COLIN AND GWYN BRIGHT
WE CAUGHT UP WITH LLANTWIT LEGENDS OF THE LINEUP COLIN AND GWYN BRIGHT
Younger readers and those who've shunned the UK contest scene since the '70s may not have heard of the Bright brothers, but in their home town of Llantwit Major, they are surfing royalty. Gwyn the non-follicularly challenged older of the pair, has been drawing his pension for a little while now. Colin, the younger, shiny domed brother, is yet to retire, although some would argue (and with good cause) that he's been retired for decades!
Rarely does a swell go by on their beloved 'Left Hand Side' (that's Llantwit speak for a right-hand point break) won't see at least one of them in the lineup.
They were among the first to surf the boulder point break and are still first in, last out, January to December, retaining the type of dedication to one wave that should ensure every set has your name on it! I caught up with the duo to ask a few questions about how it was, and how it is!
So did you both start surfing at the same time?
Yes, in 1969 at the same time as man started walking on the moon. We used to surf in the south-west while on holiday. Our parents bought our first board to share in 1970, and we waited until the next year before we had one each! We made our wetsuits from a wetsuit kit, the cheaper alternative than a pre-made one.
How did your parents react to you being surfers in the golden age of rugby in Wales?
Our parents were quite happy to see us participate in a healthy pastime. We'd often go camping as a family to the coast, so it probably gave them a break!
Didn't you live in Oakdale (Monmouthshire) a mining village, 50 miles from the nearest waves? How did you get to the beach?
Mam and Dad on weekends, once a fortnight until we could drive although Dad took a lot of encouragement to get out of bed.
Gwyn, you've got a reputation for being a bit of forecasting guru. How did you know where to go back then?
We knew there was surf in Porthcawl, so we'd look for similar facing beaches on an OS map. I'd developed knowledge based around the pressure charts and local wind directions which seemed to hold true most of the time.
You are widely credited with being the first to surf Llantwit, but I'm reliably informed that the Newport surf community introduced you, care to explain how this all came about?
That's not right, who told you that? It was the Porthcawl locals who introduced us to it first although we had checked it before and had heard rumours of a long right-hand point break.
What was it that made you in fall in love with Llantwit?
Gwyn - Before Llantwit, I think we were getting disillusioned with the wave quality in Porthcawl. Colin - I guess it was the fact you could ride a wave further than two to three yards! Whenever there was swell we'd go searching the Glamorgan coastline for waves and when we first saw the point break firing, we didn't quite understand what a peeling wave meant. So we headed for the safety of the sandy part. Ultimately it was the length of ride that attracted us.
Were you the first surfers to move Llantwit Major then?
No, there were quite a few of the lifeguards that surfed, and the odd one or two residents. But they all moved on, so yeah we were probably the first surfers to sustain our presence long enough to be classed as the first out and out locals.
You've both managed to retain a grommet like enthusiasm and retain incredible fitness, despite you Colin, having major spine surgery (in 96) and Gwyn if you don't mind me saying you're suffering from your ankle, surely this must make it harder to rise for a dawny?
Colin – My neck and hip regularly give me grief, (Mrs Bright chips in – and his beer gut), perhaps now that we are frequently in the Canaries during the winter months it makes rising a little slower! Gwyn, I don't spring out of bed like I used to. I have to force myself to get up and need a good hour or so to prepare. In summer that's a 3.30 am start. Fortunately, my ankle doesn't stop my rising and its' improved of late with care.
You both missed the Left Hand Side swell of the century "twice" (still makes me laugh), have you got over that yet and is there any notable sessions that stand out in your 45 years of surfing here?
Gywn - I only missed one of those, it was Colin that was away! I recall us laughing about him missing it. Ahh yes, so we did. (More laughter and smugness).
Colin - I've got over it, I've always said Llantwit gets to a specific size and doesn't get any bigger MV apart from those two days!
Colin, you make Slater look like a rookie when it comes to the years you've been competing. What burns inside to still don the singlet?
It's what I do! Laughs. Why not? I've no desire to stop, and I enjoy the whole thing! Plus I'm not afraid to lose which helps these days.
And your greatest contest achievement? Surely that European Masters title?
There was a couple of years when others thought I was past my prime and I made a few Open finals. One particular year at the Welsh I made four finals, but the coveted Welsh Open title alluded me.
Gwyn, you've had to watch Colin more often than not, pick up the accolades and the trophies. Has surfing developed any sibling rivalry between you?
It's certainly nice to get one up on him occasionally. Colin is an incredible competitor. In recent years, it seems we've closed the shortboard gap. But Colin is way ahead when it comes to longboarding.
You will have picked up on a notable increase in numbers of late at your local, I know at times this has riled you, but you're both too polite to say much. Any advice to a visitor, or do I have to keep doing your dirty work?
Gwyn - I do occasionally have a word and try to calm the odd greedy visitor.
Colin - Its just a case of respecting the locals and realising the pecking order should be observed. As you would anywhere else in the world. Earn your place in the lineup, and you'll eventually get more waves.
Lastly, the Mrs Bright's (Mary & Colleen) have long suffered as a result of your passion, any tips you can offer on how to grovel one more surf, after using up all your credits?
Gwyn - You certainly need an understanding wife! I think both our wives have realised we're a particular case. As far as Mary is concerned, it certainly helps to keep up with the household chores!
Colleen (Colin's wife) shouts from the other room, "He can do whatever he wants whenever the ironing is done!"