Written by Patrick Green |
Nestled away just outside St. Agnes, Wheal Kitty is the home to Open Surf; a small, simplistic, and beautiful café/workshop which has become part of people’s lives in an extremely positive and unassuming way. Making my way through winding country roads I wanted to find out what was at the heart of this extremely cool-looking – and very Cornish – café.
I knew very little about the place, merely a follower on Instagram, interested in their aesthetic and vibe. I thought it was worth a visit and I was not disappointed.
I was soon told that it was far more than just a café. The actual café part of the business has only been open for a year, whilst the surf workshop across the yard has been working for around 25 years.
The café was opened to help keep the legacy of the workshop alive; the owners are determined to defend what they see as a beautiful and worthwhile craft. The people here have a real sense of the history of the place, and a heartfelt desire to make the business more than just a business – they need to make money of course, but you really get a feeling that this isn’t the be all and end all here.
Speaking to Freddie (one of the employees there) – who really gave the hard sell on a very old and tired soup book which he wanted rid of – gave me a genuine sense and feel of the place. Part of their desire is to be a real and important part of the community.
They are open 7 days a week almost all year round; I was told this is something they feel really strongly about – they want people in St. Agnes and further afield to be able to rely on them to be there. They don’t seem in it for themselves whatsoever, they’re trying to provide stability in an increasingly hectic and frantic world.
There was a real sense of pride etched on Freddie’s face as he was telling me about the café/workshop, he was proud of what this small place was doing.
Besides pride, another significant aspect which went further than the physicality of the place was the sense of family which is nurtured here. I was told that a huge part of their ethos is based on being a space which is easily accessible to those in and out of the surf community.
Open offers an opportunity for those who are new to surfing to learn about the sport and the craft, in a safe and friendly environment – away from elitism which can be so prevalent in certain quarters of all sporting communities.
This brings me to the workshop side of the business.
Open shape all of their own boards, employing full-time shapers and hosting visiting shapers (including Simon Anderson, inventor of the three-fin board – or the ‘thruster’).
Having this rich pool of shapers at their disposal gives Open a unique ability to provide boards for all the different types of weather/conditions which Cornwall has to offer. For a monthly subscription you can rent boards from the shop, allowing you to try them out before making the decision to buy one (or just to be able to surf in the first place).
Of course, you can also buy their boards, which can be custom built (where you have an input in the process) or you can allow the shapers to take the lead. From order to completion you can expect to wait around 2 weeks – a pretty incredible turn around for a hand-crafted board.
“For any haggard older students looking for a new hangout, I can’t recommend this place enough.”
For any new students looking for an adventure, get yourselves down here. For any haggard older students looking for a new hangout, I can’t recommend this place enough. For me at least, it embodies everything I have loved about my two-and-a-bit years here in Cornwall as a student: a relaxed, friendly, and original place. Get yourselves down there – you might not see a place like this anywhere else.
*With especial thanks to Open Surf for being hugely friendly and accommodating