The Life of Ply – My collection and the history of bellyboards.

lifofply - front pageSo I thought I should explain why I started this site and tell you what it is all about.

My name is Matt Cooper. I have worked in the world of advertising for near on 30 years (as I write this). 30 years seems a long time right? But what I have always liked about the business is the people you meet. Lots of tortured artists and people with big (mainly crazy) ideas who quite often collect stupid things. There are literally tons of daft nerds in this business. That’s kind of where I fit in.

I collect vintage surf / belly boards (more on what they are really called later). What started as a couple of boards has now turned in to a well tuned, complete and utter obsession.

I’m told I may have the biggest collection there is, but I’m damn sure there are even bigger nerds than me somewhere on this planet and country (bloody hope so). But as I said above I have become kinda obsessed with collecting and talking to others who have the boards. I love watching people proudly surfing on boards they have owned for over 70 years. There is a lot more of this than you imagine and there is something very cool about it.

I have always been a bit of a collector. I have owned more old/silly/vintage cars and bikes than is healthy and whilst I love them, they are a constant pain and more often than not money pits. These lovely old boards aren’t and they are more fun than any car I ever owned (possibly).

There is nothing quite like being out with my family, all catching the same wave and racing up the beach to see who goes the furthest. You never see better, cheaper smiles. And this sport is bloody good exercise too.

So let me tell you a bit about how this ridiculousness started. A couple of years back I opened, that month’s Coast Magazine (It’s brilliant, buy it) and there was a whole piece on the World Belly Board Championships. Whilst reading this piece 2 things happened. 1) I remembered renting a board as a kid somewhere in Devon / Cornwall on a holiday with my folks. I remember the joy of catching waves and coming right up the beach. 2) I started to look at the brilliant, crazy, naive designs on the boards. Like art from a different time. And I knew I had to have one. 30 mins of eBay later and I had my first Crest. A lovely board, and I was hooked.

(Edit – Here I am at Watergate Bay with that very board I rented in the summer of 1974 aged 5 and a half. A Dick Pearce Surfrider of course!! I found this picture by chance 21 days after I started this site and at last  found out where I first used a board)


I started to collect more and more and somehow connected with two wonderful people who were featured in that Coast piece. Sally Parkin (who owns the Original Surf Board Company and maker of amazing boards) and John Isaac, Cornish surf squire, photographer and all round good egg. These two only fueled my obsession. They have become good friends and I talk to Sally a lot about our collective sickness/collections and surf with her whenever possible.

So really ‘the life of ply’ is a place to share my collection and try and tell/find out the history of the boards, the makers and all things bellyboard.

And just back to where I started. Many people calls these boards many things. They were originally just called surf boards (in the UK). And those using them surf riders (i.e. you were surf riding). But many people call them many things. Paipo boards, Plankies (in France), Surfboards, belly boards and more. I don’t really care what we call them, but I do really love them.

Everyone should have one proudly hanging on their wall. Why not? They are great fun/exercise, they look amazing and they are so much better than those horrible plastic / foam boards that people dump all over the coasts of our country.

Hope you enjoy the site.


Matt Cooper



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