[This year marks 40 years of Wavelength in print. To celebrate, we’ve revived some of our original ’80s leisurewear and will be sharing a series of classic stories from our extensive archive right here on Wavelengthmag.com. This one was originally printed in Vol. 256 and takes a look back at the night the magazine was born.]
Since the late 50’s Newquay has been a magnet for eccentrics on the run.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s Aussie lifeguards chasing women and dreams of ‘the old country’, folk-loving beatniks and a never-ending exodus of surf-obsessed hedonists converged to form the town’s fledgeling scene.
As the ’80s beckoned, over at the other side of the globe, an early world surfing tour was beginning to take shape and with a few British names among the roster, sights soon became set on bringing an event to Cornish shores. In 1981 that dream became a reality, with the arrival of the first-ever international surf comp at Fistral beach; the Gul/ Alder European Pro-AM.
The event proved a seminal moment for both British surfing and the identity of the Newquay surf scene. Thousands of spectators flocked to watch top international pros battle it out against the cream of British surfing talent and when the event wrapped the local crew emerged bleary-eyed but beaming, safe in the knowledge that Newquay had asserted itself firmly onto the world surfing stage.
The comp also coincided with the release of Issue No.1 of Wavelength, in a deliberate and shrewd scheduling move by co-founders Geoff Tydeman and John Conway, designed to capitalise on the wave of surfing interest that followed the event.
One afternoon while delving into our extensive photo archive, we discovered a single roll of black and white film from that August night; featuring the Gul /Alder Pro Am awards do cum Wavelength mag launch at the Sailor’s Arms in the centre of town. We examined the photos for faces we recognised and one sunny winter evening we gathered together a collection of local characters who had been in attendance to see what memories they could dredge up from the old grey matter.
They were; Wavelength co-founder and the man who took the shots Geoff Tydeman, multiple British and European champ Nigel Semmens, ’80s charger Lenny Ingram, legendary local industry bods Gary and Pete Collins and Newquay core lords Nick Ulczak and Grant Forbes.
This is what they told us.
Grant: Who’s that bloke there, in the white shirt?
Gary: The surfer signing autographs.
Grant: With my eyes it looks like you Nigel!
Nigel: I should have brought me glasses. Who’s that there?
Geoff: It’s you innit?
Gary: Looks a bit like you…
Nigel: It fucking is me yea! I thought it was Mike Burness
Geoff: What have we come to!
Nigel: If I remember rightly, John Conway and Bob Westlake from Alder asked me if I’d do a speech to welcome Shaun Thomson and Rabbit and thank them for their participation. Because we’d been out to the Snapper Rocks contest and the whole idea was to bring that prestige of a contest like that back to the UK. I wanted to get it on the world competitive tour so I asked those boys to come and they said yes, because they wanted to grow the tour too. Then Alder and Gul got involved.
Gary: It was a big deal for all the pros to come over and they all got treated like royalty! They fucking loved it.
Grant: Who’s the girl?
Gary: That’s Christine, Punk Pete’s missus.
Geoff: He was one of the first punks ever on the beach, he wore makeup and had all the hair…
Gary: Yea it was bleach blond and spiked up. It didn’t look so cool when it got wet though.
Lenny: Christine’s in all the photos!
Geoff: Yea, John liked her a lot.
Grant: She looks like Debbie Harry to me!
Geoff: She was actually really shy…
Nigel: It don’t look like it… why’s she in all the photos?
Geoff: John wanted it that way, that’s why. He actually did the dirty on her in that magazine, he put a picture of her head and shoulders next to a bird in a bikini and it looked like it was her and she went mad at him!
Pete: She was only around for a couple of years,
Lenny: They used to come round my house quite a lot, Punk Pete and Christine, one day he just had enough of the scene and moved up north.
Gary: There’s Pete my brother in the middle, and that’s me there [on the left]- is that Grant in the back with his arm up? Yea! And it’s Douggie! [behind Pete] And Ted Deerhurst [next to Christine].
Geoff: I think I did take these, because I’ve got a shot like that that went into Tracks.
Pete: I remember that one in Tracks, it said Shaun with the pomms or something. It was about the first thing that was said about British surfing that didn’t slag it all off.
Gary: Par for the course innit.
Gary: Bloody Martin Wright from St Agnes, ’tis too.
Grant: He surfed for Britain…
Nigel: Yea, he lives in Australia now, he’s still making boards on the Gold Coast. He was Chops [Lascelles] young apprentice.
Gary: He was the best surfer in St Agnes, Wiggins they called him.
Grant: We went down to Porthleven once, me, Nigel and Lenny and all the Aggie mob were out surfing there, and they were putting each other over the falls.
Gary: And Grant would go punch them all!
Grant: Nah, nah, nah. All I’d do is paddle out and say; “Don’t you do that to me,” and they all got out and we had it to ourselves!
Grant: There’s Nigel Semmens!
Pete: You look half the man you are…
Gary: Now we can see it’s you!
Grant: Nigel is that a grandad shirt with the collar?
Nigel: Cheese cloth…
Grant: Oh is it Cheese cloth? That is fashionable.
Gary: Look there’s your speech written in your hand, because you couldn’t remember it! “My name is…”
Gary: That’s me in the middle and Cheyne Horan on the right. This guy here on the left was a complete and utter nutcase, the likes of what you don’t get nowadays. Good guy, just completely off the dial.
Gary: He used to come down this hill here at Fistral in a XJ6 Jag with two wheels on the road and two wheels up on the curb, and everyone would go ‘fucking hell here comes Douggie!’ And we’d all be diving out the way at the bottom of the hill, thinking he was going to kill us all.
Nigel: He didn’t give a shit! He’d trash a Jag, you’d be going ‘it’s a Jag!’ And he’d just trash it.
Grant: Do you remember he had a Capris, 3 litre? One day he said ‘Grant, come and get in here with me.’
Pete: Oh no don’t get in a car with him!
Grant: He took me down Mount Wise doing 100mph…
Pete: You’d only do that once. But I tell you what he was a diamond geezer, he didn’t give a shit.
Lenny: That’s Paul Russell with Christine isn’t it?
Grant: Yea, he’s a marine biologist now and a professor.
Nigel: He was a good surfer, we used to take the piss out of him because he was always at school…
Grant: He lived furthest away from the sea that you could live growing up…
Nigel: He was from Leicester, and his dad was a professional footballer who played for Leicester city.
Grant: I always thought he was a headmaster…
Gary: He was like one the younger guys coming up after you (points at Nigel)
Nigel: Yea, his dad was always chasing me giving me fucking grief.
Gary: Because you kept beating him?
Nigel: I was always of the ilk that I’m doing this to win, not doing it to make friends or anything, I was there to win by all means. They had the British nationals at Towan one day and it was big, and it was me and Paul…
Pete: You forced an interference!
Nigel: Yea… something like that. And I could see his dad walking along the promenade and I thought fuck he looks angry! And I wound my window up and he banged on it and shouted ‘you cheating bastard!’
Gary: Still won!
Nigel: When I was in Scotland a few years later for the Europeans, I’ve got to give it to him, Chops was taking my trophy and filling it up with beer and Eddie was there because his boy was in it, and I saw him and I went ‘Eddie! Come here mate let’s all fucking celebrate” and he’s gone wallop there ya go have that and drowned me in beer, [all laugh] but he was good, he came and shook me hand after.
Gary: There’s Ted Deerhurst with Shaun Thompson…
Nigel: Lord Ted!
Geoff: No he was a viscount. His dad was the lord.
Gary: Didn’t he become the first English pro?
Nigel: Yea, his parents used to give him a subsidy and just say go surfing. He so wanted to be a pro surfer, so he just travelled around the world on the pro-circuit.
Pete: But he didn’t do so bad did he?
Nigel: I tell you what, I remember seeing him at Sunset one time on a massive wave, just air dropping out of the lip. He did brilliantly.
[Ed. Ted’s best ever result came at 12-foot Sunset Beach, where he knocked out Cheyne Horan to make it to the semis of the 1978 Jose Cuervo Classic]
Nigel: He used to play on the Lord thing too, I remember once we found him in his hotel room in Hawaii with a girl, wearing a silk nightgown and a cravat.
Gary: Tommy G!
Grant: “Big Tommy G, see you in the sea,” that’s my memory of him.
Pete: He used to take a group of army cadets surfing and they didn’t like it so he used to give them shit…
Lenny: He was a world champion rower as well…
Gary: Yea in those days you could be a DJ and a rower, your exercise was picking up the beer up… Look there’s you there in the crowd Pete. And that’ll be Lesley Stone and Jed there next to her… He’s had quite a lot of titles over the past twenty odd years…
Pete: He was a skateboarder wasn’t he, British Champ.
Grant: Yep, and he was a high jump and long jump champion.
Grant: Well fuck me I’m not in any of them. I’ve come all this way and I’m not even on there.
Gary: Ooh Grant’s getting the hump now. It’s not like you to go out on a night out and get the ‘ump! You’ll ave a fight in a minute…
All photos: @geofftydeman