Alan was born in East Cowes in 1970 and was brought up in Brighstone and later Sandown. Alan’s father Les was Captain of the lifeguards at Sandown in the 1950’s being one of the original lifeguards on the Isle of Wight. Les was in the team that won the 1953 All England Reel & Line Lifeguard championships, with Olive Saunders among others. After the competition was held at Sandown in the coronation year. Alan’s Grandfather was a Commodore in the Navy, a bare knuckle boxer and was on the committee that organised all the Sailing Regattas at Sandown.
Alan was always around the sea and would spend his time either at Grange Chine or Sandown Bay where he would swim and body surf.
In June 1982 Alan was to stay at his sister’s house in East Wittering and had a go at surfing on her friends Bob’s board (who apparently still has the same shack in east Wittering now). The waves were small but clean and glassy and Alan was hooked straight away.
Alan also met Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney) who also has a passion for surfing and was once sponsored by Chapter. This is mentioned on the website www.englandsurf.com in an interview with Sam Lamiroy;
‘We spoke to a guy called Alan Reed, he was telling us when he first started he ran into Nicholas Lyndhurst, when he was surfing. Have you met any one like that at all, anyone un-surfing related?’
The following April Alan’s sister Susan gave him his first surfboard for his birthday. It was a 7’ Lightning Bolt popout with a clear resin fin. Alan surfed it solidly for the next couple of years until while trying a floater at Sandown he landed on one of the groins and it snapped.
In the summer of 1984 Alan got a job at Nodes Hill holiday park with Tristan May. The money he earned from his summer job allowed him to buy a custom board from the new shop in Sandown, ‘Barnstormers’ owned and run by Barney Barnes. It was a Vitamin Sea, Quad Fin (4 fin drive), 6’1 ½”, double winged, swallow tail. That Christmas saw memorable swells wrapping into Sandown Bay and Al remembers clean glassy waves and watching amazed as a bearded “Catweasle” (Roger Butler) pulled into barrels on a big old log. “You could see him through the curtain, just steaming down the line.”
Bert (Martin) Spencer another punk rocker and good friend gave him lifts to the beach in his 2CV. They would be seen at many gigs at Shanklin Pier with their huge Mohawks and Spiked hair. They would drink at the Prince of Wales pub in Sandown and often see Dave Grey there too. Dave was one of the most exciting surfers to watch during the 80’s and probably the best surfer on the Island during that time. Watching and surfing with Dave was a major influence to Alan.
In 1986 they set off west in Bert’s 2CV for Cornwall. One memorable trip with Bert, and Spencer Morgan they surfed perfect overhead Perranporth for almost 12 hours straight, only stopping for food and drink. Other trips to Cornwall would find Alan and Bert sleeping in Mount Wise Car Park and drinking in the Vic bars every night.
Alan’s surfing became more sporadic for a few years after this as he did not drive and had no regular transport out of Sandown (not the most consistent break in the world). “I lost most of the jobs I had then because when the bay was on. I would have spent more than I could have earned just to surf and so got the sack a lot” Says Al. Al became interested in going to Festivals, Stonehenge and being a bit of a teenage anarchist. Al still got to surf but not very often as he didn’t always have a surfboard.
In 1990 Al and his partner Julie moved to Newquay in search of a better lifestyle, make a fresh start and start surfing more again. Al managed to buy a surfboard and wetsuit for £35.
The board was a late 70’s early 80’s fat pig of a board with a thruster fin in a single fin box (Al jokes that it went left really well and he had to surf South Fistral a lot). The wetsuit had no zip so Al had threaded an old bootlace up the back like a corset, it also had burn holes in it from being left on a radiator for too long. This didn’t stop Al from surfing all year round, although in the winter the sessions were only about 20 minutes at a time before he would be forced to come in and warm up before he got hypothermia.
Over the years Al had surfed all sorts of different styles of boards and by the next spring he knew exactly what board he wanted. At that time Al looked and dressed a lot like Sid Vicious. So when Al walked into a surf shop in Newquay the majority of people probably thought he was looking to steal something.
So when Al walked into the Newquay Surf Board Company shop, the salesman Jeremy Robinsons’ first thoughts were probably not that this guy was seriously looking for a board. Al picked an Ocean Magic that looked perfect and said to Jeremy that he wanted it. Jeremy laughed and just though Al was a kook and would never ride this high performance board. Al put down a deposit and within a couple of weeks the board was his.
A few weeks later after having a surf at Great Western, Al was riding a wave in when he saw Jeremy paddling out. Al says the look on Jeremys’ face was a picture as he could now see that this punk was actually pretty good. From that day Al became good friends with Jeremy and the shop owner Chris Jones.
Through Jeremy and Chris, Al went onto meet Steve, Dean and Russell Winter, Roger Mansfield, Guy Leverton (Mellow Marsh Yellow (MMY) surfboards, Guy went onto sponsor Al) and many others from the surfing industry.
Al’s landlord owned a hotel on the seafront and in 1994 the Oxbow Longboard European Tour Team stayed at the hotel. Some of the riders were Nat Young, Beau Young, Joel Tudor, Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver, Duane Desoto and Takuji Masuda. Al surfed with Takuji one evening while his landlord watched with some of the team riders. They loaned Al one of their progressive longboards to ride and were suitably impressed with Als’ surfing.
When the team were packing to leave ‘Wingnut’ offered Al a t-shirt. When ‘Wingnut’ was getting the t-shirt out of his bag he dropped the bag and there was a smash and then a very strong smell of cologne coming from the bag. All of ‘Wingnuts’ clothes were now soaked in his cologne.
Julie became pregnant that year and Al bought his first longboard, a Custard Point 9’4” nose rider. Al remembers watching Israel Paskowitz surfing North Fistral and he became a big influence on Al moving to longboarding.
Al’s landlord was so impressed with his surfing that he persuaded Al to enter a Longboard competition at Fistral even paying the entrance fee. Al didn’t disappoint and went through with Roger Mansfield in the first round. This gave Al a huge confidence boost and Al went on to pursue more competitions.
Soon after this Al was surfing Porthleven with Dean Winter when he went too deep and got smashed into the reef. Al ended up quite battered and bruised and with broken ribs. A Pregnant Julie and Al had already decided to move back to the Island and at that point Al was desperate to get as much surfing in before they left. So even with broken ribs and feeling quite sore Al continued to surf, paddling into waves with one arm until they left for the Island.
When Al got back to the Island the Isle of Wight Surf Club had a lot going on and surfing was growing fast on the Island. Al remembers Cerri Williams, Ray Hutchings and Jill Fryer (Johnny Fryers’ Mum) being at the forefront of making this happen. Cerri Williams went onto sponsor Al, fronting competition entry fees and giving Al the use of new equipment from Cerris shop Offshore Sports in Shanklin.
Al went on to compete in numerous South Coast Championships (County Press article on East Wittering in 2006) and is currently the reigning champion.
In 2000 Al featured in the Longboarding UK2K DVD surfing Saunton in the UK Nose Riding Championships and a contest at Fistral on a surfboard shaped by Ray Hutchings.
In 2001 Al was sponsored by Blackthorn and Mellow Marsh Yellow (MMY) surfboards. Al was the first team rider to have a MMY longboard. It was a 9’8” Mark Neville Nose Rider in bright red.
The Islands’ TV station TV12 did and interview with Al, covering the Islands competitions and showing some of Al’s own film footage shot by Julie. Al and Julie went on to make a couple of Island surf movies ‘In The Sun’ and ‘Island Myland’.
Alan was also invited to join the attempt to break the record for surfing the largest ever surfboard. Al and fellow Islander Johnny Fryer were among the surfers on a 32ft Custard Point longboard. Al says he was the last man on the board, standing right on the tail. After they successfully broke the record Al was interviewed for Record Breakers.
For twenty years Al’s time has been taken up caring for his family. Al’s wife Julie has had life long chronic pancreatitis and Al was diagnosed as having Ataxia type 6 in 2004. His mother was one of the first diagnosed with the condition in 1980. Al set up a support group for it on the Island in 2008, and an article was written by the County Press to help highlight the group. Al has 4 children ranging from 5 months to 15 years old and they also have 3 dogs. Most of the family surf or have surfed including the dogs who can sometimes be seen on Al’s longboard at Compton. 15 year old daughter Amy is training to be a lifeguard and has competed for the Ladies Hotdoggers Team.
Al currently competes for the Hotdoggers (Saunton, North Devon) Longboard Club in the interclub championships team events and 60’s stylemasters. The whole family travel down to Saunton several times a year or wherever the venue is, and have been to Wales, Cornwall and the North East (Scarborough) to enjoy a really exciting and inspiring Longboarding scene around the U.K.