Outside the Box: David Slevin

How Hiscox’s Head of Marine, Energy and Recall’s lifelong obsession for surfing was kindled in the freezing waters of Scarborough.

My father has always said he was a pioneer when it comes to surfing. In the 1970s, there probably weren’t many other families living in Rochdale, a landlocked town in Greater Manchester, who made their own surf boards, fashioned wetsuits, and took off at weekends at any time of the year to surf off Anglesey or the North Yorkshire coast.

Having started off making his own wooden boards and then making his own foam 'blanks' – the raw material for the modern surf boards – Dad progressed to importing the blanks and layering them up with glass fibre and resin to create the type of board resembling the kind seen today.

It doesn’t cost a lot of money to start surfing and accommodation at the best beaches tends to be in campsites or a nearby caravan.

I’m not sure if he set out to make sure I had a lifelong love of surfing, but it did the trick. I’ve been surfing regularly now since I was six years old and I hit the beach as often as I can. It’s a fantastic sport for fitness and balance, as well as for feeling close to nature.

Hang five…in Putsborough

There’s something levelling about the sport too. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to start surfing and accommodation at the best beaches tends to be in campsites or a nearby caravan. Probably the best beach I’ve surfed is Noosa in Australia’s Queensland, but my favourite is Putsborough near Croyde in north Devon. My most painful experience was surfing in Scarborough as a kid in the middle of a very snowy winter. A homemade wetsuit was no match for the North Sea at that time of year.

Probably the best beach I’ve surfed is Noosa in Australia’s Queensland, but my favourite is Putsborough in north Devon.

To anyone thinking of taking it up I’d say there aren’t many rules. It’s always worth assessing the sea conditions before you leap in. Rip currents are hazardous but can be easily spotted from shore as a fast-moving channel of water heading out to sea. I once got caught in a rip current and spent an hour and a half trying to paddle back in. 

Don’t ‘drop in’

Surfing in a group is safer but it’s considered very poor form to ‘drop in’ on someone else’s wave – if another surfer is already standing up on a wave, don’t start paddling to catch the same wave if you’re likely to get in their way. If you need some surfing inspiration, don’t bother with Patrick Swayze and Point Break, my favourite surf film is The Endless Summer.

If you need some surfing inspiration, don’t bother with Point Break, my favourite surf film is The Endless Summer.

My father has stopped surfing now – he carried on until his early 80s – but I have a great memory of surfing with him, and my son, without a homemade wetsuit in sight. I have a small surf ‘museum’ at home [pictured] where I keep all my old boards, so I can always relive my childhood memories.

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