A history of surfing in Jersey - 2

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Surfers in 1923

From Jersey Topic in 1966

Surfing is booming in Jersey. The sport that is sweeping the world is here to stay. Started in 1958 by South African lifeguards, surfing progressed rather quietly until the introduction of the lightweight, highly manoeuvrable Malibu board five years ago.

Now surfboards are not an uncommon sight in the island and the once quiet bay of St Ouen is fast becoming the home of British surf riding.

Surfing takes place throughout the year. However, the welcome visitor should be warned to check his temperature charts, because for at least eight months of the year wetsuits are very necessary.

The winter surf brings out the true enthusiast and often the surf is excellent and glassy. The warm current of the Gulf Stream keeps the water warm enough to surf without wet suits from late spring until the end of October. It is from August until December that surf is at its best in Jersey and swells of six to ten feet are possible.


The birthplace of surf riding was the Watersplash, and it is in front of this nightspot that the best surfing is possible. Fanned by an east wind, a good swell can be whipped into offering the surfer one of the best shore breaks in the world.

With the number of riders on the increase, the old hands are tending to spread their wings and seek new surf spots around the coast. La Corbiere will no doubt become popular with the more adventurous, and late last summer an exciting new wave was found a mile away from the Watersplash. Affectionately called ‘secret’ it is quite the finest spot in St Ouen holding a first-class beautifully-shaped wave.

Without doubt the credit for the fantastic popularity of the sport must go to the Jersey Surfboard Club, whose contests have thrilled thousands.

The first championship contest was held in 1963, from which Gordon Burgis came out the well-deserved winner, and was subsequently invited to represent Great Britain at the first World Surfboard Titles, at Manly, Australia.

The summer of 1964 saw for the first time national titles competed for at St Ouen, and last year the National and International Titles of Great Britain were organised by the club. The top riders in Britain and Europe competed for the titles and it was unfortunate that onshore winds ruined what had promised to be an excellent two-day event. In spite of dreadful conditions, a tremendous performance by Rodney Sumpter acquired for him not only the national title, but also the international.

This August the club are once again staging the national and international titles. Rodney Sumpter will be back from his home in Australia to defend his titles, and the best riders from the UK and the Channel Islands are eager to demonstrate their improved form.

Adding flavour to the championship will be the international event. First class Australian riders will be competing together with American and French surfers, eager to wrench the crown from young Rodney Sumpter. Given the right conditions the contest will prove to be a first-rate sporting spectacle.

Unfortunately, neither the Surf Club nor their sponsors can organise the weather.

Steve Harewood

The promotion of contests, the showing of spectacular surf movies, and the arrival of surfing magazines, have all helped to improve the overall standard of our best riders, but it was undoubtedly last year's contest that gave riders the necessary fillip to improve style and the enthusiasts who have braved the winter temperatures have improved tremendously. Competition for the top local rider is keen and the present holder, Steve Harewood, is being hard-pressed by much improved David Mead. Ian Harewood, recently home after four years in Australia, will also to giving his brother a strong challenge.

The proximity of Jersey to the French Coast enables local riders to match their prowess and ability against the waves of Biarritz. Biarritz is quite rightly described as possessing some of the finest surf beaches in the world, and local riders are frequent visitors, tasting the thrill of riding a crisp ten foot ‘’La Barre’’ wave or the excitement of an 18-foot day at famous Guethary. Strong ties of friendship exist between French and Jersey surfers and French surfers are regular visitors to our shores.

To the outsiders, surfers must appear a peculiar bunch, chasing along the length of St Ouen's Bay, cars laden with surfboards, in search of waves. What is it about surfing then, which produces the utter involvement of people? Like motor racing and skiing, excitement is at the base of it.

Taking off at the top of a green wall of water and the experience of the sudden stomach churning descent down the face, produces a tremendous thrill. The sport demands versatility and control, control of the board to avoid the tons of water which crash down when a wave break

The penalty for a single mistake can be a painful "wipe out"- that happens when the wave traps the rider, burying him for seconds in the foaming water. Recent years have seen the development of a modern style of riding known as "hot dogging", a spectacular style which concentrates on fast slides across the face of the wave, rapid turns, and cutbacks, and a host of riding stances.

By "walking" toward the front of his board, the rider can accelerate his speed - experts have developed this into a critical "hanging ten"; the rider speeds across the wave with his ten toes hanging over the nose of his surfboard.

Surfing offers the rider the chance of excitement, a chance to put himself closer to the limit of his ability, to match his skill and knowledge against the sea.

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