We were lucky enough to catch up with some home grown talent who came late to the party but is certainly making up for lost time now.
Currently busy giving back to grass routes bodyboarding and instrumental in the growth of our beloved sport in the UK.
Hi I'm Alex Clark, I'm 35 and from Caerphilly just inside the valleys of South Wales, although it is inland I can be on the coast within 30 minutes and can see the sea if I climb the nearest mountain.
I was late to the show, not starting bodyboarding until 2007 aged 20, something I will always regret.
As a child I was fortunate enough to have a caravan in Pembrokeshire. I used to hang around with a group of older boys who could drive and we would go surfing, most of them were bodyboarders but as all naive 13 years olds would - I thought I’d be cooler if I surfed. I stuck at it for a few years but then life happened, other interests that tempt a teenage boy took control and I didn’t enter the sea again until I took a trip to Cornwall with my now fiancé. We sat in the car and watched people surfing Fistral. I turned to her and said I just need to get back in there! I bought myself a BZ at a local surf shop with a pair of budget fins as I couldn’t justify buying a new stand up and got a few waves. That was it. I was hooked!
So being quite a big child when I started bodyboarding at 20 but when I started to learn about the sport you could argue it was in its hay day with the IBA world tour. My favourite riders back then where Damian King, Dave Winchester and Ryan Hardy.
When starting out I would surf Porthcawl as my local. There are a variety of waves there across a rather condensed coastline, there weren’t many bodyboarders about back then but I got to connect with a few. I would mainly surf with some of the local stand ups until I met Mike Norman who had recently moved to Neath from Exmouth.
My favourite break in Wales has to be the wedge down west. Its has various moods but there’s something magical about not only the wave but the whole landscape, Pembrokeshire really is a magical place.
My favourite break in the world? This is hard one for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit and surfed the Canaries, Morocco, Bali, Mexico, Barbados and Portugal. All of the countries have the potential to have my favourite break but there is something special about surfing the wedge down west with a good crew.
My first board was a BZ think was called S Series 2 or something. That was soon replaced by a 4Play Kingy and a BZ Hubb Graphic. I still have all my boards in storage here, even if some are a bit banana’d.
Bodyboarding is so niche here in Wales, it didn’t take long to find out who was who. My mate Shep down Pembroke told me about Mike moving to Wales and once I made friends with Mike we soon hooked up with riders all across Wales. This included Steve McDonald, Lee MacGregor, Keith Usher, Dean Page, Paul Fenrich to name but a few….
I have competed yes. I entered the Welsh Nationals in 2014 and 2016 finishing 2nd and 3rd. We also run a few competitions in the club between 2013 and 2018. I can’t remember my results from back then but think I finished 3rd overall at the end of the first years combined events.
Having studied Sound Engineering in college my musical tastes change like the wind. I’d say the South Westerlies of my musical choice are a blend of punk music, uk hip hop or anything else that is fast, hard and thrashy.
There is no single favourite memory, I am truly grateful for what the sport has given me in my life. The amount of times I have paddled out in various places around the world and just taken in the moment I’m surrounded by. It is them moments I remind myself how lucky I am, the places I have and the people I have met along the way. They are all great memories that I cherish.
So the Welsh Bodyboard Club has become a labour of love for many and next year we will celebrate 10 years. We have seen committee members come and go over the years but each one making a valuable contribution to the cause. It was originally started by Mike Norman and John Sharp who working together at the time on the Gower, back then it was really a just for fun kind of affair, more of social media page than club. Then in 2012 I met a few boys out in Indo’ that called themselves Team Taff, not long after we all got together at the Prince of Wales pub in Kenfig to go about making the club more official. The original founding committee was Mike Norman, Johno Sharp, Keith Usher, Jason Hughes, Mac Mclean, Roger Bevan, Stephen Thomas, Harvey James, Steve McDonald and myself. I hope I’ve not missed anyone!
At the moment the committee consists of Harvey James, Rich Livock, Chris Nyce, Trystan Williams and myself. Having affiliated to the Welsh Surfing Federation last year we are now working on a Welsh Nationals which will enable a path for our competitors and officials to represent at an international level. We are also working with the English and Channel Island clubs to bring a British Nationals. There is no promised timescale but work is being put in as a club we have decided that it is all about the future generations. We are building structure that is easy to follow and delivers legacy that we can hand down to the groms. As there is a severe lack of groms, we are doing what we can to promote the sport on all levels and encourage both individuals and families to be a part. We cannot solely rely on competition to create a community. We have tried to do this in the past and failed, It is about getting people together, having good times and demonstrating to others what our sport is all about. We saw our membership hit over 120 members last year, It is now time to bring the competition side of things into play.
Severn has been an idea in the back of my head for many years, it is only recently I have made it a reality. I run another clothing/lifestyle brand tafia.co.uk which encourages all types of extreme sports at grassroots level in Wales. The original concept for Tafia was to bring bodyboarding to the attention of the people doing these other sports and put them on a level playing field. I never took money from tafia.co.uk and all profit was put back into prizes for events and mercy for team riders. That remains the same now.
As I mentioned earlier, I am truly grateful for what bodyboarding has given me and I dread to think what I’d be doing if I hadn’t got into it. Severn is my way of giving back to the sport. I suppose my hesitation in getting it going was that I hadn’t quite found the products I wanted to sell, when I stumbled across the supplier I use now I didn’t have to think about it, the time was now.
The products are organic, sustainable, earth positive and fully recyclable. As part of a circular economy products have to be made from only the finest of materials and can be remade - time and time again. There is no plastic used at all and everything is plant based including the packaging. Through planting trees and removing ocean plastics via various promotions the worlds actually a better place from these items being worn. We also plant additional trees and support rewilding project with Mossy Earth. From the day Severn started, we were already doing the planet a favour!
So with that in mind, I now had the grounds to start a bodyboard specific clothing brand that ticked all of those boxes. I now needed to apply the values I’ve always held. To promote grassroots bodyboarding to the wider audience and give bodyboarders products that they want. I’ve taken some of the UK’s finest young talent and got them onboard as ambassadors. If I can save them a few quid on clothes so they can spend their money on waves I’m happy. It is also a platform for them to promote themselves and our sport on, the future is now and that is what Severn will always support.
There’s some exciting projects and collaborations going on behind closed doors at the moment, all of which will hopefully come to fruition over the next few months. I want to thank everyone that has supported Severn over the first year, it has been truly inconceivable. I’m sorry this interview has been so long winded but it is something I hold dearly to my heart and I look forward to watching things grow.
Photo credits include:
Ben De Sa