Tuesday, January 5, 2010

THE 'BEZ'...
Well it's not often I win something, in fact the only thing that comes to mind is a second in the chook raffle at the Tugun surf club some time last century before they... 'modernised' it....anyway I'm pretty stoked at winning 'The Bez'. This an obscure comp run by a bunch of surf crazed Welshman that live around here to honour the life of a pretty remarkable English writer/surfer...'Bez' Newton. Chatting with the boys on the day I found out that Bez wrote a few books, was instrumental in the establishing of the first surf mags in the UK and led a pretty bohemian lifestyle cruising the coast in search of the perfect wave. The trophy was made from found objects and features a look alike of Bez surfing a pen, complete with glasses wired to his head with all kinds of string and 'glasses holding on' apperatus....you see, Bez couldn't see without his glasses and had to tie them on to his head in order to surf. So ...turning up on the day, surfing for and hour or two with a great bunch of blokes, a barbie breakfast with scotch shots to follow was a ton of fun!!!.... to find out that I'd actually won by a consensis vote a couple of days later was an honour. That was 12 months ago and it was last week that the Bez went off again. I was unable to make it this year and defend my title....as if ...the boys say that you can only win it once!... and I had to settle for being there in spirit only. It's great to see mates honouring mates and surfing comps for fun...long live the spirit of BEZ.


  1. magic to hear bout stuff like this x

  2. Bez, was a character once met never to be forgotten. I met Bez way back when the BSA was a caravan on top of Watergate bay. I remeber well going into the cabin ( I was 11 years old) and asking a "young chap with grey hair and a beard if he would teach me to surf. I will never forget the fact that as an 11 year old wannabe grom who had just seen Endless Summer, Bez treated me with courtesy and respect, actually it was Scousser named pat who took me out on an KEO pop out single fin. I am now 43 and living in West Africa, I have been surfing ever since. I also write books. It was probably the most influential meeting of my life. Bez was an ambassador for what surfing should be about. Because of that day and Bez's reception of me I have ben fortunate enough to travel all over the world. Bez also advised me on my first board which was a Bilbo 6 2 single fin, ( production number 1635)...... a great guy, an some one who embodied something in surfing that seems to be sadly slipping away beneath the tide of agressive comercialism.

  3. What happened to Bez. His two books—The Natural and The Islander—are sadly out of print, though I paid (a ridiculously high sum) to have the British Library send me a copy of the first. The books captured a pre-AIDS lust for life that has seldom been equalled.

  4. BEZ NEWTON, A TRIBUTE by Neil Watson

    Bez Newton, a true pioneer of British surfing, whose energy and enthusiasm
    was widely felt on the seventies scene , has died in Australia.

    Whilst I came to know Bez through his surf mag. publishing, thousands knew
    him also as a club founder, surf novelist, film maker, contest official,
    English teacher, surf instructor, board-game inventor, global traveller and
    faithful correspondent. Hopefully, those who knew him better will add to
    this tribute.

    Despite his prolific output of articles, novels and letters, Bez never
    published the book I wanted to read, his own life story. Information from
    various sources show Bez to have been born a Lancashire lad around 1927.
    His surfing began as far back as 1949, when, on leave from his job as a
    ship's radio officer, he hired a hollow wooden board in Queensland. That
    log had a lot to answer for, because Bez was hooked for life.

    Shortly after his first attempt to surf, Bez jumped ship in Bombay and made
    his way back to Australia, where he surfed around Sydney and laboured to
    earn the fare to Hawaii. Whilst there, he put his beginner's skills to the
    test by hitching to the North shore, where he took a pounding from his solid
    wooden board at Laniakea.

    From his Australian base, Bez also tripped to California in 1951, and Tahiti
    in 1953, before bringing his board home in 1954. A hotel job in Devon
    enabled him to pioneer local breaks until a spell in hospital put surfing on
    hold. After training as a teacher, he was off again in 1958 to the
    University of California in Los Angeles, where he bought his first
    fibreglass/foam board, and started the Sol Y Mar ( Sun and sea) club for
    poor Mexican kids.

  5. 1964 saw Bez back in Britain, teaching at Birmingham and surfing Wales and
    Devon at weekends. He moved to North Wales a couple of years later, and
    managed to get surfing onto the curriculum of Rhyl High School, enabling
    the lads to scam trips down to Cornwall. Despite dropping out to head for
    Morroco in 1969, Bez founded a new Sol Y Mar club based in north Wales,
    which grew to be the biggest in the country, with a nation-wide

    To this day I don't think I've seen a picture of Bez published, so knowing
    him only through letters around that time hardly prepared me for meeting
    him. He was nobody's surfing stereotype. Instead of the Nat Young-style
    surf god I half expected, Bez turned out to be short, slightly built, burnt
    to a crisp with brillo-pad hair and specs as thick as beer-mug bottoms. He
    surfed with special goggles held in place by knicker elastic, and like most
    of us, was stoked just to get outside in one piece and ride his share of

    Whilst many of his surfing interests could have been profitable, Bez never
    made any money from them. Most of his travels were done the hard way, in
    clapped out vans, off the beaten track, living cheap.

    Running the Sol Y Mar club's newsletter inspired Bez to pick up the tattered
    flag of British surf mag publishing in 1974, after Surf Insight had gone
    down on its fourth issue. Under the title Surf, (no connection with the
    more recent mag), Bez's labour of love held the fort as our only national
    publication for four years.

    In content, if not appearance, Surf set incredibly high standards of local,
    national and world coverage. Packed with essential information, Surf
    somehow managed to interview world champions and Hawaiian legends alongside
    every hot name on the growing European scene, all on a budget which was more
    barefoot than shoestring.

    1. Hi Freebird
      I'm Stuart Kraus, brother of Pete Kraus (aka Krutch) who sadly passed away last week aged 57. Pete was a Rhyl High School protege of the great Bez Newton and they travelled to Australia together around the late 70s. Pete was a larger than life character himself who made many friends and I wondered whether any of you knew him. If so, his family would be really interested to hear any anecdotes or stories you may have of our big brother's surfing days, whose life was an adventure from start to finish.

  6. Bez set up his typewriter and published from wherever he found himself - a
    caravan on Watergate Bay car park was one address, the back of a Hillman
    Hunter behind a surf shop in Newquay was another. Somehow, Surf always came
    out on time, thanks to Bez's tireless dedication. Thre were no major
    advertisers in those days though, and when the mag went glossy in 1976,
    desperate measures were needed to pay the printers.

    Bez found a publisher for a novel, The Natural, about a Cornish surfer
    making good, but when he'd spent the advance to prop up Surf, the publisher
    demanded more sex in the book. The result wasn't good, and although a
    sequel, The Islander, was published, Bez was stung by criticism in the
    American and Australian surf press. After thirty years of selfless
    endeavour to support and encourage British surfing, Bez was suddenly bad
    news. Another disappointment came when, despite years of organising and
    judging experience, he was excluded from the official enclosures of
    newly-professional contests.

    Cutting his losses, Bez passed Surf's subscribers and picture file over to
    the next contender, Atlantic Surfer, in 1978, and four years later extended
    his winter trips down under to permanent residence.

    I know he kept writing, and did some work for a newspaper, but regretfully
    we lost touch. I had just found an address for him, and sent my first
    letter in twenty years, when Ron Williams, a former Welsh surfer also living
    in Queensland, told me Bez had died in hospital in October. It seems only
    one surf buddy from the old days visited him , and carried out his request
    for cremation without fuss.

    Typically, Bez dedicated The Natural to " all British surfers,whose sport is
    too infrequently recognised, and whose lifestyle is too often misunderstood
    by the general public, and who are the keenest, toughest, friendliest bunch
    of guys in the world".

    Bez was all of that, and more.


  7. FreeBird.... are you the Neil Watson that wrote "Legacy, the prospect of Surf Time and Space" that appeared over two or three issues of Atlantic Surfer? If so thank you for something that has stayed with me since surf starved school days. It was reading those stories as a child that made me want to write, since then I have published and still surf, there was also a story about a surfer going AWOL in Bali and living in A Balinese temple and steeling food from the temple monkeys, it was that story that many years was with me when I trekked across South east Asia.

    The early days oF AS and Bez's Caravan on the top of Watergate bay were a special era and I am privileged to have lived through them. The world and Surfing have moved on, but those were truely special days

  8. Hi Nick

    No I am not Neil – he is a friend

    And yes I remember that story so well - the scene in the aeroplane when he opens the magazine especially

    I will try to get his email for you.

    He wrote more books "the islander", "the patriach" and a couple more and was actually working on a spy novel and I gave him a PC - he returned it a week later!

  9. Freebird

    I am glad some one remembers those stories! They definitely changed my childhood and the rest of my life, and though I only met him twice so did Bez Newton, as an 11 year old he was absolute hero, Neil's stories I read so often that I almost knew them word for word, the black, almost etched illustrations I can still see, the image of the hero sitting on that dart shaped board transparent board. I surf mostly in West Africa now and the vegetation really does grow right up to the beach, just like the the crops in the story, many times I have paddled out alone and remembered that image.

    I posted on my blog a while ago, something about the consequences of my meeting with Bez


    Bez was proof that a prophet is never appreciated in his own land, but I know that personally I have had fantastic life, and the influence of meeting Bez Newton and Neil's short stories played a huge part in pushing me on that road. I will be eternally grateful to both of them.

  10. Nick.
    Thanks to a link sent to me by Ron Williams, I was able to read your comments on this blog relating to Bez Newton, and to some stories I wrote back in the seventies.
    It's great to think that Bez is remembered by surfers who were influenced by his life and work, just as I was.
    It's also very gratifying to learn that someone remembers my stories.
    I see from your own blog that you're a writer yourself, and I thought you might be interested in some background to those stories.
    I was inspired to write "Legacy" by two things - Neil Young's enigmatic song "After The Goldrush", and my own obsession with surf mags. (Listen to Young's lyrics - "silver spaceships flying in a yellow haze of the sun ...flying mother nature's silver seed to a new home in the sun..")
    Bez published "Legacy" in the Oct.'75 edition of his magazine "Surf", and it was republished by Atlantic Surfer in 1979 as part one of a trilogy.
    The other story, "The Last Reel", also published by Atlantic Surfer in 1979, was again inspired by two things - Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", and old copies of Tracks magazine. I should add that setting it in Indo was a bit rich, as I live on England's North Sea coast, and have never been to Indo!
    Many thanks for your comments, as you probably know, feedback from stories and articles is very rare - especially after more than 30 years! I can be reached at neilsurfeast@aol.com

  11. Neil,

    well there appears to be a common thread; Joseph Conrad's " Heart Of Darkness" and Bez Newton! I admit that even though I had never made the link before, I can now see the connection between "Heart Of Darkness" and the "Final Reel", when you state it it is obvious! I have been to Congo, unfortunately I was working and only got to body surf, but I have travelled ( whilst being kidnapped in Nigeria) deep into the mangroves of the Niger Delta, in doing so crossing one of the worlds great hidden and almost certainly un-surfed, long right handers, even with an AK 47 jammed into the side of my head, I could see the perfection in it. Ironically one of the militants holding us hostage actually had a battered old copy of the Penguin edition of "Heart Of Darkness". Whist some of this might seem a million miles away from a battered caravan in the car park at Watergate Bay, it's in fact a continuation,a "Legacy" if you like. I think that is why I was so influenced by your stories in Atlantic Surfer, surfing is so much more than the mere act of riding waves, if it were we would be merely skateboarders on the ocean.

    Ever since I read " The Alchemist" I have seen Bez in the title role, I think he was that for many people.

    I do though truly believe that if it was not for Bez and those stories in A.S. my own life would have been very different. I never made it to Indo either but I have followed the old pilgrim road across Thailand and Laos to Cambodia, same temples same temptations. Unfortunately I got distracted before I made it to Indo.

    If you look at my site www.nickroddy.co.uk, biography section you will find the same reference to Conrad and in the penultimate paragraph .... well when I wrote it i was thinking of the closing paragraphs of "Legacy."..... which in a way I think proves you were right when you wrote it.

    Though I must admit I never imagined you would read it!

    It's a small world


  12. Bez gets a mention P92 in the current surfers Path

  13. The annual Bez Memorial comp is on next week - 27/12/11 usual spot BBQ area on the Cudgen track Breakfast at 7.30

  14. Well when we arrived to see Parko doing tow ins at a huge Cudgen reef we knew we had a venus problem. anyway sweepy waves at the causeway eventually ridden
    Bummer about the surf, but a good laugh and nice to see the crew keep turning up.
    Here is a list of our contenders:

    Chris and Elodie
    Tony and big bro Pete n' his Lady with kids Rasmus n' Jesper
    Briggsy and Vera (our hosts for the Barbie)

    and the results:
    Winner - Briggsy
    Best Tube Ride - Rasmus and Jesper
    Best Wipeout - Tony
    Biggest Poser - Chris [caught in the rip and due to the beach erosion could only walk back down the main street!

  15. well, I'm a bit blown away.Bez was my godfather. I've not much time to write here but these comments have brought back so many memories. On a cold day many years ago my uncle (as we called him) Brian (Bez) took me out windsurfing. It was raining and the surf was not much and I had been put into a wet suit way to big for me. Uncle Brian had the patience of a saint. Yes I remember his glasses, so steamed up I was amazed he could see! I was probably about twelve at the time so it could have been about 1975. I still have a bug for the water, I'm off widsurfing in north Wales in a few weeks. Over the years we lost touch and finaly I read of his death some years ago. It warms my heart to read all these wonderful comments of my "uncle Brian. Matt Gartside England

  16. Good to hear from you Matt - check facebook for the museum of british surfing
    they feature Lord Ted Deerhurst who was a good friend of Bez

    If you know a school that would like to do a project Bez kept a diary of every day of his travelling life fully detailed and they are here on the Gold coast in the care of Chris Evans who used to run the annual Bez Newton memorial contest

  17. Norm Ryding just sent me one of Bez's many letters organising his trips - actually the one I went on with him to Morocco
    It is pdf copy of a scan so I can only email it to people

  18. Hi Freebird54. Would be great if you could send me the pdf of Bez's letter. Matt@zumamedia.co.uk. Matt

  19. Hi Chris and all contributors to this thread.
    I'm Stuart Kraus, brother of Pete Kraus (aka Krutch) who sadly passed away last week aged 57. Pete was a Rhyl High School protege of the great Bez Newton and they travelled to Australia together around the late 70s. Pete was a larger than life character himself who made many friends and I wondered whether any of you knew him. If so, his family would be really interested to hear any anecdotes or stories you may have of our big brother's surfing days, whose life was an adventure from start to finish.

  20. I did post on Pete's FB page but it seems to have gone now - I lived with him at Burleigh in 75 and also went to Morocco with him and Bez

  21. Great memories of my first summer in Newquay and going to watergate bay for surf lessons... Got to know Bez quite well during that hot summer of '76 .. Bez described the atmosphere at the top of the cliffs in the caravan soaking up what Bez called the "surfacious" atmosphere . We talked quite a bit about his writing .. Apologising that the editors made he put more sex and less surf at times in it. Many memories of the one special summer.....

  22. Very sad to report that NEIL Watson mentioned above has passed, Hope we an keep this blog going Chris Garret (I am still riding the board you made for billy james watson

  23. Tribute to Neil

  24. Tribute to Neil

  25. Tribute to Neil

  26. I have a pdf. of Neil Watson's Legacy story - not able to upload here

  27. There is a lot on Facebook about Bez and I think a Neil Watson annual memorial comp

    Check all the vintage surf FB sites

  28. Was with Chris the other day and I am sure he will keep this page going