Vintage Surf – the inspiration behind my illustrations

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My Vintage Surf range of illustrations is inspired by my grandparents, and their families who grew up and lived in Perranporth in Cornwall.

The Tamblyn Family

At my mum’s house in Perranporth recently I trawled through family albums and boxes of wonderful old photos and picked out some of the best that reflected my grandparents’ time in Perranporth. My grandfather was called Arthur Roy Tamblyn, known as Roy, and he was one of five children born and growing up in Perranporth.

One of his three sisters, Winnie, married Tom Tremewan, a builder and undertaker in Perranporth who wrote a book on his memoirs, and in which he mentions how he came about making wooden boards in between the two wars:

“…Mr Mike Saunders who had been to South Africa where surf-riding was popular. He came into our workshop one morning in the early summer saying he wanted us to make a surf-board. This was the first that we had heard about surf-riding…” “he continued to relate his experiences so we proceeded to make a board according to his instructions. The first board, 6 feet long, 13 inches wide and 5/8 inches thick turned out to be unsatisfactory – too big and too heavy.”

“The surf-board trade increased tremendously. All the bathers enjoyed this new kind of bathing which involved running out through the waves as far as possible to catch a big wave as it was breaking into surf and riding on the board all the way in to the edge of the tide.”

Arthur Roy’s other sister Hilda was married to George Tamblyn (no relation just same surname..). George was also one of the surfing pioneers in Perranporth between the wars.

My grandparents Arthur Roy Tamblyn and Olive Augusta Westcott were the first people to get married in St Michael’s Church in Perranporth,and shortly after they got married they went to live in India where my grandfather worked as a mining engineer. When he came back to England he worked at the Camborne School of Mines as a lecturer.

It is these photos that I remember my granny Olive Augusta showing me as a child during the holidays that we spent with her in Perranporth.

Arthur Westcott

My granny had two brothers, and her older brother Arthur made his own malibu board in the 1950s. Chatting to John Westcott, Arthur’s son, the story is that the board was so heavy that he needed a trolley to wheel it down to Perranporth beach, and glued sand on it to stop himself from falling off in the surf. His surfboard used to be in the museum in Perranporth, but I don’t think it is there anymore. He owned Westcott’s Electric shop which was opposite Piran Surf on the high street. I recall seeing him strolling down to the beach with a wooden board under his arm when he was well into his 70s. It must have been during a half term holiday which my brothers and I spent in Perranporth in the 1980s.

World Bellyboarding Championships and Paipo Glide

My brother Andy Bick first started making wooden Paipo surfboards in 2004, inspired by our family history. Andy first introduced me to the World Bellyboard Championships as his business Paipo Glide were regular sponsors. The WBBC were organised by the National Trust and took place at Chapel Porth beach in Cornwall. Visiting these championships it was evident that this was such a special, unspoilt and unique event, fired by the passion of wood and water, and each year I looked forward to visiting to support Andy on his stand. No wetsuits were allowed and included in the prize-giving ceremony were awards for the best outfits, which involve a lot of flowery hats, fifties swimsuits and all in one knitted stripey costumes for the men which sag upon contact with water.

Sadly the National Trust called time on the championships in 2016, and they held a Fallow Year, for which I was asked to design the poster. The last actual championships happened in 2015 and that was the year I shared a stand with Andy, selling my Vintage Surf illustrations alongside his beautiful wooden Paipo Glide boards.

My Vintage Surf illustrations are available as cards, prints and fine bone china mugs, and you can buy them on my Etsy shop or at a range of stockists in Cornwall, and the Museum of British Surfing in Devon.

Text Copyright Alison Bick 2017.
Extract from Tom Tremewan’s memoire is Copyright to the Tremewan Family, and all credit has been appropriately given.