Those that don't know, don't know but those that have visited the UK and stuck around for a bit will know that when it's on we have waves comparable to anywhere in the world.
Down in the South West in Cornwall we are blessed with some consistent waves on both the North Coast and South coast, there are miles and miles of golden sand beaches with a whole host of super cool beach breaks to choose from, chuck in a couple of reefs and some local knowledge and it's game on.
This next rider has that knowledge and you can guarantee when the swell arrives he will be at the best spot and he will be there early 😎
Please let me introduce Phill Underwood......
I am 41 and was born in Stoke on Trent, I left when I was 6 months old, I heard the sea calling.
I have since then lived in Cornwall.
I started bodyboarding properly (you know what I mean moving on from the white-water straight handers) when I started in secondary school which was 1988.
I started off with the old polystyrene surfboards whenever we used to go to the beach as a family, the only problem was that they broke whenever you tried to do anything but go forward.
I got into Bodyboarding when my older brother and a couple of his mates used to go and it looked pretty cool, I then made a couple of best friends Ben Roberts and Tristan Laxton at school who were also into sponging, we used to tag along with our older brothers and catch a train every Saturday over to Newquay and surf where ever the famous old Boardwalk Surf shop Neon sign said was good.
Back in those days there wasn’t any internet or surfing apps, you knew the surf shop phone lines off by heart, or you would watch Teletext on tv for an inshore sea forecast, only to find you missed your area forecast and have to wait 15 minutes for it to go around the whole UK.
The Bodyboarding scene was very Underground, it felt like we were doing our own thing, finding the perfect waves was much more of a skill and effort then.
My late parents both encouraged me to get in the ocean as they never had the ocean on their doorstep when they were kids, they could see how bodyboarding made me feel.
I remember watching a programme on a children’s channel called Activ8 and it featured the UK legend and British champ Dan Catten, he showed what the sport was all about and I think that was the first catalyst, the froth grew.
Childhood heroes have to be Mike Stewart he was at a totally different level to other riders his knowledge and ability to read waves made him look so effortless, other old school favourites have to be Seamus Mercado super smooth and Hauoli Reeves was a true hellman.
Getting my hands on the newest Bodyboarding video magazines was the best thing, watching all the top pros ripping in epic conditions and the latest edition of Riptide.
I live on the Southcoast of Cornwall and it only really gets decent waves in the winter, so my local break Pentewan only comes alive on a big storm. I tend to head to the North coast most of the time so Mawgan Porth or a secret spot are my regular breaks.
My favourite UK break ? It’s a tough one between Porthleven a good fast hollow reef break , Mawgan Porth a solid right hand wedge and the boogers favourite a heavy wedging shorebreak that once upon a time was super secret, the choices are made for you by the wind.
In the world......Again its tough as I’ve surfed many spots around the globe Chopes, Cloudbreak , The Wedge, Kirra etc but the closer waves found in France are probably my favourite .
Hossegor is a definite favourite but in more recent years i’ve been exploring more northerly in France Bud Bud on its day is just like Hossegor and just a couple hours further north in and around Quiberon I’ve scored some sick waves.
First pro board was the vintage Morey Mach 7-7, loved that board but one that I reminisce about the most was a BZ Diamond Ridge such a beast of a board.
My first crew started with my Brother, then Ben and Tristan, The McClennan brothers, Nathan Bate, Paul Edwards, Jeremy Kent and Jo Hall, we were all from Fowey School but knew of other spongers in the surrounding area and it wasn’t until the College days that the crew changed and has sticked for 25 years.
Myself, Dan Olford, Nick Parkin, Jamie Tonkin, the Messiah Al Lawson, and ARS legend Ross Littlejohns
I competed back in the 90’s in a series called the Threesixty comp alongside Bjorn Storey, Daniel Wall and Damian Prisk coming third and fifth in two of the events, then I competed up in Scarborough coming third, but then I stopped competing as I turned my focus on to Rugby playing for local and regional teams.
I haven’t competed for over twenty years but I’m going to dust off the old rashie and enter the Open in the Bodyboarding Series this April. The Competition scene in the UK has been slow over the last few years but thanks to the hard work of Chris Webb, Dan Catten and all the UK sponsors the scene is back up.
I have a fulltime job in the Pharmaceutical industry so I can only ever dream of being a pro rider, as most people know the money is not in our sport, but who needs money when we have the currency of froth and yew.
I have recently just become sponsored by Atlas UK
who have given me my sick sled a Lachlan Cramsie D12 PRS Blood Diamond super stoked. I’ve also been lucky to be asked to ride for Bodyboard Depot, a store that has all your bodyboarding needs covered and also plants a tree whenever you purchase from them, what more can you want.
Section Bodyboarding have also been supporting me on the side , a couple of years ago I was approached by Jamie Sargent via Instagram, he asked if I would test one of his wetsuits Nixsa Wetsuits, I was never going to say NO, got to say they have to be one of the best suits I’ve ever tried, so flexible, none of the big company BS you get off the main companies, 3/2mm 4/3mm thermal lined and now a 5/3mm hooded beast all made of the best Yamamoto neoprene.
I would like to also say I am an ambassador for @saltwatertherapyuk they are trying to promote the ocean for helping with mental health, stress and wellbeing.
(Click the link below for more info)
Flipper wise I’ve been using the same pair of Limited Edition fins for the last 5 years, says everything. Leash wise I’ve been super impressed with the new Thrash Leashes loving the Neon colours.
Yeah I buy Bodyboarding Brands, ARS was a favourite before the sad day came when it closed its doors. I always buy off local brands who produce their own kit. Your good self at Lidlife, Bodyboard depot, Section bodyboarding, Biskit diaries, ocean corduroy, always buy T’s, Hoodies , caps and beanies. You got to support your sport otherwise they fold.
I’m old school so any pumping tunes. Metallica, Sepultura , Suicidal tendencies , Anthrax . If not feeling the metal vibe I turn to a bit hip hop like Boo Ya Tribe, a Tribe called Quest or any old school hip hop.
One favourite memory has to be a surf trip I did when I was 16 with Ben and Tristan. It was in the South of France for 6 weeks, we caught a bus from Cornwall to London, then changed onto another one to go all the way down to Bordeaux, we then got a bus up to Montalivet, it took so long.
We stayed on a campsite right on the beach so we Bodyboarded all day everyday for the whole summer holidays and only speaking to my parents once a week, this experience has engraved the love of French beach breaks and I regularly go back every year now with my wife Kerry and Kids, camping up and down the French coast.
Another memory that I will never forget was when Mike Stewart and Keith Sasaki came to Newquay on a promo tour and we got to watch them tearing apart a weak small day at Towan beach, I will never forget that day.
I have been sponging for a long time but sometimes life takes over with education, other sports, careers and not to forget family. Over the year’s bodyboarding became less frequent but never less loved, fitness levels dropped weight pilled on. It wasn’t until 2009 when I had a minor car accident when I realised just what was wrong.
I went on a full detox and health drive, shedding the pounds and getting back the froth for bodyboarding. Work and life stresses have a big impact on everyone’s daily life, I believe we all need to look at your life and work out a good life balance and make sure the ocean is part of that equation.
The biggest impact on my froth for bodyboarding came a few years back when my Wife bought me a Gopro for Christmas. Now I spend as much time as possible in the waves getting footage and shots of all the local breaks. Looking for different angles, different accessories, taking it to the next level, surfing before the sun gets up using my Lume Cubes.
I just want to get footage and shots and share it with whoever I’m surfing with. Over the years I’ve made so many different friends due to the power of social media and sharing good times in the sea. The best feeling is catching a wave getting pitted busting a move, turning around and seeing your bro’s get getting pitted and busting it and you have filmed them, then later that day you can edit it and then share the stoke back with them. Good times X2.
That is what the essence of the sport is all about to me, having that stoke with your Bud’s, having good vibes in the sea, hooting anyone who scores a sick wave whether they are local or not, surfers, Sups or bodysurfers. Who cares!!!!!!!
Other inspirations are the local videographers and spongers Ben Howard “Section Bodyboarding” and Chris Levi “Biskit Diaries” having their regular podcasts have been keeping the UK scene alive.
The likes of Clark Little with his madness in the Shorebreak, Jacob Vandervelde and Chris Simpson in Hawaii with their antics capturing different POV, and with David Camacho Jimenez over in Spain taking it to the next level watching those guys always pushes me to get the next best shot.
With the help of The Prostandard Mouth Grill mount and the new Multimount interchangeable bodyboard mount I am finding the best angles to show just what it is like to be a bodyboarder.
Last year however I thought I was going to have to hang up my Fins as I had severe spondylolisthesis, which basically meant one of my vertebrae at the bottom of my back was fooked, it had a fracture and was missing a part, any time I moved or did too much the vertebrae would move trapping my nerves giving me sciatica and constant pain .
I could not stand for more than 10 minutes, couldn’t lie on my front or back so I had to sleep on the sofa so I was kept in foetal position. I saw doctors, physios, chiropractors you name I saw them.
In the end I was seen by a neurosurgeon who said I had two options a life of strong drugs or spinal fusion. I thought about all the risks, paralysis being one of them. But decided I couldn’t go on being like an 80 year old.
I went in for what was supposed to be a 4 hour op waking up after 10 hours and being told there had been complications. I couldn’t move my arms and legs at first due to lying on my front for so long the blood was in the wrong place, but I could move my fingers and toes, PHEW.
After intensive Physio I was sent home after 3 days and then rehab for 6 weeks.
It has now been over 12 months and I’m fully fixed and raring to go just in time for the Winter season in the UK. The Froth could not be any stronger these days, you only get one chance in life enjoy it to the max doing the things you love the most ……….
Photo credits include:
Phill, thanks for taking time out to share your story, I had the pleasure of surfing with you at Pentewan last winter and I look forward to sharing a few more sessions in the future.
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