The Wyldewood Surf Club was founded back in the summer of 1965 on the sandy shoreline of Wyldewood Beach on Lake Erie in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. The founding members were American and Canadian Surfers with one common bond that held them together, "The Stoke for Surfing".
During the 1960's it was the same loosely organized Club as it still is today. The then thirty-something Don Harrison, of Buffalo, New York, was elected as the first Club President. "He was a cool and friendly surfer, Don was looked up to as he was our parent’s age and yet he was surfing with us". Don's Grandfather was a licensed ship Captain and was certified to navigate ships throughout the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Erie Canal and on the Ocean.
The original founding members included the likes of, Don Harrison, Magilla Schaus (the current club president) both from Buffalo, Rick and Jack Gillie from Hamilton, Derek Richardson, Tom Christopher of Kenmore, Tom Nelson, Keith Jukes, Vern Ferster and John O’Here and his sister Darcy of Lewiston, who today still maintain a family cottage on Wyldewood Beach.
…" to better tell our Clubs history and document our past for future generations "
The original Club logo was designed by Derek Richardson, (that's actually Derek depicted on the club logo). Derek was a fantastic stoked surfer and a Canadian Labatts drinking buddy. Derek was one of the first Lake surfers to set out and explore Lake Erie for surf. Derek met up with Neal Luoma of Ashtabula, Ohio, and had Neal build him a surfboard.
Many of the first members of the Club, which consisted mostly of teenagers, lived in summer cottages dotted along Wyldewood Beach and Silver Bay in Port Colborne. Other members included Canadians who lived in the Hamilton, and Burlington areas and Americans from the Western New York area that would drive to Wyldewood, Pleasant and Sherkston Beaches to surf when the waves were firing.
Tom Christopher and John and Darcy O'Here and were the first U.S. surfers to paddle out at Wyldewood Beach and the first boards used there were wooden paddleboards. Vern Ferster and the Gillie’s made their own shortboards soon afterwards and Tom Christopher, John O'Here and Magilla Schaus followed their lead and built their own shortboards as well.
Derek Richardson, Tom Nelson, Frank Kunkel, Vern Ferster, Rick Gillie, Jack Gillie, and Keith Jukes were the first to surf “The Bridge” in Hamilton and the Gillie's were the first to surf the Elcho or “H-Bay” as has become known as today in the Port Colborne, both which have now become well known surf spots across the Great Lakes.
The early wetsuit booties used by Wyldewood Surf club members were plain old sneakers. The boys from the Burlington and Hamilton area would camp out on the Wyldewood Beach dune. Those dunes at Wyldewood were part of a shoreline dune system that ran all along the Canadian side of Lake Erie, sadly those dunes at Wyldewood were destroyed by careless individuals and are now gone forever.
Once a year in the fall the members would meet at Don Harrison's house on Congress Avenue in Buffalo for the annual Surf Club meeting. Refreshments and snacks were always served and photographs and stories were shared. Topics of discussions would always include planning Club trips to the Ocean.
Vern Ferster, Tom Nelson, Rick and Jack Gillie would show their super eight surf movies and "our eyes would pop out of our sockets during those meetings". These guys were the first surfers, from the Great Lakes that we knew of, to make Surf movies. Of course, as we were to later learn, during that same time there was a whole other surf scene coming to life on Lake Michigan.
The Great Lakes Surfing Association was running Club contests out West and actually had a mimeographed newsletter which was sent out to it’s members. What was really going on in the rest of the Great Lakes at that time was really not well know. Our first discovered existence of Lake Michigan surfers were from photographs published in one of the first issues of Surfer Magazine.
The first published photograph of Club member Magilla Schaus was seen in Surfer Magazine back in 1969 riding on Lake Erie. The Hamilton Spectator on September 8, 1969 ran article about the Club surfing Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
The past serving presidents of the Wyldewood Surf Club have been Don Harrison, Tim Jachlewski, Magilla Schaus, Chris Furminger and Marty Parr.
The Club has grown but changed little since 1965. It has expanded it membership and it has regularly hosted Surfing contest on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario since 1998 under the direction of The Eastern Surfing Association Great Lakes District. What the Wyldewood Surf Club has been most proud of is the fact it was one of the first International Surf Clubs on the Great Lakes.
Today's members still live on both sides of the Canadian U.S. border and still share that common bond when the Club first started "The Stoke for Surfing".