What’s Boulders without the penguins, or Blouberg without the wind? And in light of a milestone that’s tugging at our Capetonian heart strings, the question just has to be asked – What’s Muizenberg without the iconic Corner Surf Shop?
Also known as Africa’s oldest surf shop, the Corner Surf Shop in Muizenberg turned 50 recently. The raddest surf shop has ridden through the waves of history like a classic champion- with special reference to both Covid-19 and the lockdown’s infamous waves that shut the doors of numerous businesses for good.
But beyond this, why is the Corner Surf Shop so iconic?
We’re going to cruise back in time to paint the whole picture, right from their birth during the 70s groove.
The year is 1971
Peter Wright, the owner, decided to resign from his job at a Cape Town shipping company. He intended to join “Chemical” Clive Barber at his surfboard factory- which closed down by the time Peter officially said “cheers” to his desk job.
“Gap years were not an option at that time and being out of work was also rather suspect, so Peter set about building surfboards, for himself and friends, at his parents’ home in Kommetjie,” according to Corner Surf.
“I made surfboards from scratch. Some days, I would make five surfboards a week. Surfers love having a personalised surfboard,” he said in a conversation with News24.
However, Peter’s parents were the ones who rebelled and he was forced to search elsewhere to continue building the boards. A little shop in Muizenberg happened to be just big enough for a shaping bay and a glassing bay in the back, with a small retail area in front, Corner Surf says.
“It was a funky old teak-windowed Shop, with lots of character and at the time, the only surf shop in all of Cape Town.”
“R25 a month got me the rental of the surf shop. I was able to pay only that amount to keep the shop open. It’s crazy to think that was even allowed,” Peter said.
It’s not the same location that Corner Surf operates in today, as the old Surf Inn building was broken down amidst Muizenberg beachfront redevelopment, but it was undoubtedly a groovy chapter in their early days.
The early 70s – Wright’s Surfboards are born
Peter went on to continue with his own surfboard label; Wright’s Surfboards. Back in the day, this board was “the choice of the cream of the Western Province surfers,” including the likes of Guy McIntosh.
It was during this era that Tess Moore joined the party, and has been Peter’s right-hand ever since.
The mid 70s – Skateboarding slides in
Peter was the first importer of American skateboarding equipment into SA. This was the beginning of the Wright Skateboard Team too.
“It is amazing to us how well our skateboarders did style-wise!” the Corner Surf site expresses, reminding us that there weren’t videos to follow back then, and all the moves “had to be extracted from photos in the occasional skate mag.”
During this time, the waveski also cruised onto the surfing scene – a surfing innovation at the time. Peter and Ducan Temple-Forbed developed the first commercially-produced short waveski, the Skiwee.
According to Wright’s conversation with News24, he also developed and made surf wax which became ‘Jenny Wax’, the most popular wax in SA in the 1970s.
Late 70s and the Morey Boogie
The Corner Surf Shop was also the first importers of Tom Morey’s, the Morey Boogie. The late 70s saw much success for Corner surf. In ’77 it became the first shop to be supplied by Cheron, who founded famous J-Bay brand Country feeling and a top force behind Billabong in SA.
During ’78 to ’79, the shop doubled its size and went on to find the current home of surf at 143 Main Road in Muizenberg.
Wright Surfboards label was renamed Southwind. As Corner Surf puts it “Again, the hotties of the Western Province team were riding these boards – including ‘Jarvie’ (Craig Jarvis), of Zigzag Surf Magazine fame.
The 90s and noughties
Retail floorspace expanded, wood veneer boards were in, and Peter’s collection of old surfboards grew as the history of our country did. Legend has it that Peter has the biggest collection of Whitmore surfboards in the world (honouring John Whitmore of course) which are hung up in the shop, but not for sale.
And if you were wondering, skateboards were also rocking the Southwind name. For a little visual from the past, here’s a picture from the Tony Hawk and Ray Barbee tour in’91.
“These are from the demo at Sun Valley Shopping Mall, Cape Town on the sweet @cornersurf built halfpipe,” the caption writes.
Peter is beyond proud to celebrate the jubilee anniversary of Surf Corner. Not just about how long the shop has been around and all the adventures it has had, but mostly that in recent tumultuous times, he’s been able to keep his staff employed and the shop’s doors open during the various lockdowns.
In terms of recent tech, the shop’s got a brilliant high-definition surf webcam where surfers all over the Cape can pop in and check if the surf’s up.
According to Peter, he and Tessa are “stoked” about the future, but have no plans to retire yet, News24 adds.
Picture: The Corner Surf Shop