Cornwall's retro surfing scene

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It hasn’t been hard to notice a shift in the world of surfing in recent years. Surfers are now craving a return to their counter-culture roots, shunning mass-produced apparel and big-name brands for more authentic and niche offerings. Put simply, they wanted to add some soul back into the surfing experience. And Cornwall is leading the way. Join us as we go on a retro tour.


Otter handplanes

Another environmentally friendly surfboard producer. But this time Otter Surfboards uses the offcuts from their wooden boards to make stylish handplanes. With one of these and the addition of some swim fins to help you kick into the waves easier, you’re able to enhance your bodysurfing sessions by controlling your position in the wave –maybe even into a small barrel or two. It’s an ancient sport, made modern, and then retro again. They make bellyboards and run workshops too.


Neon wetsuits

What do you do as a surfer when you’re sick of wearing wetsuits emblazoned with florescent materials and tribal designs? If you’re Elsie Pinniger, you make your own, by hand, in her Newquay studio. Neon makes UK summer and warm water wetsuits for men and women with simple designs. OK. So there’s still bright neoprene (that’s the stuff that wetsuits are made off) if you want it, but with the option to custom-build your own suit, your look can be as bright or a subtle as you want.


Perched high on the cliffs near St Agnes, self-styled ‘cold-water surfing’ company Finisterre has flourished while some of the world’s leading surf brands have crashed and burned. Founder Tom Kay says it’s all down to innovation, transparency and quality – and a whole lot of love for surfing Cornish waves. Finisterre has forged relationships with local and far-away disrupters alike, nurtured a flock of Bowmont sheep to produce their own Marino-type wool, popped-up in Paris and expanded to London, all while staying true to their roots. Their apparel is high-performing and highly covetable.


Driftwood Surfboards

It’s not easy using environmentally friendly materials to make surfboards. But shaper, designer and artist David Forsyth saw it has a challenge. He began making eco-friendly hollow wooden surfboards in 2007, and so, Driftwood Surfboards based in Newquay was born. David is pictured below in his studio.

The boards not only look beautiful, but most importantly they surf beautifully too. Serious about your surfing and like a challenge too? David runs workshops where at the end of five days you can take home your own stunning board.


World Bellyboarding Championships

Once you’ve shaped your own bellyboard (see above) then it’s time to don your hair rollers and your best vintage 50s cossie for the World Belly Boarding Championships, held every year down the timeless valley at Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes. Organised and run by the National Trust, it’s a celebration of all things connected with the mastery or disastery of riding traditional prone wooden boards. It’s happening on Sunday 6 September at Chapel Porth, Cornwall and you can apply to enter online.


Newquay still wears the scars of a town hit by the recession, but things are slowly brightening up. James Wright and Jake Patterson started an online offering of unique and hard to find surf and skate brands in 2011. A store launched a year later, and from there an unexpected foray into a standalone retro surfboards (single, twin fins, fish tails), and finally, clothing market. You only have to take a look at their Instagram account to feel what they’re all about. The vibe has spread, and a barber and coffee shop have now also moved in upstairs.