An iconic landmark on the Muizenberg landscape, The Corner Surf Shop in Muizenberg has had a long-standing relationship with the Echo since its establishment in the early 70s.
Tessa Moore had been around the shop since August 1971 but in 1973, she joined the business full-time and is still there today, as Peter Wright’s right-hand woman.
The family and shop’s official historian, she has some fond memories to share, as published on the shop’s website.
Wright had resigned from his job at a Cape Town shipping company, intending to join “Chemical” Clive Barber at his surfboard factory. However, by the time Wright had said “cheers” to his desk job, Barber’s business had closed down.
Gap years were not an option at that time and being out of work was also rather suspect, so Wright set about building surfboards, for himself and friends, at his parents’ home in Kommetjie.
After a while, his parents rebelled and he was forced to look for somewhere else to build boards.
The little shop at No 1, Clarendon Lane was just big enough for a shaping bay and a glassing bay in the back, with a small retail area in front. It was a funky old teak-windowed shop, with lots of character and at the time, the only surf shop in all of Cape Town. Unfortunately, these premises no longer exist, as the old Surf Inn building was knocked down during the redevelopment of the Muizenberg beachfront.
Between 1971 and 1975, Wright’s surfboard label, Wright’s Surfboards, became the label of choice for the cream of the crop of the Western Province surfers at the time – from, among others, Guy McIntosh, through to the hot juniors of the day: Hans Kamhoot, Vernon Castle, Sheldon Lindsay and Kevin Dennett. The Boy’s Division was represented by Davy Stolk.
Wright developed and made a surf wax, later named Jenny Wax – the most popular wax in South Africa in the 1970s.
There was very little available in the way of surfwear – the earliest labels they carried were Hang Ten and Vella (which came from Port Elizabeth).
“In the mid-seventies, around 1975, Peter was the first importer of American skateboarding equipment into South Africa,” says Moore.
“ The first shipment was of Chicago trucks and wheels, which was the start of a very busy era of distributing skateboard goods throughout the country.
“Soon, we were manufacturing our own fibreglass and oak decks, as well as the aluminium Wright trucks. To reach the peak of local skateboarding, was to be a member of the Wright Skateboard Team.
“The Corner Surf Shop was asked to run several big skateboard contests: The largest was on the rooftop of Cavendish Square Shopping Centre, in Claremont. This attracted about 5 000 onlookers and the main events were freestyle, slalom, long-jump and high-jump – Yes… high jump.”
“There was also another popular contest at Kenilworth Shopping Centre, where the KC skateboard park had been built. It is amazing to us how well our skateboarders did style-wise, when compared to the international guys shown in the movie, Dogtown and Z-Boys. One has to remember that there were no videos to follow, so all the moves had to be extracted from photos in the occasional skate mag,” she said.
“Another surfing innovation of the seventies was the waveski. Peter, with Duncan Temple-Forbes, developed the first commercially-produced short waveski, the Skiwee.
“Soon afterwards, copy-cat waveskis came onto the market, but The Corner Surf Shop held onto its top spot, with superior foam-sandwich construction and cutting-edge design,” Moore said.
The Skiwee was succeeded by The Gopher and The Gopher 245 models, both shaped by well-known surfboard manufacturer, Andy Spengler, with input from the star waveskier of the day, Paddy Smith.
“In the late seventies, it seemed as though every second car had a wave ski on its roofrack and once again The Corner Surf Shop was at the top of the game, making the skis chosen by the best Western Province riders.
“The Corner Surf Shop also brought out the first range of surf accessories made in South Africa, under the Jenny Cord label. These were distributed throughout South Africa’s surf and sports shops,” Moore said.
“We were also the first importers in South Africa of Tom Morey’s new product, the Morey Boogie. Peter visited Tom Morey at his home on the Big Island of Hawaii. While there, he was given the go-ahead to produce and distribute these boards locally.“
Around 1977, while on a visit to Jeffreys Bay, Wright came across Cheron Habib (later Kraak), sewing cord shorts with funky floral wooden buttons. The Corner Surf Shop became the very first shop to be supplied by Habib, who went on to found the famous Jeffreys Bay brand, Country Feeling, and to be the formidable force behind the Billabong franchise in South Africa.
The Corner Surf Shop, has expanded the retail floorspace, within its premises and now has a greater area for their surfboard stock. They are proud stockists of the Surf-Tech brand, particularly the wood veneer boards, which make for a spectacular display.
Wright is also a keen collector of old surfboards which reflect South Africa’s history with an emphasis on Cape Town surfing history.
“He has, what we believe to be, the biggest collection of Whitmore surfboards in the world. These are hung up in The Corner Surf Shop and Peter is determined not to sell any of them. From the days of the first Endless Summer movie, John Whitmore’s name has been the most famous in Cape Town’s surf history and The Corner Surf Shop honours him through Peter’s display of boards,” said Moore.
“When you come into The Corner Surf Shop, there is no mistaking the classic surf vibe, which with our deep surf roots, combined with the latest in core surf equipment, keep The Corner Surf Shop Cape Town’s No. 1 surf shop and an absolute must for any surfer to visit.”