Sunday, April 22, 2012

We've Got Roots.

A 1970's early twin-fin from Hawaii with a Union Jack spray job on the bottom on display at the Museum of British Surfing.

An old hardwood alaia and olo next to one of the earliest bellyboards (from Jersey) in the museum's collection. 

 The man who made it all happen, Pete Robinson at the end of the museum's hugely successful opening night.

Tucked in the back corner is an amazing wicker bellyboard with a lightning bolt logo sprayed on from this years World Bellyboard Championships and a cardboard cored, see-through surfboard designed by Mike Sheldrake and previously displayed at the V&A.

On the Good Friday the highly anticipated Museum of British Surfing opened it's doors.  Founded back in 2003 by Pete Robinson, the museum is a charity that has unearthed a huge amount of British surfing artifacts and memorabilia and amassed what's believed to be the largest and most historically significant collection of surfboards in Europe.  I first saw an exhibition put on by Pete in Brighton back in 2004 and walking through the doors on the Thursday evening before the grand opening for a special preview event (I tagged along as a guest of my friends at Finisterre), Pete's achievement in pulling it all together into a permanent museum blew me away.
The man has relentlessly researched the history of surfing in this country and recently discovered a letter in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii describing how two Hawaiian Princes and their English guardian went surfing in Bridlington in Yorkshire in September of 1890, a good 30 years before the first British surfing event was thought to have occurred.  Throughout the Victorian age many Hawaiian nobility were sent to Britain to be educated and the Islands have a strong and historic connection with Britain (just check out the Hawaiian flag) and it seems that many of these young Hawaiians surfed here during their visits.  This then grew with the development of bellyboarding through the early part of the 20th Century, Jim Dix and Pip Staffieri's hollow Waikiki paddleboards in the 1930's and then the arrival of stand-up surfing via visiting lifeguards in the South West and Channel Islands in the 1950's.  From there surfing bedded into the culture of coastal communities in the South West and around the country and there's enough history to fill a couple of books, and now thankfully, a museum.

The museum will hold annual exhibitions (it's inaugural exhibition is "The Art of Surf") and rotate the boards on display (they currently only have a quarter of their vast collection hanging from the walls and ceiling) and is well and truly worth a visit.  Pete Robinson deserves a medal for his dedication, belief and effort, and for donating his personal collection to the museum's permanent collection.
The museum is in Braunton, Devon, just off Caen Street in an old railway building.  If you live West of Bristol or ever come West of Bristol then, detour or not, you ought to go take a look.   

After the launch party I camped with the guys and girls from Finisterre and we woke up on Good Friday to zero degrees and a frost, which is frustrating when you're next to a van full of warm jackets!  The guys were holding a pop-up shop event in the room adjoining the museum over the Easter Weekend as one of the Museum's supporters.

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