Vintage Surf meet 2018 coming soon !

Vintage Surf meet 2018 coming soon !
Free to take part
We buy interesting old boards 60s/70s/early 80s in good condition. Email . Also wanted - Surfing UK , British Surfer and Surf Insight magazines .
Above photo - copyright Rennie Ellis photographer archive

Friday, 29 June 2012

Surf film nights in the UK late 1960s

By Tony Cope

In the mid-60`s I used to surf in Devon & Cornwall often with Bob Groves & Bill Davies, and met the local surfers .One was Rod Sumpter, who had come back from a childhood in Aus., and was one of the best surfers in the world.Rod had starred in surf films made by Bob Evans ,Paul Witzig,
McGillivray & Freeman and others so he started showing copies of their work, as well as making his own. Naturally he asked about showing films on the South Coast , asking for a guarantee of an audience of at least 50 to make the trip worthwhile.
 We took it on, booked a hall in Southampton, then worried about what we had done.Can`t remember now what that first show was, but there were 5 clubs within 30 miles of So`ton, so home madeposters went out to all. On the night over 100 guys turned up so we did two shows. Most of the crowd saw the 7-30 show & then paid again to see the 9-00 too, which was a riot as everyone had a drink or two in between. The IoW boys somehow managed to catch the last ferry back !

Rod was more than pleased; as well as making some money he asked `can anyone give a travelling surfer a bed for the night ?`& guys were queuing up to oblige.
From then on he phoned up whenever he had a new film, either european ones he had made himself or international 60`s movies from Aus or USA, including ` Hot Generation`, `Evolution`, and `Free & Easy`.
Can`t remember which film it was for, but we once did a really big publicity campaign, and managed to fill Southampton Civic Centre
with guys coming from all over the place, even London .

I met `Fitz` Fitzgerald in 1967 while surfing Lynmouth. He was setting up Surfboards Inc. ( which later became Westcoast Surfboards ) in Woolcombe. We sat in a cafe afterwards and he asked if I wanted to live at his place on the sea front, surf competitions with his boards, & help with a surf film he was hoping to make. As he didn`t need me to mow foam or glass boards all day in his dark & dingy factory, it took all of 10 seconds to agree .
Thro` the 1968 winter Fitz posted reels of film back from Capetown, SA, where he was working for Clive Barber Surfboards.

 I went to London and bought the best equipment: a projector, screen, amp & speakers, then did some editing & sound recording, booked halls around N Devon, & had posters printed. Fitz called the film SURFAARI to reflect it`s SA origins.It showed the first short boards , 8` V-bottomed stubbies, being ridden at Elands Bay and places around Capetown.Fitz was astute enough to include footage of lions, hippos etc. so non-surfers would be attracted too.

When he got back in March `69 we put the music on it , using the Marisco Club`s sound equipment & their DJ, Chris Kauffman. Mick Lock, a surfer and the club`s owner, asked it was possible to turn the place into a ` surfer`s den `. I fixed a load of old boards ( which would now be worth a fortune ) round the walls, then bought some 8mm surf movies from SURFER mag in the USA and made a continuous loop film. Projected onto a wall from a shelf above the bar , it showed Dewey Weber & Co surfing in California. When the club opened many Woolacombe surfers, residents and holiday makers made the club their local .

 In June we started the Surfaari shows, doing 4 nights a week at surrounding surf villages.I used to visit each village 2 days before the show & fly-poster it . Illegal publicity was everwhere, but amazingly no-one complained about it. On the night I turned up in my Hillman Husky Estate an hour before the show to set out the seats, set up the equipment, take the money and get the show going. If Fitz wasn`t busy he came too and enjoyed telling the punters about SA . The first week or two a lot of locals turned up, so 2 shows a night were possible. From then until September there were enough visitors coming in for one full house each night, so with only the hall bills to pay we were making good money.

During the season Rod S. arranged to come down to Woolacombe to show another Aus film, but despite a big publicity campaign the audience numbers were lower than expected .When Rod asked if someone could provide a bed for the night there was no response . Simone was with him, but overnight she developed a cold and she ended up staying at my place for several days, while Rod went off up country in his Humber Super Snipe estate car to do more shows.

 The last time I saw Simone was at the North Cornish Contest at Widemouth on 11th July 1970.She was on her own, and fly-postered Bude for a Saturday night show.When the film was due to start there were only about a dozen or so of us there, and she hung on for a long time hoping more would arrive.It didn`t happen, and finally she cancelled the show. Some people were a bit upset by this and several said they wouldn`t be coming to any more surf films .
The best years of the travelling surf show seemed to be over.

Jantzen ad. from 1968, Corky Carroll, Simone and Rod Sumpter in Biarritz.CC has his Hobie `Mini` model ( his reaction to the Aus shortboard era was to take the mid foot or so out of a Malibu board ), RS has a full size Bilbo mal with a massive cross on it, made up with hundreds of little union jacks.
Another priceless board that might be in someone`s attic !

BBC cameraman filming the SLSA British surfing champs at Widemouth 1967, for a clip to go on the 6 o'clock news.
Thanks again to Tony for sharing his great memories, old posters and photographs. I'm amazed by how much of the 60s he can remember !


  1. As I was there, but can still remember the 60`s, guess I need a psychiatrist....

  2. Great stuff Tony and thanks for sharing, you were obviously behaving yourself back in the day to still remember it like it was yesterday !, and good job too as we now get to hear about it all first hand.

  3. 60`s history is no problem . Remembering what happened yesterday, and that it`s dustbin day tomorrow, are my big problem ...... says Pat.