WELCOME TO BOURNEMOUTH: THE CALIFORNIA OF THE SOUTH COAST
Posted: Feb 21 2017
Bournemouth is a vibrant cosmopolitan town situated directly to the east of what is known as the Jurassic Coast, an idyllic 95 mile stretch of the unspoilt coastline famous for providing a complete geological record of the Jurassic period.
Settled between the two older seaside resorts of Weymouth and Brighton, Bournemouth became famous for its iconic beach huts and seven miles of beaches that overlook Poole Bay and the Isle of Wight.
Although famous for tourism it was not until 1838 that the first two hotels opened in Bournemouth, the Royal Bath Hotel and what was the Pier Hotel (where the Pavilion is now). With the evolution of the railway Bournemouth quickly became a destination for affluent holidaymakers, much like it still is today.
After the completion of the ‘Winter Gardens’ in 1880 that led to the shoreline, Bournemouth soon built its seven miles of beach. Like the south east resorts the shore was originally covered in smooth pebbles (as Brighton still is).
Thankfully our Victorian counterparts saw sense and replaced these pebbles with glorious golden sand and the subsequent groynes to stop it drifting back into the sea. Completed in 1885, the ‘Victorian’ style Pier is the most important thing here, as over the years has it become the quintessential part of the local surfing community and even had its image embedded on the Wessex Surf Club’s original logo.
Bournemouth is steeped in history when it comes to surfing in the UK. With Bournemouth first being surfed early in the 60’s by quite a few ‘radical dudes,’ the whole of the Dorset coast was then explored for new waves (which there were plenty of). One of these radicals was Bob Grove who in 1964 started Wessex Surf Club, one of the first recognised surf clubs in the UK.
The club competed in the South Coast Surfing Championships every year from its start in the early 70’s, with Wessex Surf Club’s own Roger Preston winning the second official South Coast Championship in 1974 and local legend Guy Penwarden winning the event five times between 1975 and 1984. Other Wessex winners were Nick Castle in 1986 and Derek Deer in 1990. These days, Penwarden and Deer are still in the water whenever a decent swell arrives, but now they have their sons or nephews in the line-up as well.
Historically non-locals have always viewed Bournemouth as inconsistent, flat or just plain slop, and more often than not with good reason. But for a long time it was one of the UK’s best kept secrets, with nearby Jurassic reefs and Swanage sheltered spots giving good consistent swells with waves that were good and uncrowded. Still underestimated by many in the UK, Bournemouth has quickly grown into a surfing epicentre attracting all kinds of surfers to its already busy line-up. But from these crowds a lot of great surfers have risen to bigger and brighter things.
Due to the shelter that the Pier offers, Bournemouth attracts surfers from all over the South Coast, especially on those big south swells. So most of the time we have surfers of all ages and abilities showing their faces on a regular basis. However, one thing that you can always be sure of is the high level of surfing from generations of stand-out rippers.
The older crew really forged the way for the local scene and set the patterns for years to come. I have already spoken about the Guy and Derek in the early days of the Wessex who helped form the early foundations of the local scene (Not forgetting Dave ‘carpet’ Sturgess and ‘Big’ Rich Smith).
This bunch of codgers can still out surf the majority of the line-up and have inspired generations of surfers, local surfers like Gary Greenwood and Eddy the Fish. With the level already set, it took rippers like Lee Hammond and Si Furley (K-Bay Surfboards) to carry the flag and compete at an ASP level.
Then there is Terry Crump who has always set the line-up on fire. Terry has always been one to let his surfing do the talking, no matter what country he is in. Having local talent like Terry and Andy Gilham (now living in NZ) raising the bar helped inspire local photographers and filmmakers. Two names to note here are Gary Knights and Tim Wreyford.
Gary has devoted his life to surfing and documenting surf, whilst Tim, after making the local scene movie Slop, followed his dream to Australia and forged a career as a professional surf filmmaker working with top pro surfers like Tom Carroll. Then there are the 90s kids who started surfing through the turn of the century. Now in his mid-twenties Tristan Mather has already forged a place in the Bournemouth archives by achieving 18th in the European ASP longboard ratings.
Mike ‘Twinkle Toes’ Winter is always dancing around the line-up with grace and style and Gayson Alderman will always be on your shoulder. From the shores of Jersey Mike Walcroft is another ripper who has helped the groms push the level of their surfing, groms like Miles Lee Hargreaves who is now competing on an international level with the backing of the entire Bournemouth surfing community. Then we have the French Foreign Legion who recently came to town and blew everything out of the water. Gordon Fontaine has been a revelation to the local scene with his aerial exploits and general surfing shenanigans.
Probably one of the most underrated surfers in the UK Gordon regularly takes podium places on the UK tour and recently made the quarters in a five star WQS event in France. Through setting up his local coaching school LOAR Visions a new age of surfers are in the right hands; guys like Elliot Mills, Rory Morgan, the Johnson brothers and many more. But be warned, if I see another air reverse attempt I am gonna cause havoc!
The Wave and Conditions
Historically, there would have been a few spots to describe here, but after dredging the sand around the Southbourne groynes and chopping the end of Boscombe Pier off, the council has really managed to destroy our local banks. We all hoped that the artificial reef would be the answer to our prayers, but no doubt you know how badly that went wrong.
Courtesy of Wavelength Surf Mag