Discovery - Chris Tyler
"There were only Ollie, Mike Carr, Tony Hole and John Adams who were actually doing this (surfing) from the Penzance area. I thought it looked really good fun and I'd seen some magazines that had come over from the States, you know ... keep you healthy and all that! So I bought a surfboard. I think it was 10 foot six, it was very large! I started going off on Wednesday afternoons because the shops would shut early, and at weekends. We'd go all over Cornwall. We'd check out the wind on the church in Penzance. We'd look at the wind vane ... "Ah – just slightly south of west ... south coast? Hmmm dunno" ... and we'd drive all over Cornwall looking for a wave on a westerly wind. Of course, there weren't any! Eventually we found a couple of places that did break on a westerly, but that wasn't until later on.
"Ollie was making diving wetsuits but his wetsuit for surfing was entirely different. He made it out of eight-inch neoprene, double skin. I asked: "How do you get it on?". "Oh," he said,"Get a tin of talcum powder from the chemist". So big tin of powder goes in the suit and it slipped on really well! He made me a suit, little bootees and mittens because it was winter and it was cold. That's the way of it, we'd go in any time. Sometimes I'd go on my own and we'd take our own cars, sometimes we'd team up. That's how it started in Penwith. At Sennen Cove mostly, which had good waves and was fairly consistent and easy to get to. Some of the places we'd have to climb down goat tracks, with a ten-foot board! Going down ... and then going up! Your little legs would be struggling – they were heavy.
"Our first lifeguard was a guy called Bill Dodd who was from Yorkshire. Knowledgeable chap and not a bad surfer, for a Yorkshireman. He said: "Why do you guys always surf on this beach here?" which was Sennen Cove. "What's that place over there? I'm sitting here watching it through the binoculars and its really good waves and they're bigger than they are over here." We said "That's Gwenver" or Gwynver, the Cornish pronunciation. "Oh" he said, "Well I might give that a go this afternoon, nice day, offshore breeze."
So, sure enough he took his board and he went out and he paddled right across to Gwenver. We were watching through the glasses and we said 'God, he got over there!' - because you have to paddle around these rocks you know, North Rocks. He's there and he takes a wave, and then another one, and then another one ... and we're getting pretty jealous! He came back eventually and said "God it's a bloody good place that is. Nobody on the beach, absolutely deserted." We thought we'd have a go at that in the next day or two - and three of us went over.
"It looked big in the binoculars and when you got over there ... it was a lot bigger unfortunately. Oh dear, oh dear, good lord, that's not cricket! Anyway, I'm sitting there waiting for a set and this set of waves come through and I thought, "Well, I can't sit here all day" so, I paddled for this wave. Made a complete mess of it, pulled at the bottom, board went up in the air, I went down and by the time I came up, lovely sunny day, the birds were singing .... no board. My board was gone and I'm way out to sea, because in those days you could paddle on a wave when it was still a hump. They were great long boards and you could knee paddle them, go like hell, catch waves. And of course you didn't have a leash in those days, leashes came along several years later.
"So, I start to sidestroke towards the beach. I eventually get to the beach, come out pretty tired ... and there's this beautiful lady running down the beach towards me, carrying my surfboard - naked. I'm like ' Hello!' She says: "I think this is yours?". I said that it was and thank-you very much for bringing it down for me, turned round and off I paddled. It turned out it was my mate Bruce's mum. He eventually worked for me and will show up later on, a real character. And that was his mum! They were the only ones on the beach. It was used by people who liked to get their gear off, you know, a nude beach.
"That's how Gwenver started. Well, look at it now!"