Vintage Surf meet 2019 coming soon !

Vintage Surf meet 2019 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

Thursday 31 January 2013

Inner Visions

This is a pretty unusual board made by Steve Inglis and Wes Clarke for Inner Visions surfboards in around 1981. Its got three big fin boxes which could allow all sorts of fin placement; its unusual for the two forward boxes to be so large and they're actually shaped into the rail channels. The channels are unusual as well for a UK board, most were belly channels and a couple of years later. I've seen rail channels on late 70s Aussie boards, they must have been a bugger to shape. Its 6'3 x around 21 1/2.
Inner Visions were one of the main late 70s board makers in far west Cornwall, based in Penzance and St Ives. But having said that you don't see many around today. Mabye board making only lasted a few years and their surf shops lasted longer.

 Channels and a Mark Warren design fin

 late 70s ads , above Inner visions at local hot spots Porthleven, Sennen, Red river - Godrevy, and Porthmeor. Below in Barbados.
Rail channels on an Aussie singlefin by Greg Laurenson. Fin made in Penzance.

Dreaming of winter getaways. All you need is a plane ticket and a donkey 1977 , Puerto Escondido .

Friday 25 January 2013

Nazare , Portugal - a beach break on steroids. 11th Jan

Thursday 24 January 2013

The Bickers story - by John Conway

Above - Fred Bickers
 This is one of the best (or maybe only ?) articles about Bickers, straight from the horses mouth, written by John Conway in 1998 for his Malibu magazine. Since this mag is pretty obscure, I've been meaning to put the article on the blog - so here it is. I wish I'd hired a typist ..
John Conway tells the story of one of the pioneers who made boards in Newquay in the mid 60s. Earlier this year (1998) Ernest Frederick Bickers passed away. Fred, as he was known, has never had his rightful place in the history of British surfing. He was there at the start virtually. Whilst all the hype and noise was around Bilbo, Fred and Brian Schofield got on with the mysteries of blowing foam. The story started in 1964. Fred owned the Fernhill cabinet works that stood on the Whim in Newquay - Somerfield now stands on the land. The cabinet works was an old slaughter house that Fred turned into a joinery works and DIY shop.
Malibus were not the first surfboards Fred made. For a number of years he turned out small plywood ''chicken runs''(bellyboards). These were strips of marine plywood with a curved end that tourist by the thousand would ride on the whitewater around the Cornish coastline. It was the arrival of Brian Schofield at Fernhill that triggered Fred's interest in the 'new' Malibu boards. The first Malibu that came out of the joinery works was in fact a scaled version of an Australian board made from plywood and wooden internal formers. It was full of air. I remember it well, Brian Schofield and I took it down to Watergate at low tide to have what was to be our first surf ; the board sank. At the age of 16 I was too impatient to wait for Fred and Brian to get it right so I bought a second hand balsa board and through that summer learnt to surf.
In the winter of 1964 a secret project was going on in the loft above the paint shop at Fernhill. Strange smells would mingle with the aroma of sawn pine and mahogany. Fred and Brian were conducting foam blowing experiments. In the spring of 1965 Brian told me that Fred was going to open a surfboard factory in St Thomas' road and if I behaved I might even get a job there in the summer. This was a great privilege. Being an apprentice cabinet maker I was supposed to be learning a trade in joinery and cabinet manufacture, but not much of that went on in summer so I would be useful as a labourer in the board shop. The experimenting continued and after a few disappointments Fred and Brian got the foam blowing system to work. Laminating was a technique which was picked up easily and sanding and polishing were skills that both had, being tradesmen. Dave Friar came to work with Brian - he had worked over at Bilbo and brought with him valuable knowledge.
 Above - this board was made for me in the summer of '65. It was considered unthinkable to have more than one trade decal on the boards, especially when the Bickers decals had gold leaf around the edge. The board weighed a tad under 30 lbs, was 9'6 long and as far as I can remember was fairly bombproof. There are no kneepaddling dents in the deck because it had one layer of 10 oz and a layer of 12 oz fibreglass on top of that. It is now owned by Andy Pickles and is part of his collection at the Bowgie inn, Crantock.
The first boards that had the Bickers label were seen on the beaches of Newquay in early 1965. The learning curve was short and Fred's factory started to make a board a week. With all the experimenting done, Brian applied his skills as a French polisher to the finishing of the boards with mock wooden panels. Bickers boards became the Rolls Royces of the day.
 Above - I remember this picture, the board was a custom order with nose and tail blocks and a starburst fin. The reason I was topless was I had turned up to work in a Bob Head surfboards t shirt and I was told to remove it for the picture. Being the youngest and the cheapest I think I got to hold up all the special boards that were photographed by Fred.
Through the summer of 1965 we made some good looking boards with wood nose and tail blocks, coloured panels, designs that were faithfully scaled from the adverts in Surfer magazine. In the winter of '65 we all went back to Fernhill and cabinet making and joinery. I couldn't wait till the spring of 1966 and the opening of the surfboard factory. In that year Fred employed an Australian shaper called Mick Jackman. He had some fairly radical ideas about board shapes and colour design. That summer we got it together and Bickers boards were ridden by notable surfers of the day like 'Cribbar king' Jack Lydgate, Viv Wilson and his younger brother Robin, and a bunch of other up and coming surfers.
 Above - This is a shot taken on the island on Towan beach, Newquay. Left to right : Dave Friar ( Dave along with Alan MacBride and Mick Stanley-Jones, 'Mobby' ,'Chin', Trevor Roberts and Richard Trewell represented the hardcore group of the day that Chris Jones, Roger Mansfield, Viv and Robin Wilson and myself used to emulate both on and off the board ). John Conway : this board was considered to be radical for its day. It was only 9ft and was a nose rider model. The good thing about it was it weighed in a under 25 lbs. Brian Schofield : Brian , father of TV celeb Philip was the driving force behind the production of Bickers boards. His skill as a french polisher took the finish to a very high level. Unidentified : I think his name was Bob Scott. Anyway the board he is holding is a standard board without any add ons such as nose and tail blocks, redwood stringers and a laminated wooden fin. photo Fred Bickers.
The locals were starting to get bitten by the surfing bug and boards seemed to be going everywhere. Mick Jackman also owned the Maui surf shop in the Blue Lagoon building. He hired out Bickers boards and sold them. I was put in charge of the sanding room, sanding down the boards prior to pin lining and glossing .Then they came back to me for polishing. Brian had worked out a polishing system which rendered the final finish like glass. Bickers finishes were the boards' trademark. Brian taught me to pin line boards and do panels whilst Mick Jackman showed me how to shape and do psychedelic resin designs. By mid summer of that year I was laminating as well under Brian's watchful eye.
Above - Dave Friar. This is the first board Bickers made. Dave rode it whilst he worked for Fred. The wetsuit is a bog standard diving variety that we all wore because Dennis Cross hadn't yet arrived on the scene with his Gul products.

Fred was always the boss. In those days apprentices would simply fade into the background when the boss was around. All except for the legendary day in 1966 when the Cribbar was ridden. I had been sent down to Fernhill for some nose and tail block material. I had snuck off via Newquay Harbour hill to watch the massive waves pounding the bay and if Fred caught me skipping off work normally I would have been in for it, but he stood by my side watching tose massive waves for a few minutes before suggesting that he was paying my wages and that I should get back to work.
Above - Brian Schofield. This was Brian's passion, polishing boards until you could adjust your Elvis haircut in the reflection.

In early 1967 Fred, with reasons known only to himself, decided to close down the surfboard factory. Brian Schofield went to Bilbo and Fred asked me to work up what materials were left into hire boards. This gave me the opportunity to do the whole thing myself - shaping through to finishing. Also , there were some Clark foam blanks that had been imported from America. These were to be made up first. I started with a board for myself. I finished it and Fred had a customer for it straight away so I made another one and that one sold. In the end I didn't get a clark foam board. I had the last blank that was left, too thin to make a custom board from. I ended up with a 8'11 x 20 x 2 1/2 board that looked dreadful but surfed like a demon.
Above - Some boards were real peaches, I wonder where this one is today.
 I got to keep the Bob Head t shirt on for this shot. A noserider alongside a conventional model.
Fred Bickers provided an alternative surfboard to Bilbo in Newquay. Bickers boards were quality items and those that are still around today stand testimony to that quality. Also, without Fred Bickers I would not have been able to become a carpenter and joiner, get my City and Guilds as a cabinet maker and, more importantly, become a surfer and surfboard builder.
For you surfboard collectors out there consider this, Bilbo were manufacturing 20 boards a week and Bickers at the most made only three. So if you are offered a Bickers snap it up especially one with a Clark foam sticker on it, there were only ten of these boards ever made. A board in 1965 cost about £25 - £30 and considering my wage for a 48 hr week was £4.85, it was a princely sum. The conclusion I have drawn is that I should have hung on to all my old boards. As a footnote to this story, the St Thomas road factory after Fred disposed of it went on to manufacture Conway skateboards, John Conway surfboards, Eagle surfboards, Atlantic Surfer magazine and eventually became my photographic studio before being disposed of to get an unsympathetic high street bank off my back.
Where are they now ??
Brian Schofield worked at Bilbo before emigrating to New Zealand.
Dave Friar emigrated to Wales and opened a surf shop and became a Gower legend.
John Conway made his own boards and had a hand in opening Ocean Magic, Vitamin Sea, retired from surfboard making to work on Atlantic Surfer, Surf Scene and establish Wavelength magazine. (The longest running British surf mag ,from 1981 to present day)
Fred's wife Yvonne Bickers, at last year's surf meet in Newquay.
Very rare Bickers order form from September 1965

Monday 21 January 2013

British kneeboard

Thanks to Shaun for sending in photos of this scoop decked kneeboard. Its rare to find an early British knee machine like this, and having no logo or makers name its history is kind of cloudy. Its around 5 ft long and has the heavyweight coarse weave cloth reminiscent of 60s longboards. I would date it to the early 70s though because of the swallow tail.
It could have been made by Britain's answer to Greenough ! A guy possibly in Cornwall or Devon who designed the board himself, had a knowledge of board building, grabbed whatever materials he could lay his hands on, and checked the surf mags for design features, like the scoop deck, swallow tail and rope holds. Like Greenough he started it as a twin fin (or single + sidebites) and then found it worked better as a single.
Ok its not exactly Velo ! But still its got a lot of character.

Sunday 20 January 2013

more spooning

A bit more about Hayden spoons. Gavin from Australia saw mine and sent in photos of his Hayden which also has the red velo design on. This ones a fully flexi spoon at the tail, with white pigment on the deck and underside so not a see through one. Its got a lovely Greenough fin, maybe mine would have been like this originally, just a bit longer at the base. This board will soon be in a british collection,  not mine, but it will be good to put them together and compare the differences. Gavin says - ''Mine is completely original, untouched and was bought new by the original owner in Rainbow beach circa 1968/9. Interestingly, he was a stand up rider who saw footage of greenough and wanted the feel that was happening with spoons. I have actually come across this a couple of times, where spoons have been owned by stand up surfers, rather than kneels''
George Greenough's name started to become well known in the surfing world when Nat Young won the worlds in 1966 on a revolutionary  9'4, thinner than most and with a flexible fin designed by Greenough. By the 1968 worlds all competitors boards had fins based on Greenough designs.
And Greenough's kneeboard surfing showed the Aussies that no matter how much they tweaked their longboards, they would never match the performance of GG's spoon. Thus started the shortboard revolution which eventually (many years later and after some dead end design phases) allowed stand up surfers to match GG's performance levels kneeling.
In the late 50s/ early 60s GG was making 5 ft long dished deck balsa kneeboards, originally twin fins but he found the closer he put the fins together the better it went so it became a singlefin, based on dolphin dorsal fins. His first spoon was Velo in 1965, a pure fibreglass shell which used the bottom of his balsa kneeboard as a mould. He shaped some leftover bits of foam for floatation at the rails and glassed them on, and ground the tail till it reached a desired flexibility under the load of a heavy turn. He now had an efficient straight rocker when he was planing, and a manouverable curved one when he was turning. This had never been seen before in a surfboard, and 40+ years later his spoons still stand as pretty advanced thinking.
Velo was barely able to float itself, and needed swim fins, or when GG had a camera ,an extra air mattrees for floatation to paddle out .It also needed good waves, fast and powerful. Once on a decent wave, it sat naturally in the pocket, and allowed George to go deep in the barrel, zip out onto the flat part of the wave and cut back into the white water with a conviction not seen before in stand up surfing. He blew minds, and was one of the few Americans the Aussies gave major respect to !
As most of you know, George's creativity went beyond just designing and riding the spoon - he made some great films including the Innermost limits of pure fun, Crystal Voyager and Dolphin Glide, designed and made windsurf boards, boats and a yacht, mat surfing, the list goes on.
In around 1965 George left his native Santa Barbara for a trip to Australia. He visited fellow American Bob Cooper who was working at Hayden Kenny's at Alexandra Headlands. Bob McTavish was also working at Hayden, and he and George soon became surfing buddies, especially at the newly found Noosa. McTavish and the Hayden shapers quickly got new ideas about how a surfboard could perform, and straight away copied George's narrow based fin based on a blue fin tuna. This soon became the world standard, but it started with George and then with Hayden.
In 1966 McTavish produced his first v bottom (around the fin area) on a 9ft board made for Hayden glasser Mick Hopper. By 1967 McTavish had moved down to Keyo in Sydney and was making v bottom plastic machines of 9 ft, the 8'6, then 8 ft , and the length kept dropping. They were the most responsive stand up surfboards ever made at the time. And so the shortboard revolution began. Within a year v bottoms had been dropped in favour of flat bottoms.
McTavish and George were still good friends and when Bob visited George in California they were the only two shortboarders in the US ; whereas back in Australia most companies were putting out versions of the new plastic machine design.
Rare twin fin Hayden spoon, only a few were made and most of these were exported to the US.
 The Hayden shop in 1965. The board with the white fin is Algie Grud's, and was the first conventional longboard to have a Greenough flex fin.
 Three generations of Greenough fins, 1962 from a balsa dished deck board, 1965 from the fibreglass Velo and a highly evolved mid 70s fin.

 George's favourite Velo (mk 2) above, and below how it was made by using the original balsa Velo as a mould, and then adding some foam offcuts around the rails.


Monday 14 January 2013

Hayden spoon kneeboard

 I'm going to start off this year with one of my best finds from last year. It came about when a lady called Tiki emailed me with photos of this board. She had been clearing out her late father's garage in Sussex and had found this spoon at the back covered in a layer of dust. She wasnt sure where he'd got it, but guessed he'd bought it at a car boot sale or off one of his fishing buddies ,and was for him to play around on at the beach.
A quick type in of 'hayden kneeboard' to google and Tiki suddenly saw that this was an important board. Although she initially wanted me to sell it for her I finally was able to cut a deal with her for it, promising it would go to a loving household ! It still cost good money, but like - when is another of these going to come out of a garage in England ?!
After a few months of 'research' ,I am still stumped to the true history of this board, mainly because it isnt like any other Hayden spoon I've seen. Its a semi spoon, with foam all the way through to the tail , which Hayden made a few of - rarer, though possibly less desireable/ iconic than the  fully flexible Greenough spoons they made.
But what makes this board different, and earlier than those - are the diamond tail, v bottom and earlier greenough fin ( which has been cut or ground down at some point, either just after creation or in the 70s). This fin was based on the dorsal fin of a dolphin which George had designed in the mid 60s , whereas the usual fins on the Hayden made spoons are the very thin, tuna fin inspired Greenough designs of '68 onwards.
It has a deep displacement hull at the nose going into the v bottom which starts forward of the mid point, and has the two flat slabs which go right through past the fin to the tail. With the tail of this board not being flexible, the v bottom may have helped with the turning ability of the board, but would lose some of the straight line speed that the flat bottom spoons had. Apparently George Greenough tried a v bottom at one point but dropped it in favour of his flexi spoons. This Hayden copies the red pigment design of George's favourite Velo from 1965 .You don't see this design very often on the Hayden spoons, and it could be a link to how involved George was in the Hayden factory when it was made, which must be around 1967 ? Dimensions are 5'3 x 21'' , with the base of the fin 81/2 inches long.
Basically ,two big names come to mind when looking at this board. Obviously George Greenough iconic designer and the most progressive wave rider in the world in the 60s , and fellow revolutionary Bob Mctavish, the originator of the v-bottom ,and shaper of the shortboard revolution. And amazingly enough they were both working around the same factory in late 1966 - Hayden !
 So what is this board ? An experiment ? A design for less than perfect waves when pure spoons wouldn't work ? A custom for a heavier rider ? The answer must be out there somewhere. I have sent these photos to two of the major Aussie experts in spoons and Greenough and both of them have never seen a v bottom spoon before ,and say its something special, but cant pin any definite history on it. The guy I really need to ask is Terry McLardy, who made the spoons at Hayden (from around 1966 ) under designs and advice from Greenough himself.
''McLardy (who was taught to glass by Bob Cooper, sort of as an apprentice) made all the spoons, and says he figures there were about 200-300 produced. Hayden says 60-80. Since McLardy reckons he sometimes made a few a week, I'd go with his higher figure. McLardy worked for Hayden for nine years from late '65. Quite a few were sent straight to Hawaii, where Hayden had a deal to sell boards post-66.The design changed slightly, with the foam in the rails extending right to the tail in some, or ending quite a way up the board in others (I've no idea which shape came first). McLardy says he made them bigger or smaller depending on the size of the rider, just like a normal board. Most were about 5ft 6in, some 5ft 4in, some 5ft 8in. Also, some weren't totally scooped out. He has no recollection of ever making the twin-fin one which was auctioned in Hawaii, but is an easy-going chap who says he supposes he must have made it. What he does remember is making just one finless example, with a concave tail to compensate, and he says it actually worked. It was stolen from the beach one lunchtime. Now that would be the one to find.''
From Stuart Scott, author of 'Noosa - Surfing the 60s'
Stuart asked a friend about the board and came back with this -
''Well, my friend who in theory knows everything about Hayden spoons agrees that you've got something rare. He's never seen a V-bottom before. He agrees with my guess that it's presumably 1967, due to the V, or maybe 1968. And it's also long -- my spoon is 4ft 9 1/2, and I'm told the actual "Velo Mk 11" was 4'10'. He says: ``This has been coloured to resemble it. It would certainly be an early one ... Nice to see such an unusual board turn up after all these years.
It presumably was made by Terry McLardy . He once told me that he made the spoons different lengths depending on size/weight of the rider, just like shaping a regular board. And if he left all that extra foam in, maybe it was made for someone who really needed lots of flotation? Or maybe it was just an experiment? When you think of it, actual surfboards became shorter than that just a couple of years later.''
'And a spoon story which will break your heart: I remember the time when a very, very early one made by Greenough himself sat in Hayden's shop with a ``for sale'' sign on it for month after month, getting dustier. Would have been '65-66, and no-one wanted this silly-looking thing which was the same price as a new board then. It was an ugly drab green colour, like the boards Hayden made briefly. Its price kept being reduced, and after many months, one day it just wasn't there. Don't know if someone bought it or they threw it out. Hayden doesn't remember it at all.' Stuart Scott


George with one of his solid balsa kneeboards, which he used as a mould for laying the glass over to produce the flexible Velo .
George's favourite mid 60s Velo is top, with one of his recent graphite edged boards.
Laying it on the rail, Australia 1967
v - bottom test pilot McTavish, 1967
There is basically a load more information about the background behind this board , George Greenough and Bob McTavish that I think I'll do another blog post about it to keep this one from being massive. So that will come soon...
Thanks to Henry, Stuart and various Surfers Journals for helping me gather stuff for this post and the next.
If you know anything about this spoon please let me know, or if you own a British spoon send in some photos ! We already know a few were made by Tigger Newling, Tris, Tiki, and possibly Freedom and Bilbo.
The Hayden with Pete's and Henry's Farrelly spoons at last septembers surf meet. Henry's spoon - the purple one - was found in the UK.