Published on August 28th, 2012 | by Chris Wotton0
Belly up! World Bellyboard Championships come to town
You might not have heard of Cornwall’s World Bellyboard Championships, but believe you me, they are big. Now into its tenth year, this annual contest is open to all and sees traditional wooden bellyboards ridden in the surf. Bellyboards – or paipo as they were traditionally known in Hawaii and the Polynesian islands – were the original surfing implement of choice when the first surfers arrived back from the likes of South Africa, Australia and Hawaii after World War One – a mix of soldiers and wealthy Brits on their travels. Some even converted coffin lids and turned them to new use for surfing! Cornwall quickly became the focus of the UK’s surf scene, but it was only later that surfers began to stand up on their boards in the way we know today.
Held on the first weekend of September, the World Bellyboard Championships open the north Cornish coast as host to participants and spectators from ‘around the world and up the hill’, as the organisers put it. The National Trust organises the event, which brings together all those folk who are crazy about the deep rooted tradition of riding good old fashioned wooden surfboards.
Originally the idea of two friends – a car park attendant and lifeguard supervisor who work at the Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes, where the championships get under way – the Royal National Lifeboat Institute benefit from funds raised as surfers from as far afield as New York, Denmark and Australia come along to join in the fun – over three hundred of them, in fact. The event its now in its tenth year and was originally held to honour a holidaymaker from London who would turn up at Chapel Porth beach year in, year out with his good old wooden board – whatever the weather.
The National Trust now also uses the contest to highlight the pressures placed on the UK’s beaches and coast, but it is not all serious. As well as the top competition to win the title of World Bellyboard Champion, there are also light hearted side prizes such as the Most Stylish, Best Trick and the Spirit of Bodyboarding awards. The boards themselves come in for the chance to be awarded, too – Best Artwork, Best Patina (shine from polishing) and Best Vintage are among the categories – and even prizes for those who brave the notorious cold temperatures of Britain’s sea water and turn up in nothing but a traditional swimming costume, rather than a swim suit! In fact, so hardcore are this bunch that wet suits are banned throughout the whole contest – this is back to basics fun at its best!
This year’s World Bellyboard Championships take place on Sunday 02 September. There’s no parking at Chapel Porth beach during the event, but alternative parking is available in the area and a shuttle bus runs to and from nearby St Agnes, which can be reached locally by bus.