116: Gwyn Haslock/Golden Years

Gwyn at Tolcarne, 1968.

“I’m slowing up – but I’m still getting up and catching waves”.

For the second episode of my Cornish omnibus, I’ve got a beautiful tale for uncertain times: a lovely and heartwarming conversation with British surfer Gwyn Haslock.

Chances are you won’t have heard of Gwyn. If that’s the case, I urge you to listen to this episode and discover her wonderful story.

South Fistral runner, September 2010. Photo: Geoff Tydeman

Kernow to the core, Gywn has a claim to be one of the UK’s original surfers and is certainly one of the first female surfers in the UK.

Today, well into her 70s, she is one of the most loved and recognisable figures in the line-up; taking her pick from the north and south coast Cornish spots she’s been gracing with her presence for the best part of half a century.

Bellyboarding, 1955.

At the beginning of March 2020, I sat down with Gwyn to discuss her amazing amazing surfing life. It’s a cockle-warming tale, and a unique look at the early years of British and Cornish surfing from the perspective of somebody who’s been there since day one.

Even better, her brilliantly blithe attitude to surfing is a welcome antidote to the amount of absolute rubbish that usually gets spoken about what is essentially a pretty simple pursuit. I guarantee she doesn’t read Beachgrit, let’s put it that way.

Another early Tolcarne session – 1965

My thanks to Gwyn, Demi Taylor and the Watergate Bay Hotel for the help pulling this one today. Hope you enjoy it.

Listen to the episode here:

Show Notes

  • Winter spot selections
  • A south coast winter
  • Bellyboarding in the 50s
  • The roots of Cornish bellyboarding
  • First Malibu experience – 1965
  • How overseas lifeguards brought the culture to the UK.
  • Gwyn’s first boards.
  • “I can’t surf shortboards – I’ve always surfed a mini mal”.
  • Original Newquay surf scene and community.
  • Gwyn’s first contest – 1965.
  • Rodney Sumpter – first UK pro.
  • Learning from better surfers.
  • Comp scene expands.
  • Balancing surfing with work.
  • Pre-wetsuit years – wooly jumpers and scuba suits.
  • “I’ve never been a big traveller”.
  • The lure of home.
  • Early contest memories.
  • First meeting Linda Sharpe
  • Representing England in Hossegor
  • A good surf out of a bad day.
  • The advantage of not leaving by the waves.
  • Encouragement from Mum, and the importance of the Cribbar.
  • First Cribbar sessions.
  • First British Women’s Champion – 1969.
  • “I just love being in the sea”.
  • Royal reception.
  • Gwyn’s book – “It’s just how I saw it”.
  • Helping to promote the sport of surfing.
  • The impact of surfing on Cornwall.
  • How surfing has changed.
  • Surfing the Bristol wave.
  • Gwyn’s favourite British surfer.
  • Memories of meeting Chris Bertish.
  • Bertish surfing the Cribbar
  • Gwyn’s usual surfing partners
  • Surfing with a helmet.
  • Headgear choices.
  • The importance of ear plugs.
  • Gwyn’s line-up tactics.
  • Sprightly at 75.
  • “I’m slowing up – but I’m still getting up and catching waves”.
  • Favourite waves.
  • Gwyn’s advice for new surfers.
  • Coping with the line-up.
  • Fitness and paddling are the key.




People Mentioned

  • Roger Mansfield
  • Chris Jones
  • Bob Haslock
  • Trevor Roberts
  • Jack Lydgate
  • David and Brian Daniel
  • Rodney Sumpter
  • Nat Young
  • The Britton Family
  • Barry Britton
  • Easkey Britton
  • Sarah Newlyn
  • Linda Sharpe
  • Nigel Semmens
  • Prince Charles
  • Lord Ted Deerhurst
  • Steve Holby
  • Russell Winter
  • Eden Berber
  • Robyn Davies
  • Ben Skinner
  • Lukas Skinner
  • Chris Bertish
  • Alan Stokes
  • Frances Carter
  • Claire Stephenson
  • Johnny Woollen


Places Mentioned

  • Newquay
  • Truro
  • Falmouth
  • Praa Sands
  • Caerhays
  • Tolcarne
  • Saint Ives
  • Jersey
  • Fistral
  • Portrush
  • Rossnowlagh
  • Arrifana
  • Nazare
  • Wales
  • Australia
  • California
  • Hossegor
  • Japan
  • Bristol
  • Towyn
  • Great Western




Companies/Brands Mentioned

  • Bilbo Surfboards
  • Bickers Surfboards
  • Cornwall County Hall
  • Gul
  • Solo
  • Carver Surfboards