Cornwall designer bellyboards are a work of art
PUBLISHED: 13:29 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:54 24 September 2020
Whether you share a love of the art of bellyboarding or are looking for a stunning piece of art to display on your walls, designer Andy Garner has a piece for you.
The ancient art of bellyboarding predates surfing by centuries. First practiced in Hawaii and Polynesia, it came to our shores around a hundred years ago – and caught on between the world wars. Cornwall became the bellyboarding eipcentre – thanks to a local undertaker who created boards from coffin lids. And the county remains home to the World Championships.
Today – thankfully – we have moved on from boarding waves on a converted coffin lid. Designer Andy Garner’s handcrafted creations are firm favourite among top bellyboarders. The boards – and hand planes – are made in his studio in Idless.
A keen bellyboarder since his teens, Andy (who moved to Cornwall aged 5) has taken part in many championships – he came third in the 2019 competition – his boards have taken part in many more: his custom-made boards are rarely out of the top 10 competitors at the Championships which take place every year in Perranporth in early September. “You catch a lot of waves,” he says of the immediate appeal of the sport. And while the more wave knowledge you have, the better you are, bellyboarding can feel less daunting than surfing. It also requires little equipment: you don’t even need a wetsuit – unlike polystyrene body boards – the wood doesn’t irritate the skin. You can invest in a wooden hand plane – which will increase the smoothness of the ride.
After many years in Dubaii, Andy returned to Cornwall and set up shop selling his hand-crafted boards and hand planes. All of Andy’s art is inspired by the sights, sounds, people and colours of Cornwall, with many of his creations also telling deeply personal stories. The hand painted boards feature designs inspired by lighthouses and the Cornish flag among other things. Always made for use, the boards are finding homes on people’s walls as unique artwork.
“I started making the boards in 2010 for people that asked for them,” he says. “A lot of the designs are related to Cornwall,” he explains. “There is the red and black of the Cornish chough, a lighthouse and designs that reference the art of the 1950s: there’s a lot of geometric shapes like Ben Nicholson.”
The boards are made from Caboon Wood and take several days to shape and paint.
His work – alongside an exhibition of abstract paintings – was the first to go on show at the new exhibition space at The Great Cornish Food Store in Truro. The idea is to showcase local Cornish artists, crafters and artisans and their beautiful pieces of work for all shoppers to enjoy and appreciate in space usually occupied by its eat-in café area, which is closed during the Covid-19 restrictions.
The Great Cornish Food Store is a unique concept – a fully independent grocery store dedicated to the sale of local produce, located next door to Waitrose in Truro. The arrangement is intended to increase the use of local food and drink by extending its availability in a convenient format.
A series of exhibitions are being planned in coming months – and artists and makers are invited to apply.
Find out more at greatcornishfood.co.uk
THis article first appeared in Cornwall Life. For our latest subscription offers click here