At our stunning cliff top development in Newquay, Cliff Edge, each apartment came with its very own coffee table lifestyle magazine. Designed and developed by Absolute, our sister company and all round amazing creative studio, these magazines promote the very best in coastal living – a little something we like to call Cornish Life + Style.
Next up in the series is Surfing Back In Time, a brief history of surfing in Newquay…
“Immersed in wave-riding since the early ‘60s, I watched British surfing evolve as I grew up. I was both participant and observer in a new and unique way of life. Surfing gripped my soul.” – Roger Mansfield.
In ‘The Surfing Tribe’, Newquay resident Roger Mansfield tells the full story of the history of surfing in Britain. In these excerpts, produced with the kind permission of the publishers, Orca Publications, Roger recounts some of the key moments in the journey that has taken Newquay to its current status as Surf City UK.’
The Great Western Railway ushered in a new era of tourism in Cornwall during the early 20th Century. Many of the visitors came to the then small fishing town of Newquay on the North coast. With nine golden sand beaches open to ocean swell, Newquay was naturally equipped to become a centre for surfing. Bellyboarding was the post-war summer buzz and a local culture emerged that was all about playing in the waves. This evocative image was used to promote Newquay as the tourist capital of the new ‘Cornish Riviera’, easily accessed by train (and increasingly by car) in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Local surf pioneer Pip Staffieri had aroused mild curiosity by riding waves in Newquay during the ‘40s, but the austerity of the post-war years prevented the emergence of surfing for another 20 years. By the ‘50s, Pip was better known for making ice creams than surfing, but he still liked to park his van in a good spot and quietly watch the waves while he was working.
When a visiting team of surf lifesavers from South Africa put on a demo at Tolcarne Beach in early Spring 1962, the Newquay crew were hugely impressed. The standout was three-times South African paddling champion Max Wetteland. The Springbok team had already visited Jersey and St Ives, but it was in Newquay that Max had the biggest impact.
Later that Spring, a sequence of chance events unfolded which would form a core group of surfboard riders in the town. One morning, [local man] Bill Bailey received a telephone call from Peter Cox, a friend who lived on the island at Towan Beach. “Bill, get over here!” said Peter excitedly. “Someone’s surfing right out front!” Bill rushed down to Towan, where he saw a distant figure riding the waves on a revolutionary-looking board. The mystery man turned out to be a visiting American called Doug McDonald, and the board he was riding was a state-of-the-art 9’6” Bragg fibreglass Malibu board.
By the spring of 1963 a small but dedicated surfing clan had formed in Newquay, with all the action going down in the bay.
By 1964 surf fever was building in Newquay, and at the end of that long hot summer it was obvious that there was not only a new sport emerging, but also a new lifestyle. All the action was focussed on Tolcarne, Towan and Great Western.
Newquay’s fledgling surf industry then began to take shape and surfers could purchase boards from three different shapers in town. Word started to spread about the waves in town and more and more foreign surfers began to visit the town. In 1967, the first mainland British Championships was held at Fistral Beach under the guidance of the newly-formed British Surfing Association.
Photos courtesy of Orca Publications.