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“There is a long-running event called Run to the Sun,” says Jim Bondi, “where everyone takes their VWs, classics and custom cars from London to Cornwall.
“I went down with a friend of mine in a Beetle in 1987, and we saw people surfing. Once I tried it, I was hooked – so hooked that I moved there soon after.” What is it about the surf that keeps him coming back for more?
“It keeps you fit, obviously, but besides that, it’s a good way of escaping everything else,” he smiles. “All you have to think about is the next wave, and how cold it’ll be! It’s you and the water. You feel very connected to nature.”
This connection extends beyond the sea to daily life, too, and the many friends Bondi has made through his hobby.
This passion has led him to collect vintage surfboards, mainly from the ’70s – he prefers these over the longer ’60s boards: “I tend to look out for locally made ones.
“If a certain maker catches your eye, it can be interesting learning about its history. The designs are generally a lot brighter and more colourful as well.”
As Bondi explains, these boards differ from their modern counterparts in one key respect: “Because they’re heavier, they’re easier to catch the waves with, but it also means they’re much slower to turn
“You can’t be too aggressive – you need to be graceful and more considerate.”
He currently has a collection of 15 boards, stored in a loft room and the rafters of his garage – which also houses two other prized possessions, a 1971 ‘Bay window’ VW camper and a ’72 Karmann Ghia.
The latter was a long-held ambition for Bondi: “I tried buying one when I was 22, but it was a rotbox. I found mine 11 years ago – it was a Californian import in Manchester.
“I drove it all the way to Cornwall on a beautiful day with my arm out of the window, then the choke shaft wore through the carburettor the following day and petrol started pouring out.”
Fortunately for the new owner, the problem was quickly resolved, allowing him to continue living theCalifornian/Cornish dream, but the camper has been the subject of a lot of work over the years.
He’s removed and cleaned the engine and painted the engine bay, and is just beginning to revamp the interior with new curtains, fresh seat covers and a Devon pop-top, plus some welding underneath.
You get the sense, though, that it’s all a labour of love: “They both turn heads. People come up to me and say ‘I used to have one of those’,and they reminisce, which is nice. Everyone loves nostalgia, don’t they? It brings us together.
“I bought the camper in the winter before the pandemic, which has stopped me enjoying it much, but when I could I took it down to the beach and made some bacon sandwiches. Sand, sea and bacon – what more do you need?”
Bondi’s adventurous ambitions for the ‘Bay’ are fairly modest, however: “I’ll maybe take it to Devon, so I can camp with my son – but only when the welding is finished, because it’s near the steering box.”
It’s heartwarming to think that a chance outing has led to this enthusiast acquiring two great passions, for cars and boards, which he may never have discovered had it not been for that fateful trip, 35years ago.
Images: Will Williams