Words: Demi Taylor Image: Mat Arney

For those who have had the pleasure of Gwynedd Haslock’s company before, it was no surprise to see her in the bellyboarding final of the Slyder Cup giving pro surfer and former British Surf Champion Alan Stokes a run for his money. Gwynedd is no stranger to competitions, she’s a stalwart of the waveriding scene, a veteran surfer of over 40 years, “It’s an escape. You aren’t thinking of anything else. It takes you out of yourself. You aren’t thinking about anything to worry you. All you’re thinking about is getting under the wave, or through the wave or catching the wave. There isn’t another thought in your mind.”

While others get strung up over winds, tides and swell, Gwynedd is more open minded. “I think people maybe get a bit fussy. When I go over to the north coast, I just go surfing in anything, where as people who live by the beach might pick and choose more. It doesn’t matter to me what the conditions are like. For me it’s about just going in. I have two 8ft boards, a belly board, a boogie board. I mean it doesn’t matter what you’re riding. If people want to catch a wave on a lilo, why not?”

Gwynedd’s liberal relationship with waveriding began with belly boarding at Tolcarne, Newquay in the 1950’s, “I just wanted the thrill of catching a wave,” she explains. Her family had a beach hut and time spent by the ocean was important to them so when the local lifeguards started stand up surfing, Gwynedd’s transition to longboarding seemed like a natural progression. The lifeguards agreed to give her some pointers but wouldn’t let her paddle out until she could carry the board down to the water’s edge herself. “It was very heavy, so I used to carry it on my head.”

In order to meet other surfers and progress her surfing, Gwynedd started going to contests. “The first competition I entered, there were no other ladies in it. I don’t know what the men made of me. I’m one of these people, I’m not really bothered,” explains freespirited Gwyn. “I just thought of myself as a surfer, whether you’re male or female didn’t come into it actually. Except that I think men are stronger. I don’t pretend to be as strong as a man but you use your own skills to achieve what you want.”

Gwynedd is modest about her surfing life which has seen her rack up more than ten title wins. “There’s nothing unusual about me, I just like going in the sea. We’re all there to enjoy the surf, I think if you give respect, you get respect back. If I see someone in the sea and I see they’re just going to catch all the waves, I just let them get on with it. I’d rather just do down the beach and find a quieter spot. You can always catch a wave somewhere.”

This feature first appeared in the 200th issue of Wavelength Magazine