The Wight Surf History Project
celebrating 50 years of surfing on the Isle of Wight.

The Wight Surf History Project tells the story of how surfing arrived and evolved on the Isle of Wight, and the lively characters involved in Island surfing since the early 1960s.

Isle of Wight, surfing

Dave Jacobs, Compton Bay

In those days surfing was something of an experiment on the Isle of Wight. A small number of friends started out with belly boards or homemade wooden surfboards.

Small pockets of surfers scattered around the Island experimented in their own ways until they got together and tried to set up an Isle of Wight Surf Club. An advert in the Isle of Wight County Press brought together more surfers from around the Island.

Cars and fibreglass boards
The first meetings of the Isle of Wight Surf Club were held in a tent on the cliff tops at Ventnor. They later moved to the bed and breakfast in Ventnor owned by the Roger Backhouse’s mother. During the summer Pat Morrell and Mike Hutchinson (Hutch), the so-called woodwork teacher, joined them with their homemade wooden boards.

Before long, once they had the money, there were cars, trips to Cornwall and the new fibreglass surfboards. Rob Ward was back from serving in the Royal Navy. He had learned to surf in South Africa and South America. Rob’s surfing was more advanced than many of the Island surfers. In the 1970s Rob travelled much of the globe in search of waves.

He is the most buccaneering, big-wave-riding surf export of the Isle of Wight,”
former British surfing champion Roger Mansfield, author of The Surfing Tribe.

During the late 1960s and 1970s Tad Ciastula and Roger Cooper started shaping boards on the Island and both went on to become renowned surfboard shapers. Derek Thompson started making the famous Cosmic leashes.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Dave Gray started to dominate the Isle of Wight surf competitions and went on to compete in the English National Championships. Many of today’s top Island surfers say that Dave was a major influence and they aspired to be as good.

Pushing the limits
The Isle of Wight Surf Club started its own surf magazine in the late 1970s and many articles joked about surfers not wanting to enter competitions if Dave turned up, as he only needed look at a surfboard to win.

In the early 1990s it was Stu Jones who took over the mantle as the best surfer on the Isle of Wight. He pushed the limits and started a new generation of surfers who wanted to do aerials. In 1994 Craig Sharp took the South Coast Champion crown from Stu Jones and was one of many who took off in search of waves and adventure abroad.

At the same time 10-year-old Johnny Fryer was just making his mark winning the under-14 (cadet) category in the 1994 South Coast Championship. Johnny went on to dominate the Island surf scene until he moved to Cornwall and eventually became British Surfing Champion in 2010.

In the past 17 years Zoe Sheath has started to shine. She is the daughter of Gail Sheath, one of the early members of the Isle of Wight Surf Club who started surfing in the 1970s. Zoe went on to become English Women’s Surfing Champion in 2007.

More recently the Isle of Wight Surf Club was reborn with the help of Island business Rapanui. Matt Harwood took the helm alongside Oliver Harvey. They successfully ran the Frost Bite series of competitions last year and the South Coast Surfing Championships.

Isle of Wight, surfing, Wight, history

Ross Williams, Hawaii


Paul Blackley




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