The museum story

The Museum of British Surfing opened its new exhibition and event venue in the centre of Braunton on the North Devon coast for the first time on Good Friday – April 6th 2012. It won a national museum’s award and had more than 3,000 visitors through its doors in just the first three months of opening.

Surfing has taken place on the area’s beaches since the early 1900s, and the village became a hub for the fledgling surfing industry in the 1960s and early ’70s with its position as a gateway to the beaches of Saunton, Croyde, Putsborough, Woolacombe and Westward Ho!

Significant grant funding has been secured to complete the project and the Charity completed the design & build with Bideford-based museum specialists Myriad.

The museum has a 74-year lease on The Yard, an old railway building on the village’s Caen Street car park – it includes Braunton skate bowl and the local youth club run by Devon County Council. The site is owned by Braunton Parish Council.

The surfing museum has given Devon Youth Services a rolling 25 year lease, rent free, to continue running the youth club – it also carried out community painting and planting projects in the last 12 months with local young people and families to help improve the area. It also provides the skate bowl as a free facility for everyone to use.

We’ve developed a flexible and innovative museum – each year you’ll see a new themed exhibition at our venue which will then go on tour around the UK.  Alongside this we have smaller outreach displays and regular events at The Yard and other locations in North Devon and beyond, featuring music, film, art and culture.

There is a special focus on young people and those who might never have been to the coast – we plan to take them to beach and our collection ‘on the road’!  Look out for our special beach days, and surfing & skateboarding events.

You’ll continue to see our touring exhibitions at venues around the UK, along with other exciting installations designed to keep us flowing like a surfer on a wave.

We are grateful for your continuing support, including that of many individuals and businesses locally, nationally and abroad who have donated their time and money to contribute to our continuing success.

The Museum of British Surfing is working toward being a carbon neutral operation, and as well as introducing the latest sustainable energy technology we’ll be looking at ways to help our visitors understand why it is so important to look after our environment.

This work was recognised in June 2012 when the new surfing museum won a prestigious Collections Trust award.

The surfing museum project began in 2003 with a generous donation from the family of the late Viscount Ted Deerhurst, Britain’s first professional surfer and a personal hero of our founder Pete Robinson. Since that time it has staged touring exhibitions at museums all over the UK that have been seen by around 400,000 people.

In 2009 it became a Registered Charity (1131433), establishing itself as the national body responsible for looking after Britain’s rich surfing heritage that dates back more than two centuries.

In the true spirit of the surfing community, surfers have stepped forward to help create something really special in our adopted home of North Devon – a huge thank you goes out to everyone who has made us feel so welcome in the ‘green county’ and helped to get us open.

The bulk of the Museum of British Surfing’s collection was purchased between 1997 and 2012 by Pete Robinson, and donated to the charity as his founding gift. In the last few years it has been boosted by many public donations of surfing and beach items, and now has the most extensive and historically significant collection of vintage surfboards, literature and memorabilia on public display and for academic research in Europe.

Our mission has been to try to collect at least one surfboard from every British shaper – we now have more than 200 boards dating back a century, and hundreds of associated items of surfing memorabilia.

The Museum of British Surfing – built by you, the British surfer!

In the beginning…

In 2003 a small band of surfing friends, led by founder Pete Robinson, got together to help create Europe’s first surf museum.

The family of the late Viscount Ted Deerhurst got us going with a donation from his trust, and we won sponsorship from Oxbow UK.

Dan Smith created our original logo, inspired by a mid 1960s Doug Wilson photo of Rod Sumpter riding his ‘Britannia’ model surfboard. Dave Huff built the website that did us proud for seven years, and Grant Winter developed the online shop that ran with it. Fastnet International in Brighton provided flawless hosting for the website free of charge.

People like Pete Robinson, John Isaac and Simon ‘Skelly’ Skelton scoured the country looking for vintage British surfboards and memorabilia.

Richard Gregory designed our graphic panels for our opening exhibitions that ran in Brighton in 2004 & 2005, then toured the UK, and Steve Frost weighed in with subtle and painstaking restoration and repair of the museum’s ever-growing collection of surfboards.

Bianca Robinson, Colin Blackman, Graham & Jules McDonald, Glenn Kessler, Atlanta Cook and many more pitched in with ‘hard labour’ to help transform our first gallery into a exhibition space. Brighton was our ‘test run’ for two years and it went so well that we decided to make it a mobile museum so that surfing communities around the UK could enjoy the collection.

After six years we settled in North Devon and moved the collection here – and while we’re still touring Britain the main focus has been to create the Museum of British Surfing’s first permanent home.


Museum of British Surfing » The museum story