FIFTY YEARS OF GUL

Carve - - CONTENTS -

The pi­o­neer­ing Bri­tish wet­suit brand is 50-years young. Here's a con­densed ver­sion of their sto­ried his­tory.

The Bri­tish surf­ing in­dus­try has a sto­ried his­tory with the likes of Bilbo and Tiki build­ing surf­boards and Alder sup­ply­ing board­shorts from the six­ties.

This year Gul wet­suits cel­e­brate 50 years of stitch­ing neo­prene to­gether to pro­tect Bri­tish surfers against the el­e­ments. This iconic brand has helped Bri­tish pro­fes­sional surfers for years and even spon­sored the first true pro in­ter­na­tional surf comp back in 1981. Carve thought we'd bet­ter dig out the mem­o­ra­bilia.

Gul was founded by Den­nis Cross af­ter re­al­is­ing the grow­ing surf­ing pop­u­la­tion needed pro­tec­tion from our cold At­lantic waters. Af­ter mak­ing a makeshift wet­suit, Cross de­cided to pro­duce the suits on a larger and more pro­fes­sional scale and started sell­ing them out of the back of van on Fis­tral carpark. In 1967 he de­cided to up­scale pro­duc­ing ever more suits. The first were sim­ple two piece wet­suits: a beaver tail jacket with sep­a­rate trousers.

In 1974/75 Den­nis had a brain wave and is cred­ited with pi­o­neer­ing the first one-piece wet­suit. It was first nick­named “The Steamer" be­cause of the steam given off from the suit once it was taken off and the heat from in­side es­caped into the cold win­ters day. It was a game changer.

The busi­ness con­tin­ued to grow and by the '80s Gul had ex­panded into Europe and the rest of the world, sup­ply­ing all the grow­ing wa­ter sports mar­kets. In 1981 they put a con­sid­er­able amount of money where their mouth was and spon­sored the Gul Alder Pro Am. With pros like Shaun Tom­son, Cheyne Ho­ran, Rab­bit Bartholomew and Derek Hynd com­pet­ing against top Bri­tish Gul spon­sored pros like Nigel Sem­mens and Steve Daniel along­side all the other hot shots of the day it was huge. Imag­ine Slater and John John and the top 32 shoot­ing it out at Fis­tral, that's how big a deal it was. From there they also spon­sored the an­nual Gul Clas­sic Pro Am a big Bri­tish comp and the high­light of the comp cal­en­dar of the year in May for many years.

Through­out its his­tory Gul has pro­vided spon­sor­ship for some of the high­est pro­file ath­letes in the world of surf. From the afore­men­tioned Sem­mens and Daniels who were Bri­tain's first pros to help­ing Russ Win­ter on his ASP World tour run. Some of the names may sur­prise you: the king of the carve Tay­lor Knox, aerial pi­o­neer Chris­tian Fletcher, French­man Frank Gomis, world tour rip­per Neri­dah Fal­coner, Todd Prestage, Mark Ban­nis­ter, Flavio Padaratz, as well as Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Spencer Har­g­reaves and Rus­sell Win­ter. To­day the Gul Team looks af­ter in­spi­ra­tional surfers in­clud­ing Mark ‘Egor’ Harris, Jack Unsworth, Noah An­stis, Lewis Stritch and more. On top of that they also sup­ported the Bri­tish Surf Team and Surfers Against Sewage in their early days fight­ing ocean pol­lu­tion.

Gul backed Rus­sell Win­ter from the age of 12 with enough col­lat­eral to make what was a very ex­pen­sive com­mit­ment to chase a dream. Russ re­warded their faith and hit the heights of a pro ca­reer dom­i­nat­ing UK and Euro­pean comp surf­ing and be­com­ing the first Euro­pean ever to qual­ify for the WCT in '99. He spent three years on the ASP World Tour with epic per­for­mances at pump­ing Pipe, J-bay and Sun­set, a third place in Brazil (imag­ine that to­day?) and the scalps of Occy and Slater. Not to men­tion the Boardmasters ti­tle in 2002 and High­land Open ti­tle in 2006. Be­hind the scenes on the in­dus­try side of things a host of wet­suit man­u­fac­tur­ers have served there time at Gul. The le­gendary Andy Schol­lick from Se­cond Skin, Mal­com Ball at Snugg, Carey Brown, Den­nis’s nephew, who ran Gul mar­ket­ing for many years and set up the highly suc­cess­ful C-skins wet­suits, all be­gan at Gul.

From Bod­min in Corn­wall over four mil­lion wet­suits have made their way to surfers around the world. Gul has pro­tected so many groms, top surfers and gen­uinely backed Bri­tish surf­ing. If you're of a cer­tain age odds on your first wet­suit was a Gul. Den­nis Cross, Gul wet­suits, we salute you!

PHOTO: ALEX WIL­LIAMS

Martin Wright, Porth­leven.

Nigel Sem­mens, Porth­leven snap. Gul signed Nige' and his con­test neme­sis Steve Daniels to their team as Bri­tain's first pro surfers.

The '80s when flu­oro was king! Den­nis Cross, wet­suit en­tre­pre­neur test­ing his ‘steamer’ on ice.

Team ad. The twins, Steve Daniels and Nigel Sem­mens a for­mi­da­ble force on the UK surf scene.

The Owen twins ran ram­pant on the comp scene in the '80s.

Team Gul on the world tour.

The King of the full rail carve Tay­lor Knox was the Gul team at the height of his ASP ca­reer. A def­i­nite coup for a UK wet­suit brand.

Jamie Owen.

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