As we near the end of another year, before we start looking ahead to what’s to come in 2019, we like to take a moment to pause and reflect on the past twelve months. It’s an opportunity both to celebrate our high points, and note the lessons to carry over to next year.
In January we released The Barque. At 7’2” (48L), it bridges the gap between the Jetty (6’10”, 43.8L) and the Island Hopper (7’4” 59.2L). Having already made several of these boards for customers who wanted a slightly smaller version of the Island Hopper, we knew that there was a desire for a fast, stable and fuller-volume mid-length surfboard so it was just a case of settling on a name and adding it to the range!
The end of winter saw not just one, but two “Beast from the East” snowstorms. With offshore winds and a small swell, we weren’t going to let snow settling on the sand stop us from surfing. It was lovely sitting out there in the silence as snowflakes fell on the sea.
James ran the Jurassic Coast Marathon in March, which consisted of three marathons in three days along an incredibly challenging stretch of the Dorset coastline. It was the culmination of a great deal of training, and quite the achievement considering he’d never run a marathon distance before!
We were thrilled to be selected as a subject for last spring’s Back to the Land series with Kate Humble on BBC2, which aired in early May. It’s always a real honour having what we do featured in the mainstream media, particularly on the BBC.
June saw the return of our annual Boards, BBQ and Beers open evening. This year surf photographer and ocean plastics campaigner Tim Nunn was our keynote speaker, and the event was the British premiere of his film Dispatches From a Plastic Planet. Tim lives in southwest France, and spent several days stood in queues at airports in France and Spain trying to beat a French air traffic controller strike to make it to Cornwall. In the end, he couldn’t join us in person so we had to quickly set up the screening to include Tim’s introduction and a live Q&A via skype, with Tim projected live on to the wall of the barn.
It’s not every day that you’re asked to make a bellyboard as a gift for a member of the Royal Family but, thanks to our good friends at Surfers Against Sewage, this year we were asked twice! One bellyboard was given to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as a wedding gift, and the other was to be a thank you present to HRH Prince Charles, which was presented to him at the Ocean Plastics Solutions Day in July. Mat had the idea of inlaying timber from Prince Charles’ beloved gardens at Highgrove House into the board, and made a few enquiries. In the end, James and Mat visited Highgrove and the estates team let them take their pick from the woodpile before serving them tea and cake in Highgrove itself. We also dug into the Royal Family’s historic links with “The Sport of Kings” – you can read the full story on our journal here.
July was also the month when James and Liz became parents with the arrival of young William, followed shortly after in early August by Chris and Flo’s baby girl, George. Between James and Liz, Chris, and Mat, the future of Otter is going to be in good (if still very little) hands!
One of James’ oldest friends, Ally, joined the team this year; he left his job in London for a full sea change, moving to Cornwall, living on a boat and rolling his sleeves up to lend a hand here at the workshop. Read Ally’s story, here.
Through the end of 2017 and into 2018 we were quietly working away developing a range of flat-water stand-up paddleboards. We finally lifted the lid on these in September, launching the 10’6” Discovery, 11’6” Adventure and 12’6” Endeavour for custom orders or as a seven day “make your own” workshop. Check out our paddleboards, here.
Our Annual Gathering of Makers took place at the end of September, and it was amazing welcoming so many familiar faces back to the workshop. We got great waves for our communal surf, and in the evening gathered in the barn at Dunkirk Farm where it all began for us, for an evening of great food, beer and music. Every year the invite list gets a little longer with each new year’s workshoppers, and the AGM has become such a highlight of our year.
In the autumn, Dan Kieran’s latest book “The Surfboard” was published. Dan is a best selling author, CEO of Unbound publishing house, and a past workshopper and dear friend. The Surfboard is an account of his week spent with us making his own surfboard even though he’d never surfed (then), interspersed with his reflections on the obstacles, rewards and realisations encountered while starting and running a successful business. Being featured in his book is a great honour. You can buy a copy of the book on our online store, or find it in your local bookshop.
This year, Whiz turned ten years old. Whiz was the first wooden surfboard that James made, and is named after his childhood dog. We used Whiz’s birthday as an opportunity to both dust it off and take it for a surf, and also to reflect upon ten years of making wooden surfboards and what Otter Surfboards has grown in to. One thing is for sure: it wouldn’t be what it is today without the support of our customers and followers. Thank you, from all of us here.
If 2019 here at the workshop is anything like 2018, then we can’t wait.