The National Trust and the RNLI present the 2009 World Belly Board Championships

This September, hundreds of surfers on traditional wooden belly boards will be taking to the waves in Cornwall for the National Trust’s and RNLI’s World Belly Board Championship (WBBC), sponsored by Skinners Brewery.

The 2009 World Belly Board Championship is a charity event, taking place on 6 September on Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes. The event celebrates the origins of surfing in Britain and is the brainchild of two keen local surfers – Chris Ryan, (Chapel Porth National Trust Car Park Attendant) and Martyn Ward (RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor). The two friends developed the idea in 2002 as a memorial to the late Arthur Traveller, a Londoner who holidayed with his wooden board at Chapel Porth every year. From its humble beginnings with only a handful of competitors, it now boasts over one hundred entrants.

Robyn Davies, five times British Surf Champion and Surf Project Officer for the National Trust says: ‘The World Belly Board Championship celebrates all that is good about surfing! This event brings a communal stoke factor back to an ever growing sport. The National Trust and the RNLI feel it really important to highlight the pressures put on the coast and the beaches and what better way of doing this than by having a really great day out’.

Although there is a slightly serious element to the day, as the participants compete for the coveted World Title, there is also a fun Expression Session. Here prizes are awarded for the Most Stylish, Best Trick and Spirit of Belly Boarding categories. There is also the opportunity to win prizes out of the water, with belly boards judged on the Best Artwork, Best Patina and Best Vintage to name a few. Wetsuits are not permitted and many participants come in traditional bathing attire with prizes for the Best Costume and Best Bathing Cap.

Martyn Ward, RNLI lifeguard supervisor and one of the co-founders of the event says; ‘Its amazing to see the event that Chris and I started six years ago grow into the World Championships we have today, helping to raise vital funds for the National Trust and the RNLI. Both charities contribute to the conservation of the coastline and the safety of bathers at Chapel Porth.

Although it has grown in size and popularity the event still remains a simple, fun, family day out, with entrants from seven to seventy years old getting together to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

We must thank Skinners Brewery who have supported the event from the beginning, and are this years main sponsors, as well as the generosity of many others over the years who have helped make the World Belly Board Championships an annual event.’

Surfing really became popular in the UK in Cornwall in the 1920s in the form of lying down on wooden boards known as ‘belly boards’. However it is thought it have started in the 1900’s when a form of the Hawaiian finless, wooden ‘Paipo’ board was copied by British Soldiers returning from the Great War inspired by stories of surfing from South Africa, Australia and Hawaii. Stand up surfing came later, with the first pictorial evidence dating back to Cornwall in 1929.

The National Trust is a conservation charity which looks after 36 per cent of the Cornish coast, including Chapel Porth. The RNLI is a charity which provides an integrated rescue service from the beach to the open sea through its lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews. Throughout the summer, RNLI lifeguards provide safety patrols on 57 beaches across Cornwall, including Chapel Porth offering beach safety advice and responding to anyone in difficulty in the water.

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