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year of 1962 in Cornwall, two Newquay lifeguards were making their entry
into the world of wave riding, firstly on wave skis, then hollow wooden
paddleboards. They'd heard of 'malibus', a new modern surfboard idea
originating from California, with a foam core covered by fibreglass, but
never seen one .......that is until McDonald hit town!
American, Doug McDonald, impressed Bailey with his surfing skill and
good advice. He was on his way home to the States and offered his
Californian built 10'6'' foam and fibreglass Bragg surfboard for sale.
bought the board and his yellow Ford van too! Now he was a surfer with a
mobile home in which he could live at the beach. The first, but by no
means the last in the following decades!
days of this event four young Australian life-savers, one of them Bob
Head, turned up on the beach at Great Western with newly built
surfboards manufactured by Barry Bennett in Sydney.
in By Bob Head.
The Surfboards were made
by 'SCOTT DILLON' who was emerging as the greatest innovator
manufacturers of the time.
the local lifeguards Bailey and Wilson had seen the Aussies in action in
the waves their sole aim was to obtain similar boards. Their only real
option was to make them!
the technical minded craftsman was plotting the next move. After much
experimentation he succeeded in producing foam blanks that would enable
modern surfboard production to commence.
Bailey started producing his custom model boards in a Newquay garage in
1963, and Bob Head quite separately was making his 'Friendly Bear'
surfboards in a chicken shack up the coast.
Everything built was bought immediately by a new audience of aspiring
British surfers hungry to ride the waves. Surf fever had begun to hit
Head proved himself to be the finest surfer seen in British waters at
that time and he and the three other Aussies gave many exhibitions of
surfing at Watergate Bay and Tolcarne beach in Newquay, popularising the
sport in the publics eye.
Bill Bailey, Bob Head, Doug Wilson and Plymouth businessman Freddy
Blight who had experimented building a couple of boards for his sons,
decided to join forces as a company dedicated to advancing the
of surfing in Europe. The name Bilbo was born, derived from the
Christian names of Bill Bailey and Bob Head.
Production of Bilbo surfboards started in the spring of 1965 in
temporary buildings at Pargolla Road in Newquay. Over the next few years
new buildings were erected and by 1970 the factory at Pargolla Road had
grown to become
one of the finest surfboard factories in the world. The shaping rooms
were custom built, including such refined features as dust extraction,
profile lighting and central heating. There were separate finishing
rooms for glassing, sanding, glossing and polishing.
had diversified to also produce quality skateboard decks fitted with
imported U.S. Hobie trucks with clay wheels. This marked the very
beginning of skateboarding in Britain!
spring of 1967 the door was opened to the public at the Bilbo Surf Shop
on the Station Forecourt Newquay, marking the first fully stocked
dedicated surf shop in the country.
later a further Bilbo shop was opened in Mumbles in south Wales managed
by top Team Rider Dave Friar. The hunger for information andsurfboards
from the newly emerging mass of Welsh wave riders had to be fed!
the products sold at the shops were designed by Bilbo and manufactured
in the United Kingdom. One good example was the first purpose designed
surfing wetsuits produced by the newly formed GUL Wetsuits were
originally sold exclusively through the Bilbo outlets.
the brand name of Big Gun, Doug Wilson started a company to produce
surfwear including shorts, jackets and T-shirts for sale through the
Bilbo Shops, marking the start of distinctive clothing for British
surfers to wear.
eventually became the manufacturer under licence of Hang Ten from Long
Beach in California, the most famous American surf clothing company of
Many of the best designs produced for Bilbo at the time never reached
the surfing market due to the lack of close register silk screen
printing facilities. However many of the designs and ideas created by
Bilbo still set
the standards for present day surfwear.
these formative years Bilbo was a breeding ground of talent; for many
individuals, in the factory, shop or competition team who would grow
with surfing to become innovators in the world of surfing in their own
factory always welcomed visiting surfers, such as international stars
Rodney Sumpter, Keith Paull and Bob Cooper, plus many lesser-known
others who passed on their travelled knowledge and adventures to the
Production shaper Chris Jones grew to become one of the most experienced
custom shapers in Europe, having earlier contributed enormously to the
introduction and development of shortboard designs in the late sixties.
Shop-worker Paul Holmes evolved via Tracks 'the surf paper' in Australia
to become editor of Surfer magazine in California, where he pioneered
the introduction of a surf programme to US network TV. Competition Team
and occasional shaping room cleaner Roger Mansfield progressed to
pioneer the development of the surf school concept in Europe in the
was very much about open communication and constant innovation.
the techniques pioneered at the Bilbo factory were passed on to the
general surfing community as it grew, enabling other similar
manufacturing ventures to start up in different parts of the country.
in this light that Bilbo can claim to be the singlemost influential
force in the development of British surfing and it is through their
Pioneering efforts that the sport of surfing has become so well
established in the UK.
now, Bilbo is an original and authentic force for quality, both in the
waves and in the world of surfing.
"Bilbo ... a name from
the era of British soul surfing"
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