The WBBC – So, you'd like to know a bit more about the WBBC, read on...

The WBBC – So, you'd like to know a bit more about the WBBC, read on...

The World Belly Boarding Championship (WBBC) was first started in 2003 at Chapel Porth by Martyn Ward and Chris Ryan as a memorial contest to the late Arthur Traveller, a Londoner who was a regular visitor with his wooden board at Chapel Porth. From humble beginnings with only a handful of competitors it quickly grew into the World Championships of recent times with over 300 surfers.

In the beginning it was a very simple, back-to-basics comp – no wetsuits, no leashes and no swim fins. A bit of wood and a swimsuit is all you would need. A very small group of dedicated visitors and a handful of locals assembled. Under the enthusiastic instruction and creative mastermind of Chris Ryan they hit the waves with their trusted plywood boards. After an undetermined and unnoticeable session of pure surf riding joy they retreated to dry sand and the comfort of soft towels and hot tea with thoughts of Arthur forefront in their minds. A memorial event and a celebration of the simple pleasure of riding a broken white water wave to the beach in a swimsuit was born.

What came next in the following years was an awakening and then explosion of British belly boarding that would reach around the globe. Influenced by the interested few and organised by even fewer into a gathering of eager competitors of all generations. Stories of days gone by around the British coastline and far off islands where hardwood and plywood boards had been ridden to great and absolutely no acclaim whatsoever shaped the event and it grew like wildfire sprinting across a Cornish heathland. Layer upon layer was added, new characters appeared bringing their tales of this simple pleasure. Teaching about the heritage of the craft and regalia of its’ distant past. The event became a celebration, the location became a pilgrimage and it was all documented, analysed and recorded along the way.

Nick Holden, National Trust ranger and competition director of many years says “The Champs was always about the people and their stories for me. The simple thrill of riding waves has never altered despite what changes occur along the way. Throughout the years and from beginning I was truly inspired by the attitudes and character of those who took part. The pleasure and connection surf riders get from the sea is pure, it has a spirit that we worked tirelessly to maintain and I remember each person I’ve met, story I’ve heard and read and board I have held, very proud to have been involved in such a happy and genuine event”

With the help of many volunteers and a dedicated and passionate group of supporters and sponsors The National Trust has continued to welcome as many competitors and spectators as the tide would allow to Chapel Porth. It did retain the special character and atmosphere of the event despite many challenges. This is a reflection of our core work and attitude to the preservation and conservation of this stunning yet delicate and fragile landscape. We face many challenges in the years ahead from climate change, erosion, increased visitor numbers and competition for funding.

If you took part thank you and congratulations you contributed to a wonderful event. If you missed out there is still the same spirit and character to be found, spend some time on a wave drenched Cornish beach this summer, maybe take off your wetsuit and grab a plywood board, ask around there are loads. Walk stoutly into the sea until your armpits are tickled by the cool water and allow yourself to be swept shoreward by the power of the sea. I guarantee it will bring you joy.

If you would like to know more about the history of surf riding and prone wooden boards visit here : http://www.museumofbritishsurfing.org.uk/british-surfing-history

The following is an exerpt from our good friend Peter Robinson, surf historian and founder of Europe’s first dedicated surf museum, the Museum of British Surfing, Braunton, North Devon says “The art of surf riding – or bellyboarding as people have come to describe it – dates back at least a century here in Britain. Surfing prone on a wooden 'paipo' or bodyboard is in fact one of the original forms of surfing from ancient Hawaii & the Polynesian islands centuries before.

There is evidence of surfing in the UK in the very early 1900s, but it became a popular beach activity in Cornwall and Devon at the end of World War I. A mixture of wealthy Brits travelling to Hawaii & learning to surf, and soldiers chatting to Commonwealth surfers in the trenches combined to create something quintessentially British.

A cup of tea, a cucumber sandwich and a spot of jolly good surf riding in the rolling Atlantic breakers became a must do activity for hundreds of men and women. Their equipment ranged from modified coffin lids to 'Crest Riders' made from ply with a kick in the nose.

Bellyboarding bloomed again after the Second World War as Brits returned to the beaches in their droves, and many thousands of bellyboards were made in the 1950s and 60s to service the growing demand.

It remains the same simple pleasure; an art that remained largely unchanged from the early 20th Century to the present day - being 'hooshed' in on the crest of wave on a simple plank of wood."

Many of these original boards appear at the Champs and are still ridden all across the country in the same exhilarating way. The event is a true celebration of the boards, people and stories that continue to make bellyboarding a great British tradition.

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