Having grown up in Penwith I was always aware of a place called Skewjack. My parents weren’t water people and had moved into the area two years before the surf village opened, so they weren’t immersed in the local scene. But as I made my way in the world and discovered my own affinity with the arts, the sea and surfing, it would sometimes crop up in conversation.
Skewjack didn’t cross my path again until, years later, I moved back to Penzance and started working on The First Wave; an oral history project charting the course of surfing in Britain www.thefirstwave.co.uk.
As a researcher and interviewer I was looking for contributors. An old schoolmate gave me Essex Tyler’s phone number, telling me his dad Chris was a ‘surfing legend’ and ran Skewjack. It turned out Chris was quite elusive and, from a more practical point of view, lived in Bulgaria! But Essex is a part of the UK’s surf history in his own right and agreed to do an interview with me, covering his own story but also his childhood at Skewjack.
Out of all the interviews I did for that project, all informative, inspiring and touching, Essex’s was the one that stood out. It was not the most polished, but it was one of the most heartfelt interviews I had ever done. I knew then that there was a story to be told.