Visitor donates rare 1960s Bill Bailey surfboard

One of the earliest fibreglass surfboards shaped by a Brit in the 1960s has been donated by a visitor to the Sixties SURFER! exhibition at the Museum of British Surfing.

The decal reads ‘Custom Bailey Malibu SURF-BOARDS NEWQUAY’, showing it is one of the boards made between c1962 & ’64 by the man described by historian Roger Mansfield as the father of British surfing, the late Bill Bailey. Bailey went on to found the legendary European Surfing Company and Bilbo Surfboards in ’65 with Bob Head, Doug Wilson & Freddy Blight.

Frank Hilder from Chester bought the 9′ 3″ surfboard second-hand around 1970: “I got it from the Tuckers, owners of Putsborough beach in North Devon – it was an ex rental board and they were changing to the new shortboards that were coming into fashion.”

He had visited the Museum of British Surfing last year and returned to see the new exhibition which looks at how modern surfing culture developed in Britain in the 1960s. By co-incidence a Malibu board Frank learned to surf on is also on display – shaped by Vic Jackson in Gloucestershire in the 1960s and used on holidays at Putsborough. It turns out Vic and Frank have been holidaying on the same North Devon campsite for more than 40 years!

“In sixteen years of building the surfing museum’s collection it is the first Bailey board I’ve seen. I’ve asked friends who are dedicated Bilbo collectors and they’ve never seen one either – you could have knocked me over with a feather when we took the board off the roof of Frank’s car!” said Museum of British Surfing founder Peter Robinson. “Frank didn’t know its significance, but was delighted to find out more about it & happy to see it preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Frank is now a dedicated bee keeper & likens it to the surfing experience: “You have to learn to read the bees like you do a wave, and you learn from nature and go with its flow.” The board, which has been painted at some point in its past, will now undergo sympathetic conservation work by volunteers before going on display. It will be on show at the museum’s vintage surf meet later this year.

Bill Bailey was a Newquay lifeguard who started shaping fibreglass surfboards after meeting ex-pat Brit Doug McDonnell who was touring the UK in 1961 tracing his family roots and surfing (in Scarborough, North Devon and North Cornwall). He sold Bailey his Californian ‘Bragg’ surfboard, inspiring Bill to start making boards in Newquay.

Writing in British Surfer magazine in 1969 Mick Jackman said: “They set up board factories in back yards and chicken sheds. Back then it was impossible to get a board from Bill Bailey or Bob Head without a few chicken feathers glossed into it or chicken footprints running up your design!”

The Museum of British Surfing, the national registered charity responsible the UK’s surfing heritage,  is looking for other Bill Bailey surfboards to add to its permanent collection, and also examples of  Bob Head’s ‘Friendly Bear’ Malibus – please call us on 01271 815155 or email if you can help.

Our Sixties SURFER! exhibition is running at the Museum of British Surfing in Braunton, North Devon until December 31st 2013. It is the most complete collection of 1960s British surfboards ever seen in one place & celebrates the birth of modern surfing culture in Britain and marks the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first surf shop opening.

The photos below show Frank Hilder donating his surfboard, a close up of the Bailey decals on the deck, and picture by the late Doug Wilson of Bill Bailey in 1963 with a similar board. Mr Hilder also kindly donated an original Windjammer sailboard. If you have a surfing or beach item you’d like to donate to create a lasting legacy please get in touch.