The following is very much their story:-
In the 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!
The 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.
Bill 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!
Within 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.
Correction/update Sent in By
The Surfboards were made by
'SCOTT DILLON' who was emerging as the greatest innovator
of surfboard manufacturers
of the time.
Once 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!
Bailey 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.
Bill 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
Bob 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.
In 1965 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 development
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.
Bilbo 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!
In the 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.
A year 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!
Most of 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.
Under 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
Big Gun 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.
During 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 right.
The factory always welcomed visiting surfers, such as
Rodney Sumpter, Keith Paull and Bob Cooper, plus many lesser-known others
who passed on their travelled knowledge and adventures to the local
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 member
and occasional shaping room cleaner Roger Mansfield progressed to pioneer
the development of the surf school concept in Europe in the early Eighties.
Bilbo was very much about open communication and
Many of 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.
It is in this light that Bilbo can claim to be the
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.
Then as 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
Text written by RogerMansfield/www.bilbosurf.com