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

Monday, 7 April 2014

The story of the red Friendly Bear - chicken feathers included

 I have talked more in depth with Michael ,the owner of this Friendly Bear - to find out its story and how Michael came to be given it by Bob . Its an interesting story ! These photos are of Michael cleaning the board up for the first time since he got it in the early 60s - and finding chicken footprints and feathers in the hot coat ! more on that to come later.
 When the four Australian lifeguards (Bob Head, Ian Tiley, John Campbell and Warren Mitchell ) came over in 1962 they worked at beaches in and outside of Newquay ( and also built some rock paddling/ swimming pools ) . Bob worked at Mawgan Porth beach alot, where he and the other Aussies befriended the 11 year old Michael . Michael lived up the hill at Trenance .
They took Michael out on their boards to teach him how to surf , occasionally out in a boat to see basking sharks and sometimes took him down the coast in their Series 2 open Landrover to surf Perranporth and St Ives . Michael says these were hairy drives and he had to hold on tight !
The Aussies were easy going friendly guys who enjoyed Michael's company including his cheeky comments and windups. Michael remembers Bob coming up to their home at Trenance for sunday roast ; and on his 12th birthday Bob gave him this Friendly Bear surfboard. Michael was over the moon with his present ; the other local kids at the beach just had bellyboards at this time (1963)  . Bob said the board was an experimental hydrofoil type design with a step above the fin ( I hope to get some photos of this) .
Bob had made the board in a disused shed at the nearby chicken farm, and Michael says there are some chicken tracks and the odd feather still stuck in the surface of the board. As you can see in the photos the hot coat was never sanded by Bob so this explains why stuff that got stuck in it is still there ! Michael knew the chicken farm well - he used to go shooting rats there for the farmer.
 Michael used to surf the board alot at Mawgan Porth, and sometimes Watergate ; and Bob helped him to learn on it .He must have been dedicated because for a 12 yr old to carry a heavy board all the way from Trenance to Mawgan beach and back was pretty exhausting , plus no wetsuit just shorts and a t shirt so the cold was pretty biting .  The winter of 1963 - 64 was a particularly cold one , probably a shock to the Aussies ; and Michael and the other local kids took to using their ply bellyboards as sledges !
In 1964 Michael's life at Mawgan Porth abruptly ended - his father was in the RAF and was transferred far upcountry , so Michael had to leave his friends at the beach . They kept a small cottage there for a few year and spent several summers back near the surf , but eventually that stopped and the board has been in storage in the garage roof since then .  1962 - 64 was a very short part of Michael's life but one he remembers very clearly and with a lot of good memories.


  1. Nice work again Al but, as with your article on the Friendly Bear discovered last year, comments seem very few or slow in coming, which is surprising since this is part of the genesis of GB surfing .

  2. I think have the problem is the blogger site and how difficult it is to leave comments . People have to sign in to say something and even then its sometimes not possible. If only it was as easy as facebook. But at the end of the day I know people are enjoying reading it even if there are few comments . The readership of the blog is always increasing, with now on average 12,000 views a month compared to 10,000 per month last year.