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Muddy Meets: Jamie Johnston, Dick Pearce Bellyboards

Using sustainable materials, methods, equipment and designs passed down by the original British maker and father of bellyboarding in the UK – Dick Pearce, we catch up with the man who is keeping the tradition alive and well in Newquay. (Plus win a bellyboard in our Reader Treat)

Sounds like there’s a lovely back story to the business…

The Pearce family had been making bellyboards and beach goods in North Devon for generations. When Dick Pearce died in 2010 we had the opportunity to buy the bellyboard manufacturing business from the family. It had been getting quieter for a number of years since the introduction of plastic boogie boards and no one in the family was interested in taking it on.

We bought the business and all the manufacturing gear  – the entire workshop along with the secrets on how to make the boards and originally set up the new era of Dick Pearce Bellyboards in an old farm at Port Isaac. Now everything has moved down to our current home in Newquay.  

What’s special about the Dick Pearce boards then?

The wooden bellyboard was first made before the mass production of plastic and foams – it was the original wave riding craft. The bellyboards are made from 9mm plywood – the material and shape of the boards has remained unchanged for 70 years or so. The original designs were all based on minimising waste and how many bellyboards you can cut out of a standard sheet of plywood. Plywood is chosen as it is a very sustainable and hardwearing wood.

And where’s it made? Cornwall I hope!

Everything’s manufactured in Cornwall! We cut the boards from plywood, route the edges, boil them for a few hours, bend them in the ancient bending racks, let them dry for a couple of weeks, sand them, heat stamp them, paint or oil them, screen print them and then ship them worldwide.

How long does each board take to make?

It is a pretty involved process for each board – we make large batches. If you were to make just one board it would prob take a few hours (excluding the 2 week drying/bending time!) and of course they’re designed to last a lifetime. As with everything, if you you use regularly they will require some upkeep… a fresh coat of paint every decade or so! All the boards are the same – the ’Surfrider’ template has been the same for generations. Its 4ft x 1ft with some bend in the nose. We also make a Kids Puffling for younger children as the long board can be too heavy for them to use properly.

We’ve all tried to bodyboard I’m sure, is bellyboarding similar? What’s the difference?

Riding a bellyboard is somewhere between bodyboarding and body surfing.
As the boards are a lot thinner than a foam board the rider is a lot closer to the water when riding. It’s a great feeling. Obviously, we love it! And people are always telling us how fast bellyboards are compared to the foam boards. 

Go on, give us the goss. Any famous customers? Who might I be riding a board next to unexpectedly?

We recently took Michael Portillo bellyboarding when he was visiting Newquay for his new BBC documentary.

Nice, what was he like? Any good at it?

Yes, he was very friendly and happy to get stuck in. Not the best bellyboarder… but he started to get the hang of it by the end!

Where is your favourite place to ride a Dick Pearce board?

My home break of Fistral, no question.

And we ask everyone this! Where’s your fave view in Cornwall?

Looking West from the end of Pentire headland over the Goose Island.

If you’re not lucky enough to win one of these awesome bellyboards in the Muddy competition (nip over to the Muddy Reader Treat page pronto) you can buy from Dick Pearce directly, or drop by the Newquay workshop. 

Find more ideas here


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