1960's surf kayaking through to
early skis, an brief intro by Vyv Cox, editor of Beachbreak magazine.
BCU surfing was largely covered by
Bude Week, which ran in the first week of September for many years.
It's probably true to say that the attendees were mostly river canoeists,
apart from a few Cornish paddlers who probably surfed more frequently.
The climax of the week was a competition held on the Saturday and
Sunday. This ran for many years before my involvement, and is the
oldest competition in UK and possibly anywhere. At that time everybody
used slalom kayaks. (If you want more info about this period I guess
John Hermes might be a good contact if he is still around St Austell)
One of the leading figures involved in specialist surf craft was
Tim Rule. He was the surf secretary when I first became involved
and wrote an article in Beachbreak 1. We always stayed at Bude Caravans,
run by Bill Cook who was a surfer and I think had a Shoe. He was
a member of the local canoe club and can probably provide some info.
During the same period, the top northern slalom canoe clubs, Chester,
Manchester and Leeds, held an informal surf meeting at Porth Ceiriad
over Whit weekend. This was very well attended, with 100 or so people
attending, but no competition. One year, perhaps 1970 or 1971, Frank
Goodman of Valley Canoe Products, turned up with the very first
Surf Shoe. The rumour was that he had seen one in California and
either copied it or took a mould from one. A few slalom canoeists
tried it but nobody was impressed, largely because they couldn't
loop it! The next year Chris Hawkesworth of Wild Water Centre in
Yorkshire, turned up with his Surf Yak, very similar or possibly
identical to the Surf Shoe but, for reasons best known to himself,
he had laid up the split line vertically rather than horizontally.
Within a very short time somebody managed to break it into its two
component halves. The Surf Yak pretty much disappeared immediately.
P&H then got into the act with the original Surfer, which I don't
remember at all. They reworked the design with a great deal of input
from Tim Rule, slimming it down a lot, and introduced the Surfer
II. This was originally going to be called the Surfblazer but it
seems the name was registered to a speedboat manufacturer, so they
had to change their plans at the last minute. This was done by cutting
out the letters "blaz" from the hundreds of adhesive names that
had already been produced.
However, the Surfer II was to become the most successful surf kayak
by far, at its peak being paddled by almost every competitor in
UK events. Phil Dean, UK champion for several years, paddled one.
I bought my Surf Shoe just before Owen was born, so it must have
been 1971 or 1972. It was the first in the North West that I know
of. The first contest that I attended was run by Dave Hayles at
Porthcawl, in 1972 or 3. Surf was minute but I remember a guy named
Ron (Goodwin?), in a Surf Shoe, who was making very long runs despite
the wave size. He turned up at a contest at Putsborough many years
later, when the Beachbreak photo of Dave Hayles on big surf was
taken, still with the Surf Shoe and still surfing the same way,
long climbs and drops. Another person present at that first contest
was Tony Blackwell, also around for some years beforehand, and later
UK champion. Paddled his own designs of surf kayak. John Kent was
around in those days. P&H then took things a stage further by introducing
the first commercially produced ski to my knowledge, the Surphski.
This had a fairly slow start, facing some opposition from surf kayak
paddlers but later became far more popular. I guess the hull and
deck must have been newly moulded, not the Surfer II with a new
deck, as it had very soft rails, unlike the Surfer II. I bought
mine about three months before the first Beachbreak was published,
to give you some idea of date. At that time it was quite rare and
few people had seen one. By later standards it was far from being
a hot design but survived by being the only one.