Last updated on September 8th, 2023 at 06:15 am
The United Kingdom has a rich surfing heritage spanning back to the early 1900s, littered with iconic moments and legendary surfers.
But what about the UK’s surf brands? We hear all about Billabong, Rip Curl and O’Neill and very little about the businesses that make surfing their trade on our little isle.
Looking for some of the surf industry’s biggest names? Don’t miss our extensive list of the most iconic surf brands ever.
Let’s take a look at some authentic homegrown UK surf brands that have played a critical role in our surfing history and continue to do so today.
Saltrock was the brainchild of brothers Angus and Ross, after returning from a surf trip to London they immediately jumped on a train down to Cornwall for their next surfing fix. After living it up for a few months, they quickly realised that they needed to fund their lifestyle somehow.
With their love for surfing at the forefront of their mind, they created a surfing brand. In 1988 Slatrock was born, named after their favourite surf spot in South Africa.
The brothers poured their time and passion into building Saltrock into the national surf brand it is today.
They started by printing t-shirts and selling them out of the boot of their surf wagon and started to grow a cult following that fiercely supported the duo and everything they stood for.
Over time, the company has grown into one of the most popular brands in the UK, and it’s easy to see why.
From their unique take on fashion, which includes everything from hats to swimwear, to their commitment to sustainability and fair labour practices, Saltrock is one company that lives up to its name!
Fourth Surfboards is the creation of shaper and surfer Luke Hart. Shortly after its inception, it leapt onto the scene with surfboards emblazoned with the Fourth logo being seen at beach breaks, points and reefs up and down the country.
It quickly became Magicseaweed’s primary board stockist, and with its early uptake of various EPS technologies, it stayed ahead of the trend.
Their high-performance shortboards and grovellers were a massive hit with UK surfers, with the Snak and the Chilli Bean both being incredibly popular models.
Fourth boasts an impressive stable of sponsored surfers, including big wave surfer Tom Butler and other seasoned surfers who have honed their skills in various crafts, from shortboards to longboards.
Fourth prides itself on handmade custom surfboards shaped by hand and made specifically for UK waves, unlike the global brands many surfers ride.
“Our passion transfers into our surfboards”Luke Hart
Shore was established in 1982 by 23-year-old Simon Crawford in East Wittering, West Sussex. With a passion for watersports, Simon opened a small hut at the end of Shore Rd. It cost him £500 and was primarily focused on serving locals and visitors with windsurfing equipment for the local beach.
By 1984, Shore had outgrown its humble beginnings and moved into a retail front on the local high street. As both sales and rental started to pick up year after year, Shore started to plough profits back into the business with a particular focus on wetsuits.
After no time, Simon had to utilise even more property to keep up with the wetsuits he was selling and storing.
Fast forward to 1993, and Shore got its big break when a 300 square ft ex Saab showroom came up on the market. Simon dived on the opportunity that allowed him to grow his ever-expanding wetsuit empire.
Moving forward to the advent of e-commerce, Shore doubled down on its efforts and shore.co.uk was born. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength, cementing itself as a true UK surf brand with a rags-to-riches story to match.
Zuma Jay is a bit of a legend in the Bude surfing scene, priding itself as a surf shop run by surfers for surfers. One of the first surf shops established anywhere in Cornwall, the UK and even Europe, it has a rich heritage in UK surfing.
Zuma Jay was the establishing member of the F.S.S.S (Federation of Surfers Surf Shops) and profoundly understands all the surf equipment that goes through their doors.
They trade in wetsuits, surfboards, new and used surf hire and clothing at reasonable prices.
If you’re in Bude, I highly recommend swinging in to say ‘hi’ and checking out the boardroom with a regular flow of eyewatering sleds that might tickle your fancy.
Perhaps what Zuma Jay is best known for, and we should all be grateful for, is their in-depth daily surf reporting that saves many a surfer from turning up to sub-par surf.
If the normal surf forecasts leave your head hurting, they provide a quickly digestible forecast for the next few days that tells you in lamens terms the conditions you can expect when you turn up to the beach.
Circle One is, without a doubt, a heritage UK surf brand. Founded in 1969 by Jeff Townsley, Circle One has gone from strength to strength in the UK surf industry.
Jeff focuses on creating epoxy boards geared towards UK waves and surfers in the beginner to the amateur range, with shapes ranging from fun fish models to full-length longboards, skimboards, bodyboards and stand-up paddle boards.
Alongside its board offering, Circle One designs and produces its own wetsuits for all shapes and sizes. They utilise limestone neoprene to ensure you stay warm in even the chilliest of UK winters.
In 1987, two surfers in the southwest of Cornwall came up with an idea that would grow into the brand we know and love today. Their groundbreaking ‘hook and loop’ watch system was an instant hit due to its sturdiness and reliability but needed a name, and then, Animal.
The brand quickly grew to incorporate clothing and aimed to become a surf lifestyle brand that would be just as at home on the high street as at your local dawn surf check.
As the brand grew, it turned its hand to making the business more sustainable and now champions some incredibly forward-thinking initiatives to help reduce business’ impact on our planet.
Without a doubt, the biggest hitter on this list when it comes to valuing the UK brands on this list. Magicseaweed (MSW) grew from humble beginnings to the global powerhouse it is today.
I struggled to find much info on MSW’s early beginnings, so I have to piece this together from word of mouth from various sources (most of them wholly unreliable people I spoke to in the lineup).
Founded in Kingsbridge (close to the famous surfing beach of Bantham) in 2002 by Ryan Anderson and someone else I couldn’t find the name of (apologies), MSW started by compiling weather buoys to forecast surfing conditions.
They quickly followed this offering with access to live webcams at most UK surfing beaches, a massive first for many surfers in the UK.
Initially met with scepticism from many, it quickly became the accepted course of action before surfing anywhere you couldn’t see directly with your eyes.
Purchased by Australian surf brand Surfstitch, who is also responsible for the well-known surfing publication STAB, took on the brand in 2015 for a reported £7m, quickly expanding MSW into the global market and positioning it as the number one surf forecasting tool available.
To this day, MSW is still one of the largest surf forecasters in the world but has lost some market share to competitors like Surfline.
*Update – Surfline has purchased MSW since this post’s publication, and all web traffic is now directed to their website. This marks a sad day for us here at Honest Surf and the rest of the UK surfing population, with many feeling its loss.
The Board Barn
They wanted to offer the whole package, from high-performance shortboards for the local rippers to foamies and mini mals for visiting tourists and beginners.
Now, they offer a fantastic trade-in system on boards where you can drop off your old stick and walk out with a fresh, unwaxed beauty ready for the waves ten minutes away.
Want to learn more about the UK’s rich surfing history and the icons made along the way?
Check out our guide on the best UK surfboard shapers to learn more about some of the legends that make surfboards all along our coastline.