Carling Black Label – Surfer – one of the most iconic commercials ever

How did I do it?

I best he drinks Carling Black Label. Meet the man who does.

Few people in the acting and movie world get the chance to play a dream roll, or do a career-defining moment in film. The same goes for rock bands and singers, few find that hit single. I have been blessed with a career that has found a few of these iconic roles that allow me to attend fan weekends and do talks all over the world. I am so pleased that my daughter, Laura Aikman, has found that career job, recently playing Dyan Cannon in the life story of the real Cary Grant, Archie.

I had done a number of Carling Black Label commercials but this one was a different director. It was made by Park Village. I wasn’t known to the director and was called in to meet him. Turning up early I realised I was being fitted in at the end of the casting session for the model who was to play the surfer. The room was full of tanned, chiselled-bodied tall models. I was asked

  • THEM: Could you surf in through a pub doorway if we can could create a wave.
  • ME: Yes.
This was a real knuckle ride. The real rollercoaster was chasing me around if anything went wrong

Here’s the thing. In this industry everyone lies (my favourite line from a play, the Engineer in Miss Saigon) – every actor can ride a horse, can drive a car, and is a rocket scientist. They didn’t believe me; I didn’t say another word. I didn’t need to, because I had answered the question. Here is the second thing about the movie industry, everyone steels. I don’t have a movie quote for that, but someone will tell me no doubt. So, they are looking at me and the poker game has begun. They want more, I only need to secure the job. I have played this game many times before, not poker, but getting a job. I wait for them to make the next move.

  • THEM: We may need to do a few takes. Can you surf in through the door every time?
  • ME: Yep. Every time.
  • THEM: You’re a good surfer then?
  • ME: I can do it every time, and what’s more, I know how difficult it is and that no one out there, not one of your models or actors will be able to do it.

So much more went on before I was given the whole job as the model as well as the stunt designer. The hilarious hoops I leapt through with hair, body and costume I tell in my stage show.

The set is reinforced steel. The line is a slit in the floor.

I then went on to explain to the team that I had just done the previous Carling Black Label Commercial, which was going around the wooden rollercoaster track on a wheelchair and the few of you from the agency know that if I say I can do it, I can. But I’m not just telling you how until I’m contracted. The rest of the poker game played out, and after a long hair and body tanning make-over which I tell on stage now, I was at the build of the set on D Stage in Pinewood. I had offices there and D-stage was like a second home to me because it had a tank under the floor. It is where I had spent months being the Queen Alien for James Cameron. I was home.

First take, the

The key was in the advert I had just done for them, the Carling Black Label Rollercoaster. (above) I had worked with the engineers at the Margate Fun Park where we had taken a set of wheels of a car and made a bogie wheelset, attached to a flatbed, on which we fixed the wheelchair. That was the old classic wooden rollercoaster, but I spent some time in the engineering workshop learning and seeing the modern rollercoaster.

cold and wet. No one cares. You can see the t

To do the surfer, I need a length of track running from D-Stage rafters (40ft high) down into the water tank. It would run under the floor of the pub set. I needed the pub set built in the tank. Although the track was going under the floor, with a slit in the floor, a shark fin fixed to the wheels would come up through the floor onto the underside of the modified surfboard. As I had an office at Pinewood I could go in each day of the build and test it. 


The water was a standard tip tank set up. I first was hit by water from a tip tank in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. I was on the roof of a hit, in the huge tank on the 007 stage, right next to my shed/office, and the tip tanks dropped the water and knocked me for six into the underground lake. We used for builders ‘skips’ full of water, held up with the electric bomb releases from a B62 bomber. 

The water was straight out of the mains and cold. I look cold. I also had three broken ribs from the American commercial I had filmed the day before in Shepperton.

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