FIFTY YEARS OF GUL
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!
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.
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.
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.
Martin Wright, Porthleven.