Newquay Surfing History – Amazing 1920s Surfing film

earliest known film of surfing i
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Newquay Surfing History

The grainy 9.5mm footage – which experts have dubbed a ‘national treasure’ – is believed to show stand-up surfing in Britain for the first time. The film had been stashed in the attic by Mr Rosenberg’s daughter Sue Clamps, who handed it to the Museum of British Surfing in Devon following a visit.

Until the discovery of this film the earliest photographic evidence of stand-up surfing dated to the late 1930s.

Lewis Rosenberg was a young man from London who, like thousands of others in the 1920s, travelled to Newquay by train with his friends for the summer holidays. In 1929 he and his mates spent a week at Holywell Bay where they camped in home-made tents and enjoyed the thrills of belly-boarding in the cool Atlantic waves. I am sure he would be astonished to find that his early amateur films have become a part of Newquay Surfing History.

A few months later, back in London, Lewis saw a newsreel film at the cinema which showed Australian surfers riding solid wooden surfboards at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Instantly inspired, he sketched an outline of the board design on a matchbox. Over the following months he carved himself a board from a plank of balsa wood, and the following summer he returned to Cornwall to try it out with his friends Ben Elvey and Harry Rochlin.

Newquay Surfing History – The first Go Pro?

What makes Lewis Rosenberg’s story remarkable is that he filmed his exploits, using one of the first home movie cine cameras available. Amazingly, he even made a housing for the camera and strapped it to the board, making some first-ever “point of view” images, some 75 years before the introduction of the GoPro camera.

Whether he eventually stood up and rode some waves in a balanced, upright position is not known; yet this was, without doubt, a significant experiment, the earliest documented attempt at surfboard riding in this country.

You can read more about Lewis Rosenberg early filmmaking here.

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