boats with the fire hoses aimed at the strikers and ‘Rule Britannia’ being broadcast over the ships tannoy! I could even make out one of the officers on the bridge wearing a Viking helmet! This really annoyed the French, though, and negotiations to lift the blockade were brought to a halt, but their action did give us stranded Brits a psychological lift. When the time came, it was a relief to finally get onboard to sail home. The final indignity, though, was being docked 3 days pay for being late back to work!
I don’t suppose there will ever be another trip like the 1980 trip. That was just about the last year where there was the freedom to park up anywhere (except Guethary, eh Magic?) and stay overnight and before the advent of Ryanair flying vast hordes of horrid English people into Biarritz for £1. Bidart, in particular, has changed almost out of all recognition with development, new hotels, car parks, crowded breaks & hordes of the aforementioned horrid English people, although once on the beach, it is possible to lay back with your eyes shut & drift back to the golden era. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
In July 1980 Dave Williams(Magic), Mick Thompson and myself arrived at Moliet Plage south western france having travelled down in Daves VW Camper, as the advance party for the Isle of Wight Surf Club. We were waiting for Dave Jacobs, Steve Williams, Keith Williams, Ann and Tony Macpherson and there parties to arrive.
Magic and Sid at La Barre
Whilst there we would get acclimatised to the French way of life. Our days started with an early morning surf, followed by breakfast, mid morning surf, followed by lunch, (which usually consisted of Baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, a bottle or two of red wine all for the equivalent of 1£) then a siesta in the sand dunes behind the beach. A late afternoon surf, evening meal with another bottle or two of wine, then an evening surf before bedtime.
Keith, Mick, Sid, Neal and the back of ‘Magic’
This formed the pattern of our days, and as we wound our way through the camp site every morning we would acknowledge a Dutch family camped further nearer the beach with a smile to start with, next day we were greeted with a broad grin, then the day after followed laughter by the end of the fifth morning they greeted our journey with unrestrained laughter. We never did discover what they found so amusing but after the forth day we had run out of milk and Mick had resorted to putting red wine on his cornflakes. Dave never did get the wine rings out of his Formica table top
Back Row: Steve Williams, Dave ‘Magic’ Williams, Jenny Jacobs, Neal Fordham, (Steve’s friend?), Jo Clark, Rob Clark, Keith Williams, Annie Macpherson, Tony Macpherson.
Front Row: Mick Thompson, Paul Jacobs, Mark Jacobs, Dave Jacobs, Kathy Watson (Wheeler), Sid Pitman, Sue Fordham
Being a woodwork teacher, Hutch had made his own board, out of plywood naturally, and an invitation to try it at Compton was made. ‘Don’t try to shoot the curl’ he said, ‘just ride the white water’ What the bloody hell did all that mean?? Suffice to say that after half an hour I was exhausted, having totally failed to catch anything let alone ‘shoot the curl’.
In 1991 I managed to persuade Stuart Jones and Richard Harvey to do a surf trip to the South of France. At that time Stuart and Ritchie in my opinion were among the best surfers on the Island…..
As is often the way the very next day the swell came up and it was cranking. We were all bleary eyed, very hung over and the waves coming through on the left were some of the best I had ever seen. When two guys started to paddle out we could see it was a good size too. We soon got ourselves together. This was what had come for, so we got into our wetsuits and paddled out…..
The swell lasted nearly all week and it was soon obvious that we were staying at one of the best set ups along the coast as one day a load of pros including Tom Curren, Lisa Anderson, Michael ‘Munga’ Barry, Paul Russell and others turned up with Maurice Cole and a few Surf Photographers to surf our left hander.
From the Virgin Islands they traveled onto America, working their way across to the west coast. They stopped in North Carolina to stay with Barney’s sister Rosie who was at university there. Word had got around about Barney and Chris’s travels through Europe and across to the Caribbean and onto the U.S.A. and the university president had questioned Barney’s sister Rosie where they would be staying. When he found out that they were staying at her small flat he made arrangements for them to stay at his mansion. The staff were never to remember Barney and Chris’s name properly and they soon became known as Bonnie and Clyde by the them.
This is a piece written by Steve Williams for Tube News which was published by Wessex Surf Club in 1985. A Pre-Gran Slick Era Report From Sea Area Wight by Steve Williams Winter on the Island was confined mainly to the first three months of the year. A reasonable menu of waves – from ankle-snappers […]