CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Sally Parkin talks about the history of her new business called Original Surfboards

PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:53 27 February 2015

Beautiful artwork depicting beach scenes in the 1920s and 1930s

Beautiful artwork depicting beach scenes in the 1920s and 1930s


Last month we revealed how Sally Parkin has made a business from her passion for surfing. This month CHRISSY HARRIS reveals how Sally has unearthed a fascinating history behind the sport

Sally has produced a Mr Punch tribute borad through her Original Surfboard CompanySally has produced a Mr Punch tribute borad through her Original Surfboard Company

It started with an old book. Sally Parkin’s family home was full of them but one in particular intrigued her: The Art of Surf Riding (1953 edition) by author Ronald S. Funnel.

He wrote of “a new and exhilarating sport” that was “rapidly gaining many fans in England”.

“I loved the art deco style of the cover,” says Sally who was just five years old when she started riding the waves on wooden surfboards with her father and sister at Porthcothan, North Cornwall. This summer she will be celebrating her 50th year of surf-riding.

“I was intrigued to find that there was an instructional guidebook to this sport and that in the 1950s it was considered to be a cool and stylish activity.

Sally publishes postcards featuring archive surfing scenesSally publishes postcards featuring archive surfing scenes

“It was also very special that the author rated Porthcothan as one of the best beaches for surf riding and that he had personally taken a photograph of surf riders there.”

Over the years, the book got lost but Sally was desperate to track it down. She eventually found it through an expert based in California.

“I soon realised how rare it was,” says Sally. “But in losing and then finding it, well, it made me more interested in the history of surf riding.”

It was to be one of those life-changing moments. Shortly after tracking down the book, Sally set up The Original Surfboard Company in 2008.

The firm sells hand made vintage-style wooden surfboards, which Sally says allow the user ‘a closer and more exciting wave experience’ than a thicker, polystyrene equivalent.

The trend is catching on and the Original Surfboard Company, based at Sally’s home near Silverton, Devon, has customers all over the world, from Australia to Hawaii.

But as the success of her business has grown, so too has Sally’s thirst for surf riding knowledge.

She spends hours at a time, delving into the past of this once extremely popular British pastime.

Through her research, Sally has found references to the original British surf sport in a cartoon for Punch magazine, printed in 1914.

“That was a real ‘wow’ moment for me,” says Sally. “Up until that point, all the research appeared to say that the wooden boards came into Britain after the war when the men came back from the trenches.

“The cartoon seems to redefine when people were using these boards.

“The fact that it [surf riding] was happening in England before 1914 is very significant.”

Sally’s voyage of discovery has seen her collect countless books, articles, posters and other memorabilia, which she wants to share with fans of her wooden boards.

Some copies of publications and postcards she has tracked down are for sale on her website to help showcase the heritage of a pastime that was once considered the height of cool.

Collecting the memorabilia feels like a significant part of my company’s branding and the promotion of these boards,” says Sally, who is keen to shake off the belief that surf riding, or bellyboarding, as it is sometimes called, is only for the over sixties.

“Back in 2008 bellyboarding had such a poor image but I believed it could become stylish again”. Sally says a lot of her research has come from railway company posters and publicity guide books, with their beautiful artwork depicting beach scenes in the 1920s and 1930s.

“They wanted to promote people coming down to Devon and Cornwall to enjoy the sea. I just love the colours and the style of these images,” she says.

Sally has also discovered more about surf riding away from the seaside towns of the Westcountry.

She met internationally renowned surfboard shaper Tom Wegener in 2009 and since then, the pair have uncovered stories and images of wooden boards being used all over the world, including Japan.

Tom, who lives in Australia, says Sally has been the main engine driving the resurgence of the wooden bodyboard. He reveals: “The surfing world is much bigger than I ever imagined a few years before. If you have never tried one of these boards, please do yourself a favour and give one a try.” n


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Friday, December 7, 2018

Devon Life received this heartfelt letter from Mr Michael Thompson, of Torbay, which is felt particularly poignant to share with our website audience at this time of year

Read more
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bursting with festive inspiration, KATE WILLIAMS seeks out the best presents for a perfect Devon Christmas

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon has had more than its fair share of high achievers over the years but how well do you know our county’s singers, authors, sportspeople, explorers and TV personalities? This is an edited version of a quiz compiled by MARGARET BRECKNELL in the December 2018 issue of Devon Life

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

PHILIP DALLING recalls two Exmoor legends who shared a deep love of the moor and its natural resources, and gained national fame through the media

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the month when we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, STEVE ROBERTS highlights the terrible cost in human lives it inflicted on the county of Devon

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search