My Father’s Keepers

Words by Will Forster & images by Neil Forster



What do you do when your mother arrives in Costa Rica with photos of your dad’s surfboards from the 70’s and 80’s? Research of course.

Sadly only one of the surfboards below remains in the family, and although we’re not talking Gerry Lopez pipeline guns or an original Steve Lis fish; these at least are the surfboards our fore fathers rode. So in an effort to preserve the past, here is a brief history of the ‘store bought, locally shaped, won in a bet’ surfboards that allowed the everyday user to feel like Mark Richards. In this case, that user happens to be my father.

Please excuse the moustache and short shorts; it was a different time.

A 7’0” Kevin Cross/ Creamed Honey Gun

From the Museum of British Surfing: “In the 1970s, North Devon became a hotbed for surfboard design and surfing innovation. A group of young Australians settled in the area bringing with them new ideas and the latest designs. Among them was Kevin Cross, shaper of Creamed Honey.”

The Creamed Honey gun by Kevin Cross (left), and the Bilbo 10'6

The board in the left image was made sometime in the mid 70’s by Australian shaper Kevin Cross. Whilst travelling and surfing in South Africa, Kevin was given the address of a Devonshire surfer having heard stories of a surf scene in the south west of England. Kevin began shaping for Tiki Surf Shop, a popular shaping house in Braunton, Devon, who are still shaping boards almost 50 years later. My dad acquired the board for the few days a year when the Cornish big wave spot The Cribbar would break.

1983 Vitamin Sea 6’4” thruster (or twin)

A custom board by Tad Ciastula, made in 1983. My dad saw Cheyne Horan; professional surfer and Mark Richards ‘nemesis’ surfing the board out at Fistral Beach sometime in the early 80’s. Cheyne had come runner up in the World Championships from 1979 to 1982, and everyone wanted his Vitamin Sea equipment. My dad went to Tad for Cheyne’s model, but preferred a looser tail so rode the board as a twin fin rather than the intended thruster. Tad and renowned shaper Chris Jones later shaped Mark Richards and Cheyne Horan twin fins under license.

The Vitamin Sea Cheyne Horan board, still as a thruster.

Late 80’s Zuma Jay mid-length thruster

The youngest board of the four is the 7’2” Zuma Jay, probably shaped by Roger Cooper, perhaps as late as 1989. Roger began shaping for Zuma Jay during the mid 80’s, and still produces specialist one off boards using the same site. He was renowned in the area for his fluro boards and was one of the first shapers to use neon spray jobs after visiting the US in the early 80’s. Roger was also an early adopter of a quad fin setup not too long after my dad’s board was shaped.

A Roger Cooper/ Zuma Jay.

The board included the double leash plug for bigger days, which later became a symbol of bravery than perhaps function. Zuma used the high quality Clark Foam blanks at the time, and included the Hot Tuna decal on all of their boards.

1965-69 Bilbo 10’6”

The Bilbo 10’6″ (photo top right) was probably shaped around 1968 as the logo matches other boards from that time, and had a floral insert which was popular during the late 60’s. My dad’s history of the board is perhaps more colourful than the flowers that decorate its nose:

“Apparently it was shaped by the father of Phillip Schofield, a prime time UK television host. His dad worked for Bilbo in Newquay. I actually won the board in a bet off a guy in Woolacombe in 1976; when he claimed he could drink a crate of milk. The board was mine about 30 seconds in. I snapped the fin out being towed behind my father in-law’s boat so made my own version of a sunrise fin. The board weighs about 50lbs, and its the only one that survived a marriage, two kids, and 40 something years.” – Neil Forster

The man behind the moustache, Neil Forster.
One of the few photos of my dad surfing. Using a homemade camera housing, on a historical day. January 11th 1978 a storm caused the collapse of Skegness Pier, destroying the boardwalk leaving only the end theatre standing, which you can see in the background.

If you have the chance to preserve or document the boards your mothers and fathers rode then do, because at some point you might want to revisit the past, or shred them in the future. 

 

 

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