“There is fresh foam out in the garage!”
That thought still makes my heart race a bit each morning, 40 years after the day I stripped the fiberglass off a discarded longboard and excitedly whittled away at the misshapen blob with a Surform and a Hamilton Beach electric poultry knife.
Each time I cut into a fresh surfboard blank I feel that I am sharing in the discoveries made in those spellbinding early years of the modern surfing era, when it was possible for any surfer with a planer and a garage to liberate from a rough slab of balsa or foam the power to angle tighter, to ride deeper, to extend control into bigger and bigger waves.
Modern, post-ancient Hawaiian surfboard shaper/designers began this quest at about the same time the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk. Since then surfboards have kept apace, albeit on a shoestring, with their loftier cousins. Like aircraft, we surfboard designers have strived over the past century or so to fly farther, faster, and higher while remaining light and strong. One of my favorite writers, Nevil Shute, an aviation engineer who authored novels like On The Beach in his spare time, spoke of the halcyon days of airplane design:
“For about 30 years there was a period when aeroplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to learned on every flight, a period when aeroplanes were small and easily built so that experiments were cheap and new designs could fly within 6 months of the first glimmer in the mind of the designer."
My life’s work as a surfboard designer is founded on the belief that we can retain in surfboard building that halcyon period by keeping things simple, keeping in the backyard and garage, by never allowing things to get so complicated and expensive that a surfer can no longer build an experimental surfboard overnight and have it in the water the next morning.
Skin a block of foam, whittle it, lay it up, take it in the waves and try it. …Backyard is where it’s at!