Endless Winter: The History Of The British Surfing Scene

A very British surf flick that takes a look at the evolution of surfing on these shores, from Mad Jack Churchill to the modern day...
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A very British surf flick that takes a look at the evolution of surfing on these shores, from Mad Jack Churchill to the modern day...

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Endless Winter is a very British surf movie. A documentary capturing the essence of UK surfing, a history lesson set in cold fickle surf with footage of brave souls in the 1970s blowing snow off their surfboards and reminiscing about using jumpers for wetsuits.

Directors Matt Crocker and James Dean travelled the UK collecting stories told through interviews, archive film, animations and original footage to create an epic tale. This first film to show UK surfing in all its crazy glory. From Mad Jack Churchill, a bored war hero who pioneered surfing the Seven Bore to world class surfers. Some literally evolved out of the Welsh sea with its post-industrial mix of poisonous heavy metals and raw sewage, survived and competed on the World Circuit. But where do you start?

“We go way back to the turn of the century” explains Crocker, “when people were bellyboarding and starting to build their own surfboards. There was bit of a movement going on before the second world war.” The documentary has a playful theme; Queen Victoria may/may not have been amused by the Hawaiian Princess who was allegedly hanging ten near Brighton Pier. It’s no surprise that these stories exist. British surfing is alive with the ultimate cold repellent, a passionate mix of dreams and eccentricity.  “You get these odd characters who’d take these huge seven stone surf boards out into deeper water” adds Dean. The true story of sword happy Mad Jack Churchill is that of a war hero driven to distraction by the quiet West Country life who built a massive wooden surfboard and pioneered riding the freezing Severn Bore in a striped cloth bathing suit.

World War 2 sent the Mad Jacks and the dreamers packing but the waves didn’t stop coming. “We a pick up from the late 50s and 60s when with the American and Australian lifeguards bring surf culture over with them which grabbed the attention of kids living on the coast,” says Crocker.

Two professional surfers, Mitch Corbett and Mark ‘Egor’ Harris, are the presenters visiting prime UK beaches and interviewing the pioneers, veterans and eccentrics who survived without today’s lifesaving wetsuit technology.  Mitch and Egor have the British ‘surf’ gene. Crocker remembers a cold autumnal conversation when Mitch says to Egor ‘mate I hope we get some waves tomorrow it’s been a long summer of no waves.  “Unlike everyone else in this country they are desperate for the winter to come so that they can finally get some waves”. Californian’s dreamt of The Endless Summer but that was, and still is the American dream.

The 70s is when surfing in the UK got cool. From Hawaii to Northern Scotland, boards got shorter and hair got longer. Surfers got smoked and chilled but the global competitions rolled on and the prize money grew. The need for a competitive edge dominated the 80s and the magic narrative of Endless Winter shows that you can take the surfer out of the 70s but no matter how hard they worked out you can’t take the 70s out of the surfer.  Maybe that’s part of the mind-set? British surfing attracts a loyal all weather crowd who will no doubt, love the Endless Winter.

Endless Winter is released on DVD on November 20th.

Click here to read more of Rowan’s work on his surf blog - Chairman of the Board Surf  and you can follow him on Twitter @surfthechairman

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