“….. Aberavon is not the sort of place you would expect to find a thriving surf spot, Close under the chimneys and the smoke stacks of Port Talbot’s steel works, a stone’s throw from the “Sandfields” one of Britain’s most deprived housing estates it was less California Dreamin’ than Blade Runner. But in the 70s we found a fast left hand wave there that, at high tide and on a SE wind, usually in winter, broke towards the pier. We added it to our repertoire of surf spots, and frankly included it as part of our birth right as members of the “Gower Bays Surf Club”. Our zone of operations stretched from there to Freshwater West in Pembroke. With some justification, since the only other surfing population at the time was in Cornwall.
So, it was with some surprise, in the 90s that I heard that anyone from Langland, our beach near Mumbles had been barred from the break. At the time, I was living in Ireland, so it didn’t have much practical effect on me, but still as I say, I was surprised. The dilapidated Aberavon seafront, had by then won the nickname “Little Beirut”, because it had become more a forlorn concrete dystopia, than an aspiring holiday resort. The ban, however, was placed firmly at the feet of “Beefy”, who, it was said, had claimed the beach as his fiefdom. Such behaviour is not unheard of, in surfing. Famously the Hawaiian black shorts don’t allow haoles surf their waves. Many years later, during one of my visits to Wales I wondered what had happened in the end, whether Beefy’s embargo held and whether Aberavon was still a no-go zone.
Beefy had disappeared. No-one knew where to, but bits and pieces of the story were known. Beefy was a bare-knuckle fighter, who it was known, fought for money behind the Avon Lido, the Olympic sized swimming pool that had been built in more optimistic times. These were skills that obviously came in handy to marshal his beach. But Beefy’s downfall came after the “great ice cream van” heist.
The story goes like this; Beefy and an associate approached the ice cream van and demanded the takings. The ice cream van man, aware of the bare-knuckle issue, made no overt complaint but promptly handed over the money. However, as the get-away car took off he did manage to note down the number. Beefy had used his own car.
A few days later, five policemen came to arrest Beefy. All accounts mention that the weather was cold, even for February, and that Beefy successfully fought off the five policemen on the banks of the river Neath. He then dived into the river, at the time spectacularly polluted, swam across the freezing river, and made his escape.
The trail then goes cold, for a number of years. Until word come back to South Wales that Beefy is bare-knuckle fighting for a Gambian warlord, like "Nicky Chevotarevich” in The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately, this can’t last and Beefy falls out with the warlord and is compelled to return to Britain, where he is arrested on arrival at the airport to serve his three year sentence for the ice cream heist and battering the policemen.
And then the trail goes cold again. Where’s Beefy….?