Vintage Surfboards of the United Kingdom

Contemporary research has revealed even earlier historical events involving solo-pioneers experimenting with surfboard riding on British shores. Uniquely, Lewis Rosenberg in 1930, inspired by cinema footage of ocean antics at Bondi Beach in Sydney,  Australia,  had built himself a carved balsa wood surfboard  which he had sealed with some sort of lacquer.  This moving film recorded event is interpreted as the first surfboard built in Europe.

1930s Hollow Surfboards

Some seven years later, in 1938, an English dentist, Jimmy Dix, received a crate shipped from the USA containing a  14ft. Tom Blake fin-less hollow wooden surfboard.  Whether it was purchased or received as a gift has never been clarified, nor if it was ever used much in waves, but it was certainly the first foreign-made surfboard to enter Britain.

1950s Balsa and Fiberglass Surfboard

As the 1950s ended, UK surfing contained  only about 40 individuals, mainly attached to Surf Lifesaving Clubs, using variations of the  hollow wooden cigar boards of Blake-inspired design. It was a fairly crude experiment by Freddie Blight in Cornwall in 1961, to combine balsa wood and fiberglass.

1960s Foam and Fiberglass

Bill Bailey, a Newquay lifeguard, who had built several wooden boards, saw the future in 1962, with the simultaneous  appearance  in town of two foam and fibreglass  surfboards.

Shortboard Revolution

To Brits, the shorter V-bottom surfboard was a 1967 vision from the Australian surf film, Hot Generation, with its primary designer Bob McTavish riding the radical design  at Honolua Bay.

Longboard Resurgance

In the mid-Eighties, the longer-board idea was received from cult example in Australia picked up by UK surf traveller Mike Smith, who was spotted in home waters  having more waves than anyone else, whilst running up and down his surfboard.  A  fun competition for a collaboration of surfboard-builders in 1985, evolved the ‘mini-mal’,  a uniquely British ‘circa 8ft’ hybrid of late 1960s Malibu design and all the subtler features of the multi-finned shortboard.

For more details on vintage surfboards of the United Kingdom beginning in the 1930s, including lots of photos with detailed descriptions and values, see the chapter United Kingdom Surfboards in The Ultimate Guide To Surfboards & Collectibles.

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