Local Heroes The Isle of Wight

Local Heroes - By John Alexander

 A little over two hours from London, and anchored between the Solent and the English Channel, is the Isle of Wight 

While the swell she does catch is perhaps modest compared to her Atlantic facing cousins, when it comes, word soon spreads. 

Phones buzz, ping and sing in an unholy sonic chorus that form the soundtrack of the scene as crews gather and tired tarmac once again shoulders an eclectic array of vehicles.

Eyes scan. Wetsuits are wrestled. Doors are slammed. And in the wake of booted feet, even now, the whiff of wax fills the air. As quickly as they arrive, they seemingly disappear.

Seaward, the oscillating canvas yields to new energy. 

The once serene skin of the oceanic body soon becomes speckled, as dots hurry to leave a coastal carpet of grass, sand and shingle to season, pepper and form a floating fabric of their own.

Out in the line up the eagle eyes of the Grom remain fixed on an undulating horizon, while those a little older break their gaze as heads turn, faces wrinkle and shoulders shake in celebration of another’s bottom turn. 

It’s this sense of shared connection, mutual stoke, that epitomises the spirit of this community. And while they rarely see six foot and zeroes, they’re just as stoked with 3 foot chunk. It’s all about the journey right? 

While the brush of evening light begins to paint the sky, a sea of gold spills across the bay. Shadows stretch as shafts of light warm the cliffs and the faces of the audience afloat. 

One last set, one last wave, one last bottom turn. It’s mush now. “It’s time to call it” and in the last light of day they paddle in.

Towels shake. Feet hop. Eye burn salty red. It’s been a good un. “See you in 12? You betchya!”

Meet the Local Heroes. A collective of self-confessed “Frothers” realdy to get wet no matter the conditions and whom epitomise the spirit of stoke in this corner of the chart…


Douglas Richards


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?


I'm a musician and play in a band Plastic Mermaids with whom I've been recording, touring and putting out records for the last 6 years or so now. The band are based on the Isle of Wight where we grew up. It's a beautiful place to be and affords us lots of space and time to be creative as well as a nice chunk of water with vaguely consistent waves!


How did you come to surfing?


I first tried it when I was 10 down in Cornwall. I think my mum had some friends who ran a surf school down in Polzeath. I'd always been around water as a kid as my dad was a professional sailor and boat designer and my mum a sailing instructor, so took to it pretty quickly. Around that time on the Island the was a big bunch of kids and we all kinda got into it together, that and skateboarding. As it's a bit of a drive to most of the beaches all our parents would share lifts. One drop off and one collect, that kinda thing. This was cool until it's got dark and you're hiding behind a hedge in your board bag waiting out a hail squall to pass over as someone's mum is running late. But still I'm eternally grateful for all those lifts to the beach!


What/who inspired you then?


I think it was purely the sensation of riding waves. 


I used to love bottom turning my 7'6" mini-mal and seeing how close I could get my face to the wave. I remember going in our local surf shop and buying a VHS of the 1995 Quicksilver G-Land Pro, getting home and watching it and feeling like "why would you watch surfing, this is really boring" ha. So yeh I think that, just the feeling of it. It was years before the thought of being 'good' or 'bad' at it even crossed my mind as a concept. 


Where’s it taken you?


Physically, all around Europe, Morocco and Australasia. It's also brought me a lot of really great friends and helped me through some trickier times mentally.


Best bit? Worst bit? Most memorable?


Hmmm. I spent a month surfing alone in Scotland a few years back which was a special time for me. Living in Thurso on the North coast, I love it up there so much. The crystal clearness of the water, the temperament of the light, the crazy number of quality waves without too much crowd and just that feeling of big wide nature that makes you feel like an insignificant spec in the eternal universe.


Worst... not actually surfing but on a trip in Morocco about 7 years ago a huge storm hit which washed away bridges and filled the sea with all the things you'd rather not surf with; logs, dead goats, poop.. etc. 


Along with the 40ft onshore waves, surfing was definitely off the cards. We went down to the seafront in Taghazout to look at the waves and there was this little walkway running around a building, the sea on one side and the buildings vertical face on the other. Waves were smashing into it sending spray into the sky, some kids were running back and forth and into the sea and the ocean looked like an angry McDonald's chocolate milkshake scaled up 4000 times. 

I decided it'd be cool to get a photo of me and my friend Mandy hanging 10 on the wall as the spray ricocheted off. I instructed my brother Jamie to take the photo, and as a decent size wave drew nearer I yelled "this one this one" and at the last minute "oh shit" realised it was 4 times bigger than anything we'd seen in the previous 20 minutes. By then it was too late. The wave completely engulfed the walkway smashing me into the building and sucking me out into the disguising throbbing brown ocean. I popped up 10 seconds later, still completely clothed and couldn't see Mandy anywhere. She’s not a surfer. With a lot less experience in the sea than me so I was worried for her life, but how could I help if I couldn't see her? I ditched my flip flops and favourite hoody, all the time being pounded by walls of filthy white water and tried to swim for the shore. 


The shore was made up of these big ugly boulders but I didn't think twice and just threw myself up them where a friendly local grabbed my hand and pulled me up the wall. I was greeted by Jamie (who I didn't even realise had been swept off too) and all I could say was "Where's Mandy, where's Mandy??" the reply of which will stay with me forever. "She's on a balcony." The blast of the wave had thrown her up and dropped her on the balcony of the buildings behind. So ridiculous and lucky. She'd broken 2 ribs and a £1500 camera, BUT I honestly hate to think what would've happened if she'd been washed out with me. 


We'd had dreams of cruising about camping for the last few days of our trip, buying fish from the guys at the side of the road and finding some nice waves in the sun. But the reality was sitting in a Kia Picanto in the rain, looking out at onshore waves, water dripping in through the roof racks, our feet were absolutely shredded by the incident and the antibiotics we'd bought didn't work. At which point Jamie kicked one of the car pedals with his infected foot and it hurt so much he had to open the car door to puke. We kept driving south hoping to get out of the bad weather but eventually the roads turned to dirt and, no diss to the Kia, it felt like we should probably stop there.     


What have those experiences and surfing meant to you?


Basically everything. It's just a part of life isn't it? If you took that and music away my life would feel pretty hollow.


How would you describe the community here?


I feel like the island has a really great little surfing community, mainly because of the extortionate cost of the ferry crossing. It's quite rare to paddle out at most spots and not know everyone in the water and this just give a much mellower atmosphere. I think a lot of IOW surfers don't realise how good we've got it in that respect. 


There's a great bunch of kids surfing now too, and pretty well which is really nice to see given that there was a real drought of no new kids for like 10 years. Like all the best surfers here are now in their 30s now which is just odd...? I'm looking forward to some 16 yr old popping an air reverse in my face and making me feel old and shit but it hasn't happened yet.


What/who inspires you now?


I get really excited about surfing well. Sometimes it'll be 3 or 4 surfs before I feel like my weight and the waves energy are all in the right place but it's those brief moments that keep me going. There's something cathartic about leaning every bit of your strength into a wave and it leaning back on you.


Me and my friend Douglas bought a Zapcat a few years back which we've been using to surf a few of the Island's more hard to reach spots. This brings me a lot of excitement too. There's still spots here I know have real potential that after 20 years I'm yet to surf. When you see a particular forecast come up, yeh that gets me buzzing too.


Where you like to take your surfing in the future?


I'm 33 and I really hope I haven't had the best wave of my life already. I'd like to find some time to really focus on it, and to improve again before my body completely gives up haha. Maybe go look for some big barrels as the Island is generally pretty lacking in that respect. 


I'd also like to combine my two loves to make a surf film on the Island and compose a soundtrack for it too. I've been mulling the idea for quite a while now and feeling like maybe this is the winter to make it happen!


James Ranson


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?


I started surfing here on the Ise of Wight aged 11 and for the last 25 years it has been the driving force in my life. I’m passionate about sharing my love of the ocean with others, I’m and active member of SAS and the current Chairman of the Isle of Wight Surf Club. I work in education as a Special Education Needs Casework Officer.


How did you come to surfing?


My grandparents had a beach hut in Sandown Bay where I spent much of my childhood playing in the sea.  When I hit around 13, I was lucky enough to make friends with an older lad who could drive. From that point on, any time there was surf we were on it! If I wasn’t surfing, I was skateboarding. 


What/who inspired you then?


My inspiration came mainly from the older crew of local surfers and the peers I grew up alongside. In addition, the local surf shop Earth Wind Water (formally Offshore Sports) used to hire surf videos for £1 a week which was an amazing resource pre the internet! The Williams’ family who own the shop and water sports centre have been central to the lives of many Island surfers including my own.


Where’s it taken you?


Initially, surfing led me into a career in water sports. This facilitated travel to Barbados and some long stints in SW France where I was able to step up my surfing in quality waves. I travelled to Aus and Indo in my early twenties and then decided to train to be a teacher. Naturally I found a University by the sea, living on the Gower Peninsula and studying in Swansea. Surf trips now are infrequent but favourite destination in recent years has been Portugal. 


Best bit? Worst bit? Most memorable? 


The best bits? Just the raw excitement that surfing provides. It’s a childlike enthusiasm that grabs me anytime I know the surf is on. This can be as much of a curse as a gift; learning to be ok with missing a swell in order to be a good dad and husband has been the main life lesson of my thirties (I’m still learning this skill I might add). 


What have those experiences and surfing meant to you? 


Surfing has given me a healthy respect for the environment, it’s kept me fit and healthy, and above all (particularly living here), taught me the value of perseverance! 


How would you describe the community here?


The island surf community is thriving. We have an active surf club which is going from strength to strength and a cohort of kids coming through who are passionate about the sport. I think we have a very inclusive community.


How has it evolved?


The numbers in the water have grown significantly in recent years as surfing has become more accessible and the tourist season has a much bigger impact on the line up. However outside of the summer season when the surf gets solid (and it does in the winter), there is still only a small crew taking it on. 


How has it changed?


I feel the most significant change is the number of women in the line-up. I think it’s really inspiring for the next generation.


How would you like it to progress?


I’d like to see the surf club continue to expand and further support the local community. The Wave project has a strong network on the Island, and I hope some of those supported by it will continue to surf and become long term members of the surfing community. 


What/who inspires you now?


I’m part of a WhatsApp group with 12 mates which along with being a constant source of entertainment, provides a relentless stream of surf stoke. The only downside being the updates pinging when you’re at work but that’s the price of admission so to speak. This year I have started taking my daughter surfing and this has brought a new dimension to my surfing life.


Where would you like to take your surfing in the future?


I still feel like I have room for improvement in my surfing but I’ve been clocking up the injuries of late so I guess my main goal for the future is to stay healthy and just enjoy the sea!  

 Cordelia Dewey


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?


I’m a 32-year-old PE teacher and Surfers Against Sewage rep for the Isle of Wight. I live with my partner on his family run campsite with our 5 chickens and dog. 


I have a huge love for the natural environment and often immerge myself within it, whether that’s through surfing, snowboarding, or cycling or tending to my garden and vegetable patch! 


How did you come to surfing?


I’d tried surfing a few times in Cornwall on annual holidays but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that I gave it a go again when my sister was dating a local surfer at the time. However it wasn’t really until I met my other half, Oli, 8 years ago that I started to take surfing seriously. Ironically, we met at a Surfers Against Sewage beach clean that he was helping Matt with. It was either a case of sit and watch him surf and take photos of him, or give it ago mysef. Let’s just say I got bored on camera duty!  


What/who inspired you then?


I hate to say it, as I’ll never hear the end of it, but Oli was making his own longboards and it was really nice to see him surf his own creations. He educated me with videos of Devon Howard and Joel Tudor to ‘take notes’ while I learnt and I soon realised this style of surfing interested me based on the type of waves the Isle of Wight generally gets.  


Where’s it taken you?


I’ve been fortunate enough to surf all over the place from Bali, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and France but the all-time special moment was surfing in the Philippines and getting perfect Noosa conditions.


Best bit? Worst bit? Most memorable? 


Best bit – Two weeks of surfing perfect chest to shoulder high glassy waves at Noosa, Australia, with sunshine every day and dancing on the longest rights I’ve ever had. 


Worst bit – Paddling out for the first time at a new remote spot for me on the Island and it being double over head and seeing the fear in my other half’s eyes when he realised I may have been out of my depth!! It was the type of surf where I was happy to paddle out, get a wave and head straight back in kind of day! I guess it was also memorable at the same time too - getting a wave out there.


Most memorable – Venturing down a dirt track and passing through remote villages in Siargao on our motorbike to surf a secret spot - just myself and Oli getting perfect right handers all to ourselves.  The most amazing sunset was starting, crystal clear waters beneath, and two Eagles were circling above us. I think the cherry on the top was the fact that I was having a better surf than Oli. It really was a special moment. 


What have those experiences and surfing meant to you? 


Being in the sea allows me to switch off from everything and just focus on being in the water. Everything feels calm when you are just sat on your board waiting for a wave. I feel refreshed and it’s so nice to be in the natural elements whatever time of year. It’s also made me appreciate what I have right on my doorstep, beautiful walks and cycles and beaches to roam on when there’s no surf.   


How would you describe the community here?


It’s a really special community full of genuinely down to earth people. 


There is such a variety of ages and abilities in the line-up and all shapes and sizes. We have a lot of surfers that have surfed all around the world on some of the best waves, yet its so nice that despite the waves being few and far between we still all froth at the smallest of glimpses of swell! 


Most people tend to say hi and chat in the water or carparks and there’s a real buzz in the air when it’s a day for the ‘elite’ surfers on the Island. 


How has it evolved?


When I first started there were only two or three women in the water. The surf community was very male dominant and you were often looked down at as a beginner and more so as a girl. You had to really stand your ground and make the effort to paddle for waves to show you were serious and not just floating around.  At the start it felt like respect was gained when the older generations saw women in the water in all conditions and temperatures. 


How has it changed?


It’s become more balanced and relaxed. With the older guys bringing up their children and getting them into surfing it’s really nice to see families surfing together. It’s also become a lot more popular which can be a good and bad thing.


How would you like it to progress?


It is slowly progressing to having a more balanced line up of more women in the water. I’d love to see more younger girls starting earlier and I think we will see this with the older generation of male and female surfers starting to introduce their children to surfing. The IOW Surf Club has been working hard over the last few years to really establish a ‘club’ feel and this has strengthened the surf community. It’s like an extended family!


What/who inspires you now?


Discovering brands like ‘Neon’ and ‘Seea’ has been really refreshing - seeing more femininity in surf products and also in the sea. Leah Dawson, Stephanie Gilmore and Kassia Meador are women that really inspire me when in the water. Their style is so effortless and therapeutic to watch. Dawson and Meadors style are both super smooth and stylish, dancing on their boards, it really emphasises the freshness and uniqueness they can bring to this male dominated sport. 


I really love the fact that Stephanie Gilmore can chop and change between a powerful world class athlete and her aggressive style in competition to then switching off and gliding stylishly on her twin fins. I see how she is dominating the female sport and showing how women can be just as good as men.


Where you like to take your surfing in the future?


As a rep for Surfers Against Sewage, and as a teacher, my surfing has already taken me into the realm of educating the next generation about the importance of environmental conservation and I hope I can continue to enjoy the sport while using it as a platform for motivating people to think more responsibly about the environment. Having a connection with the surf community definitely helped with that. 


On a personal level, I have a terrible habit of just grabbing my longboard to get more waves rather than progressing my surfing by experimenting with different boards. I’m still loyal and happy with my single fin log or mid-length but I’d like to be more confident taking a smaller board out on bigger days. 


The great thing about surfing is that you can always challenge yourself to go harder and I know that it’ll always be a really important part of my life.





Madeleine Dew


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background? 


I grew up on the Isle of Wight, both my parents were sailors so being in the sea has always been a huge part of my life.


How did you come to surfing?


When I was about 11 my brother went to Cornwall with a friend and came back with a surfboard, he’s 5 years older and anything he did, I had to do too. 


A few of my friends started at the same time so our parents used to take turns driving us out to the local surf spots, waiting until these little frozen kids would come out of the sea, full of stories of doing massive snaps and getting barrelled; we had good imaginations back then.


What/who inspired you then?


One of the biggest inspirations for me was time sitting in our local surf shop ‘Offshore Sports.’ It was a real institution for us as kids. You would go in to hear stories from the older guys about surfing at Margaret River and if you were lucky you would leave with a couple of stickers for your Mum’s car.


Where’s it taken you?


I have been very lucky to have been able to travel quite a bit with my surfing. I did fairly well in competitions back in the mid 2000’s. 


I had an amazing opportunity to travel to California with the British Junior Surf Team for the World Junior Surf Championships which was a crazy experience coming from the Island. When we weren’t competing we found our way to Trestles, the surf was pretty friendly and mellow until this insane sea fog came in and you couldn’t see your hand in-front of your face. It was pretty terrifying! 


Myself and some of the other girls who were competing at the time went on a boat trip around the Canaries with SurfGirl Magazine, which again, was a very cool trip. 


My favourite place to travel to was Byron Bay, which I know seems a bit like a cliche but I met so many great people there and it was a totally different vibe to anywhere I’d surfed before. Especially the attitudes of other surfers towards female surfers, it felt very supportive and fun. 


One of my greatest achievements though was convincing my husband (who was new to surfing at the time) that we should honeymoon in Bali. Needless to say we happened upon some dreamy surf spots and his love of surfing blossomed; it was a win win situation.


Best bit? Worst bit? Most memorable?


My most memorable wave was from a trip to Newquay when I was about 12. It also happens to be the best and worst memory. 


I had just got my first custom board shaped and was taking it out for its first ride. It was a lush day with nice shoulder high waves and I got my first unbroken wave, surfing down the line towards a friend who was paddling out (note best memory) I proceeded to crash into him and somehow get his fin halfway through my brand new board (note worst memory).


What have those experiences and surfing meant to you?


Surfing has always been a part of my identity and I think most surfers would feel the same. It gives you an instant connection with people and nature.


How would you describe the community here?


We definitely don’t have the best waves down here so it attracts a certain type of person who froths at the sight of waist high onshore slop. As we’ve got older and have more responsibilities, know that time is precious, so we’ll don our winter suits for the kind of waves that perhaps the Cornish, Welsh and our Gallic counterparts wouldn’t turn the ignition off in the van for!


How has it evolved?


Growing up surfing as a woman here wasn’t always the best experience. There were a lot of egos out there (a far cry from the hippy surfer image many people have) and I was often intimidated by a few of the older guys who felt ownership over the waves.


How has it changed?


The scene has had a total transformation in the last few years. It’s taken time, but the female surf scene has exploded and its glorious! No more egos, just a lot of fun, support and laughter which fills me with so much joy.


How would you like it to progress?


It would be good to see this happening in other parts of the country. Surfing has always been such a male dominated sport and a lot of women feel too intimidated to start, but we’re beginning to see these female communities grow. I think surf schools offering female only sessions is a really good way to get local women out into the ocean.


What/who inspires you now?


I get a lot of inspiration from following female long boarders such as Chloe Calmon, Sally McGee (surfyonder), Leah Dawson and Nique Miller on Instagram. It’s refreshing to see femininity in the waves.


Where you like to take your surfing in the future?


I’m a mum now and with that my focus has changed a lot. Now it’s all about having a good time and sharing my love for the ocean with my girls and hoping that they get as much from it in their lives as I do. 


I’ve never loved surfing as much as I do now, now the egos are dissolving and we’re all just there for the stoke.




Eddie Cole


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?


Originally from South Africa, as a South African Team Member I surfed competitively on a national and international level. I competed in many events over the years. I am proud to of gained a wealth of experience and knowledge. 


While living and competing in Australia I qualified as an ISA Level 2 Surf Coach before moving to the UK where I progressed to a Level 4 BSA Surf Coach.


My experience as a competitive surfer and in-depth training as an advanced surf coach has enabled me to develop a progressive approach for evaluating a surfer's technique, style, performance and ability. I apply this to help surfers to develop and improve by using a bespoke person centred approach.


Combining my skill, experience, training and passion I provide small group and private Surf Lessons on the Isle of Wight for children and adults of all levels.


How did you come to surfing?


When I was a child we moved from the City to the small coastal town of Mossel Bay and on the first day my Dad took us to the local point break to watch the surfers. I was amazed at how they managed to stand on these things and ride along the waves close to the rocks without slipping off. I watched them for hours, mesmerised. 


After that I begged my parents to take me to the point at every opportunity so I could watch the surfers. There was also a small ice cream kiosk nearby which helped persuade my sisters that it was a good idea and so began a regular family tradition to go down to the point and watch the surfers.


This went on for years and one day my friend Charl invited me over to his house for a sleep over. A fter he picked me up his Dad took him to buy a surfboard from an older guy in our school and I was so excited that this was happening and that I was eventually able to see a surfboard up close. We thought it was hilarious that you had to rub this stuff on the board called sex wax which finally explained how they didn’t slip off.


We went straight to the beach and Charl went surfing at the river mouth near his house while I stood in the water and watched for what felt like several hours before he eventually let me have a go, because he cut his foot on one of fins. 


I jumped straight into my first wave without paddling like I saw bodyboarders do, I stood up and rode the white water all the way until the fins nearly hit the sand. I claimed it and was jumping up and down screaming, I couldn’t believe my luck that after all those years of watching the surfers I finally got to have a go. We got out of the water in case the blood from Charl’s foot attracted a shark but, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go surfing again.


Charl’s father was a pastor in the local church and he had a huge phone book with all the congregations numbers. We took turns phoning every number in that book until we found someone who knew or had a surfboard for sale. The very next day I bought my first twin fin Seaflight surfboard from a guy called Greg who was in my Sisters class at school and the rest as they say is history. In those first few years I alternated between surfing and bodyboarding.


What/who inspired you then?


Shortly after that myself and Charl formed a little surf gang with Raoul, Christo, Daniel (who Charl bought his board from), his brother Sean, Christian, Andries and another Roaul who learnt to surf by standing up on a styrofoam bodyboard, this guy was so cool he had to be in our gang.


All these guys really inspired me. We didn’t have a lot of money, our boards were old and dinged up, our wetsuits were hand me downs full of holes, and no matter how much Vaseline we used our wetsuits still gave us such bad rashes we would often bleed.


We learnt to surf together, watched each other closely and often gave each other tips that we picked up from pictures in a Zig Zag magazine or from watching guys at the point break. Much to the annoyance of my friends, after all my years studying surfers at the point break, I became the most vocal in offering surf technique advice especially when skateboarding with our trucks as loose as possible. I’d like to think we inspired each other, we did odd jobs together to get new boards and wetsuits. 


Sometimes we had to share boards and float in the water while the other guy had his turn and rode a wave. We shared our food at the beach which came in handy when some of us were going through hard times and didn’t have food. We supported each other emotionally especially after many encounters with sharks. 


We grew up as kids together and progressed our surfing. We were a diverse group and experienced a of lot adversity while going through difficult times in South African politics. No matter what happened we stuck together and for many years we were inseparable.


Where’s it taken you?


Myself and the two Raoul’s became competitive sponsored surfers while the other guys in our gang sparred with us while training and they used surfing as a platform to become successful in other avenues. 


Surfing has taken me to many places around the world that when I was a grom I could not of dreamt possible. Everyday I feel fortunate to of had those experiences and love finding new ways to enjoy or share surfing with others.


Best bit? Worst bit? Most memorable?


Best bit was having the opportunity to represent South Africa at various competitions for many years.


Ultimately the best bit is that surfing has somehow brought me to the Isle of Wight where I’ve married an amazing woman who encourages and supports me to continue following my dreams.


Worst bit, is losing good friends and mentors in the surfing community.


Most memorable, well so far everything that I have mentioned but, although he wasn’t a surfer my father was heavily involved with running the provisional surf team and taking us to competitions. He became a Father figure to a lot people in our surf community and he was always known as the funny Englishman. Our house was always open, full of local and travelling surfers, it was awesome to share those experiences with him.


What have those experiences and surfing meant to you?


I’m of the opinion that life is an awesome gift, but, it can be very challenging at times. Surfing has always been there to help me get through the hard times and appreciate the good.


That’s one of the reasons why I became a Surf Coach as, I feel surfing is a fantastic tool to help people navigate through life and I get a lot of satisfaction by giving people this tool or helping them to improve it and enjoy life even more.


How would you describe the community here?


Wow it’s pretty epic hey, at first I didn’t even know people surfed on the Island but, there’s a hardcore group of absolute shredda’s! No matter how cold it is or how small and yucky the conditions are we’re frothing to get out there as if it’s six to eight foot light offshore J Bay.


There’s a really cool family aspect to the surf community here where the parents and their kids are often at the beach in the water together.


All in all it’s an awesome, supportive and encouraging community with some very hardcore all weather cold water chargers.


How has it evolved?


There was a stage when there were hardly any Groms in the lineup and not many women. Over recent years there are a lot more women of all ages and levels in the water. There are some Groms who are showing signs of potentially becoming some of the best surfers in the UK. I’m very proud to be involved with them and it won’t be long until they are taking down the top men and women in our local surf club contests.


How has it changed?


From what I’ve noticed surfing has grown a lot and become a cultural way of life for more people in a similar way to other surfing communities. 


Surf Skating has really taken off in recent years and there are more healthy eating cafes and healthy living activities such as Yoga. I’m aware these options have been available on the Island for a long time but they complement the surfing lifestyle so much it’s awesome to utilise them more and watch them grow along side surfing.


How would you like it to progress?


At the moment I think surfing on the Island is progressing well. There are some fantastic surfers and role models for the younger generation to aspire to. I would like to see this continue. For the Groms and new surfers to be encouraged to continue surfing and live a kind healthy lifestyle. 


I really love the environment the Surf Club is forming and it’s a great training ground for the younger generation and older guys/girls to see if we still have it, haha.


However, surfing as a whole is growing throughout the world and more people are surfing now than ever. I really feel surfing needs to grow organically but, in a way where surfing etiquette is adhered to, people are using the suitable equipment and surfing the right spot’s and areas for their level.


What/who inspires you now?


At the moment the Groms and my students on the Island really inspire me now. To learn and progress your surfing in a place like this is a tough gig. Sometimes we get some lovely clean little ground swells to play on but, mostly it’s hollowing onshore wind and freezing cold in the winter. No matter how hardcore the conditions are they keep pushing through because they love surfing so much. The parents are pretty awesome too as there aren’t many spots that they can sit in a nice warm comfy car to watch their kids surf. Instead they have stand out in the elements and cheerlead - it’s great to see how committed and encouraging they are.


Where you like to take your surfing in the future?


(Laughs) it’s a tough one to answer. In my mind one of these days I’m going to have a good crack at the QS and make the World Tour but, my surfing skill and body says no. Or as I ride foamies so often during lessons, maybe one day I’ll make the soft board world tour and become best mates with Jamie O’Brien, Kalani Robb and Ben Gravy. Or there might be some kind of grand master tour I could look forward to in the future.


Jokes aside, on a personal level I’m happy to slowly fade into a cruisy twin fin kinda guy, like a goofy foot version of Torren Martyn. Again my surfing skill says no but at least it’ll give me something to aspire to.


I really admire surfers who give back to their local community and get involved with their local Surf Club or surf charities. Weather it’s for environment or surf therapy reasons. I’d love to get involved with a charity in my home town called The Surfer Kids Non Profit and continue to support local surf charities like Surfers Against Sewage.


In a unique way I feel like when we were growing up. Our little surf gang was a version of a surf charity and surfing has led all of us on a path that has provided more than we could of imagined possible so it would be great to find ways to translate that model into helping others.


On a professional level I want to continue being a surf coach, giving and sharing surfing with others so they can achieve their dreams of becoming a competitive surfer or just becoming the best surfer they can be, no matter their age or physical prowess so their surfing can give them as much fulfilment in life as I have and hopefully more, yeeeeeeew.



Matt Harwood


Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?


So I grew up on the Island and by 13/14 I was hooked on skateboarding and snowboarding.


How did you come to surfing?


Around the same time I saw Point Break. I literally thought it was the raddest lifestyle, I also saw a section of Taylor Steele’s Momentum on Eurosport which got me so excited to surf. 


It was early 90s and obviously ended up on a Kelly Slater/ Shane Herring glass slipper of a board which in hindsight was crippling for progression. 


What/who inspired you then?


I was totally fixated on those early Taylor Steele videos like Focus and Good-times, and watched them repeatedly. 


As I got to grips with it you start to relate to surfers you admire. Loved Luke Egan, Occy, Margo, Taylor Steele. Also loved guys like Nathan Fletcher who surfed, skated and snowboarded. Then there were local guys Stu Jones who absolutely ripped, so far ahead of his time. Super powerful. Just wanted to surf as well as him. 


Where’s it taken you?


Surfing has without a doubt enriched my life. 


It has obviously encouraged me to travel to surf exotic lands and get to surf iconic regions. I’m inherently competitive, and while I love surfing alone I love seeing mates surfing well; it also pushes me to get good ones. 


Closer to home I “accidentally” represented England in the Open at the 2013 Euros. I got selected for the Masters (35 plus) however right before the event it was realised I was 5 days too young to compete. However, there was a spot in the Men’s Open, so I ended up surfing against the very best in Europe. A 14 1/2 stone giant PE Teacher. I got called Kung Fu Panda (Ed - still does*) as it was kind of like Po in the film. Actually did ok and made a few heats. 


Best bit? 


For a long time I was an SAS Rep and loved working with the community raising awareness on sewage and marine conservation. However, taking on the role of England Coach for Surfing England Adaptive Parasurfing Team has been the best role I have ever had, working and hanging out with the best surfers on the planet in my eyes. And the funniest and most driven crew ever. 


Guys like Spike Kane, Martin Pollock and Melissa Reid just blow your mind how well they surf and the adversity every surf offers. 


Worst bit? 

Thought about this and can honestly say no surfing experience has been bad. You can have underwhelming sessions but on reflection you are essentially just playing in the ocean. Pretty privileged position to be in.


I did find it really hard after my best surfing buddy Lee Sheaff passed away way too young in 2013. Just a total frother, like me, surfed anything that rippled. Every surf I catch the first wave and think of him.


Most memorable?


Couple of solo sessions at home probably. I love that feeling of surfing well in good waves on your doorstep.


How would you describe the community here?


It’s an Island, we get regularly consistently average surf, sometimes good, but more often average. It means that we don’t get huge influxes of mainland surfers so you really do know everyone or at least recognize faces. 


In the last few years there’s been a real increase in women and girls surfing which is pretty epic. Definitely great to see some awesome female role models regularly for our daughters and other women.


Have a core group of buddies who I surf with and know that while we all have different lives surfing is our go to for fun and enjoyment. 


How would you like it to progress?


I want to see the level in the groms increase to push us old guys. I love seeing good surfing live in the water makes you push yourself or revaluate your own abilities and how to improve.


What/who inspires you now?


So from my personal surfing perspective Taylor Knox. That latest edit “48” proves that age is a number. 


Good fitness, nutrition and mindset and genuinely think you can keep improvement occurring. 


Overall the Adaptives are the raddest crew. Total rippers and awesome people. Love hanging out and coaching their surfing to improve. Being a part of helping them fulfil their competitive ambitions for Surfing England is so rad. 


Where you like to take your surfing in the future?


I actually love surfing anything. Tthe boards I get from Dan Mann have been amazing in helping me have equipment that allow me to surf some seriously marginal waves and therefore maintain that stoke to have fun in all conditions. 


I’m looking forward to keep improving, and at 42, I think I still am which is really satisfying.