A VETERAN surfer who has been taking to the waves off East Lothiansince the 1960s has officially opened Scotland’s first surf centre.

Andy Bennetts, from Haddington, had the honour of cutting the ribbon to declare Belhaven Surf Centre, on Dunbar’s Shore Road, open.

The £275,000 surf hub will be used by groups ranging from Coast to Coast Surf School, Surfers Against Sewage, Dunbar Surf Life Saving Club and a number of other groups, including East Lothian Council’s countryside rangers.

Mr Bennetts told the Courier: “I have been surfing since the 1960s and still go down fairly regularly.

“I was asked as a senior member of the surfing community if I would open it. I was delighted to oblige.

“I was very pleased and humbled to be asked to open it.”

Work on the building got under way in February, with funding coming from LEADER, FCC Communities Fund, East Lothian Council, Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership, BeGreen, Cockburnspath Community Council and the Jigsaw Foundation. Further funding came through a successful crowdfunding appeal, as well as private loans.

More than 60 people were at the official opening ceremony, and Mr Bennetts, who turns 70 later this year, said times had certainly changed from when he began surfing in the area with a group of friends from Edinburgh.

He said: “I think the main thing is that this is going to be a nucleus for people – both learning to surf and some of the other folk that go down there regularly.

“There has never been a facility like this in south-east Scotland.

“People have got changed out the back of their car or their van or whatever – that’s been the surfers’ way of doing things.

“The advantage of the surf centre is if you are trying to persuade a youngster of 10 years old that this is a sport to try then having changing facilities and a hot shower is going to make a big difference.”

The one-and-a-half-storey building provides offices, with a meeting room and an education room.

Changing rooms and storage are also included.

Belhaven Surf Centre, which is also a registered charity, will manage the building.

Sam Christopherson, from the surf school, was delighted to see the building officially opened and noted how things had changed in the last 20 years.

He said: “I think in Scotland, surfing is growing up very quickly.

“Twenty or 15 years ago, the general regard was you were crazy to surf in Scotland. Ten years ago, wetsuits were getting better and more people were surfing and asking ‘where can you surf?’

“Now, it is pretty much ‘can I surf?’ and that has been a huge mind shift in the general population in terms of watersports.”