Bill Bailey (surfer)

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For other uses, see Bill Bailey (disambiguation).

Bill Bailey (27 September 1933 - 28 April 2009) was known as "the father of British surfing" for the crucial role he played in the development of the sport in the United Kingdom.[1][2][3] He set up the first surf company in Britain.

Bailey grew up in Inglesbatch, in Somerset where his father withdrew him from school at age 14 due to his behaviour, and placed him in the Royal Air Force.[1] There he trained as an engineer working on Short Sunderland flying boats and taking postings overseas.[1] It was while working on air-sea rescue in Sri Lanka that he developed a love of the sea, quitting the air-force at the end of the 1950s and moving to Newquay to work as a lifeguard.[3]

Bailey began building life-saving equipment including a surf ski in 1961, designed to be used by to lifeguards with paddles. While tinkering with the design he met two Australians on their way to the US, and was impressed with the foam core and fibre-glass construction of their surf boards.[1][2] He bought one and learned to use it, becoming one of the first native surfers in Britain.[3] In 1964 he began constructing surf boards himself and the following year formed a partnership with Bob Head to set up the European Surfing Company. Under its surfboard brand, BilBo, it produced around 12,000 boards over the next eight years.[2] In the late 1960s A Bilbo shop was opened outside the train station of Newquay, which was quickly becoming the UK surfing capital.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Bill Bailey - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). 29 May 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Tributes paid to Bill Bailey, the former Newquay lifeguard who became known as the UK 'father of surfing'". 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Mansfield, Roger (11 May 2009). "Obituary: Bill Bailey | From the Guardian | The Guardian". London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 7 March 2011.