Nigel Semmens: Surfing Champion

Nigel Semmens, a champion surfer from Cornwall, has spent more than 40 years making high quality surfboards. His amazing achievements in the water are matched by his shaping skills - turning his bespoke surfboards into a work of art revered by surfers all over the world.

After learning how to shape at the Ocean Magic factory in Newquay, under the expert guidance of Pete McAllum, Nigel flourished and became a well-respected shaper. While his competitive career continued to go from strength to strength, he took over the factory after two years, developing his own NS Surfboards brand.

Nigel Semmens

© Alex Williams


How it all began

Nigel began surfing in his youth in his hometown of Newquay, quickly establishing himself as one of the most talented young surfers on the circuit. At the age of 18, the English Junior Champion took a surfing trip to Hawaii, where he realised his board wasn't up to scratch competitively.

On returning to the UK, he decided to do something about it, beginning his long association with Ocean Magic. After progressing through his training so quickly, it's no surprise that his NS Surfboards brand has created innovative and high-performance shapes.

His work in the shaping bay went hand-in-hand with his success in competing at the highest level. The three-times English champion was also the British Champion in 1979 and won the European Championships in 1981. He became the UK's most successful surfer of the '80s. He entered the world stage with a seventh-place win in 1982 at the World Amateur Championships and went on to become the English Masters Champion in 1993.


Surfing and shaping

Nigel has balanced running the Ocean Magic factory with competing at the highest level, with the two facets of his career complementing each other. The reason it works so well is because he loves both activities and doesn't see either of them as a job - he's simply doing what he loves.

In an interview, he described his way of life as a "love and a passion", adding, "It's not like a job - I've never had a job. I'm doing something that's been my life and my passion. That's why I live and breathe for it."

He estimates he's made between 25,000 and 30,000 surfboards over the past four decades. "It's been a pleasure and I still enjoy doing it," he said. "I want to be making boards that are state-of-the-art surfboards for the top athletes of today." As well as being very successful as a surfer over the years, he’s also worked with some of the world’s top surfboard shapers and is highly regarded in the industry.

He explained, "What made me want to get into shaping was when I got invited to go to Hawaii in 1976 and surf in the Smirnoff Pro Am. I enjoyed it and it was a massive experience, but our boards were about five years behind. I thought, I can't compete if I'm riding on equipment that's five years behind - I'll shape them myself.

"I came back and got introduced to Peter McAllum, who owned Ocean Magic at the time. He offered me an apprenticeship and that was where it started."


Influential surfers

Nigel says he's worked with a lot of influential surfers and has had the pleasure of shaping boards for them. These have included Russell Winter, the famous British pro surfer, who has been the English, British and European surfing champion.

The duo has enjoyed a good working relationship. "To work with a guy of that calibre is something special, because you can get immense feedback," Nigel adds. "I like to talk to the guys and make sure we can make a board that fits perfectly."

Nigel said he was "very competitive" during his own top-level surfing career, when the pinnacle was winning the European title. He admitted the main highlight was simply enjoying what he did. He continues to surf today, while also making world-class surfboards.


NS Surfboards brand

Nigel puts his expertise, passion and experience of surfing into every board he shapes, whether it's for a beginner or for someone who's been surfing for years. He aims to put the fun into surfing and help people to push their own boundaries. His own NS Surfboards brand focuses on high quality and fun and has many different models. The NS Bullet is Nigel's signature model, designed in collaboration with Russell Winter.

Nigel says he's looking forward to taking surfboard design into the future and describes making them at Ocean Magic as a "pleasure" as he continues to liaise with the world's top surfers to collaborate on new and innovative designs.

Ocean Magic offers a service for custom surfboards and invites customers to design their own bespoke board, using our latest OM Boardbuilder service. Designed to provide customers with a starting point, you can pick a model from our extensive range to suit your abilities and fine-tune it to your own specs.

Give us a call today on 01637 880421 or email for further details of our products and services.