We went on a mission to interview local hero Billy Dingley of Dingley Custom Surfboards. He is known here in Cornwall for his glossy, dare we say perfect, surfboards. After navigating the winding backroads of Perranporth, a small north coast surf town, we rocked up to Billy’s board shaping haven. Greeted with a laid back wave from Billy, we roll up the driveway. An overpowering smell of resin is in the air, yep, we have definitely arrived at the right place.
He shows us around his two workshop spaces, the floors are covered in resin and sand and various tools hang from the walls, but the spaces feel organized and creative. He explains to us the steps from blank (surfboard foam ready to shape) to expertly glassed (adding layers of resin and fiberglass) board. Billy is not a guy who cuts corners and it’s easy to see the pride and care he puts into his work as he talks through the process.
‘I feel proud walking down the beach with a surfboard that I’ve made and surfing on one of my boards. [It’s also] cool to see my boards out being surfed!’
Billy hasn’t always been a Perranporth local, and actually grew up in the midlands, away from the coast. ‘I used to play loads of football, but moving to Perranporth I just became obsessed with the sea and surfing, now it’s pretty much the only thing I do.’ I guess the change of scene rubbed off on him! It’s a great feeling to be so connected with your environment, especially one filled with waves, tides, and storms. Like Billy, Classics77 is built around an appreciation of chasing waves and experiences out in the wild.
It becomes easy to understand why Billy puts such care into each board when you understand how he thinks about them. ‘My boards are a representation of me. The artwork going into them is a part of me.’ To him they are more than just products to sell, they represent his personality and values. So they’ve gotta be damn good boards!
‘I love doing this, I can’t wait to get up every day and do it!’
A vibrant painting of a field of sunflowers hangs on the wall in his glassing workshop. It’s Billy’s Dad’s. ‘My biggest inspiration is people who make a living out of doing what they love. My dad is an artist and has made a living out of art.’ Another big motivator for Billy is the reaction of his customers. ‘It’s rewarding when people get happiness out of something that’s been made for them.’ he says with a smile.
Dressed in natural coloured loose fitting clothes Billy has an effortlessly cool vibe about him. We wanted to find out more about his choice of look. ‘I’m a minimalist, I like a plain white t-shirt. I used to wear clothes that I look back on now and think - what the hell was I wearing! With a plain white t-shirt I can look back on it in 10 years and not think what the f*ck was I wearing.’ Simple = timeless. We like it Billy!
We asked Billy if he had advice for other people who want to lead a life away from mainstream careers. His response:
‘Follow your heart and do what you want to do. Not just what's cool or what everyone else is doing. If you do what you want, it will be unique.’
We left feeling pretty damn stoked after meeting this legend and seeing the process first hand. He had a lot of interesting things to say, and always with a laid back smile.
Some golden nuggets to takeaway:
- If you do something really well people will pay for it
- Keep things simple and they are always in style
- Do what you love and don’t be afraid to step away from the mainstream
- Be authentic and you will offer something unique
Thank you Billy Dingley for bringing us wise words and sick boards!
Watch this space for the next article in collaboration with another local legend.
In article: Billy Dingley Dingley Custom Surfboards
Writing and Photos: Han Fisher
Photography Assistant: Olivia Tregonning