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Design and Technology

pre 1910

2000 BC – B.C.Peruvian fisherman ride waves using bundled-reed caballito de totora boats

  • Metal tools for woodworking are introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by visiting Western explorers and settlers

  • A “swimming skate” is reportedly invented in France. This might be the first reference to the surfboard in Europe

  • The first “wave pool” is built by Bavarian King Ludwig II in his castle Linderhof

  • The popular Hawaiian alaia are 7′ to 12′ long and made of koa or breadfruit wood

  • Enormous 12-17′ olo boards, made of wiliwili, are reserved for Hawaiian royalty (ali’i)

  • Coral heads and pumice stones are two of the favored tools for Hawaiian surfboard shapers

180018471879pre 1890pre 1890pre 1890

Fisherman on a Caballito de Totora 1100-1400 CE

Castle Linderhof

Turn of the century Hawaiian plank

Hawaiian Olo

And yet the true creator is necessity, which is the mother of invention.

~ Aristotle


  • ‘Traditional papa he’e nalu Surfboards’, made in Redwood, walnut and sequoia

  • Beachgoers in Brauton, North Devon, England, ride waves on wooden belly boards

  • The first California-made boards are made of redwood planks and coated in varnish

  • Bakelite, the first synthetic resin, is patented by Belgian Leo Hendrik Baekeland

  • In California, Hawaiian surfer George Freeth invents the lifeguard rescue can


Wooden Belly Boards

Redwood Boards Walnut and Sequoia

Belgian Leo Baekeland

Walter V. Biddell’s Torpedo Buoy


1.6 Billion

76 Million


Loaf of bread: 5 cents

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by individuals who labor in freedom.

~ Albert Einstein


  • Duke Kahanamoku reintroduces longer surfboards, a ten-foot solid wood board, to Waikiki

  • Hawaiian surfers make boards from Pacific Northwest-imported redwood

  • Many Hawaiian-made boards are built on the beach at the Outrigger Canoe Club

  • Boards are finished with a few layers of marine varnish

  • Virtually all boards have a blunt nose, a squared-off tail, and a flat deck

  • The average surfboard is 9′ long, 22″ wide, and weighs 45 pounds

  • Surfboard construction is for the most part still a do-it-yourself project

  • Surfboards are finless, as they were in ancient times


Redwood Surfboards

Redwood Plank

Hawaii Alaia Redwood

Olo Surfboard


1.86 billion

106 million


Loaf of bread: 9 cents
Gasoline: 22 cents per gallon

I like my job because it involves learning.

~ Bill Gates


  • In the UK, Wetsuits were non-existant, and woollen sweaters were used to try and keep warm in the water

  • 10 to 12 foot boards (made from redwood and pine) are the norm for the best surfers in Hawaii and CA

  • Tom Blake builds first hollow surfboard, using wood ribs and plywood decking

  • Hawaiian Lorrin Thurston shows up at Waikiki with a surfboard made of balsa

  • Redwood, cedar, and pine are all used to build surfboards

  • Nine year old John Kelly is given an eight-foot redwood surfboard, shaped by David Kahanamoku, brother of Duke

  • Tom Blake builds a waterproof camera housing to take surfing photos

  • Depression forces Myers Butte out of Stanford and to the family business: Pacific System Homes

  • Blake uses olo “cigar” boards in Ala Wai paddleboard races. Some Hawaiians refuse to compete


Tom Blake

Redwood Planks


CSM 195 Simmons Sandwich Board


2.1 billion

123 million


Loaf of bread: 8 cents
Gasoline: 10 cents per gallon
Movie admission: 15 cents

If in doubt, paddle out.

~ Nat Young


  • Originally arriving on O’ahu as an infant, twelve-year-old Fran Heath starts surfing on an 8 foot redwood

  • Tom Blake uses brass plugs on hollow boards to drain water from the inside

  • The Los Angeles Ladder Company introduces a surfboard rack for cars

  • On April 18, Tom Blake files a patent for his “water sled” hollow board construction

  • Pacific System Homes sells “Swastika” model surfboards, paddleboards and aqua-planes

  • The use of balsa wood decreases surfing board weights from 100 to 30 pounds

  • Inspired by Floridians in Hawaii, Pete Peterson begins making balsa boards in California

  • Hawaiian surfers taper the tail of their boards, the design allows them to trim the board diagonally across the wave

  • After “sliding ass” at Brown’s surf, John Kelly grabs an axe and begins the “Hot Curl” revolution

  • Dr. Earnest Smithers of Sydney, Australia invents the inflatable “surf mat”

  • A swimming pool in Wembley, England is equipped with agitators to make waves

  • Surf wave pool opens at Wimbley Swimming pool in England

  • Mutt surfing started by a Sydney physician

  • Tom Blake attaches a 4″ aluminum speedboat keel (stabilizing fin) to a surfboard

  • Marine varnish is applied to wood surfboards, protecting them from water damage

  • California surfer Alfred Gallant, Jr. applies liquid floor wax to his board for traction

  • The Honolulu Advertiser describes Tom Blake’s 116 pound board with a “stabilizer or fin”

  • DuPont invents polyester resin. Refined by the Germans during WW II, it’s stolen by the British

  • Joe Quigg, at age 13, made a redwood board that had slightly upturned nose and tail sections (later called “rocker”)


Surfboard United States Patent

Blake Hollow

Hermosa Beach Surfing Club

Hollow Board Lorrin Whitey Harrison


2.3 billion

132 million


Loaf of bread: 13 cents
Gasoline: 11 cents per gallon
Movie admission: 35 cents

I’m just a surfer who wanted to build something that would allow me to surf longer.

~ Jack O’ Neill


  • Gard Chapin designs a wooden keel with angled leading edge and vertical trailing edge

  • Tom Blake is said to have built a two fin board

  • Tom Topanga’s Dave Sweet makes a surfboard from extruded Styrofoam, glassed with epoxy

  • Bob Simmons and Pete Peterson use fiberglass and polyester resin to laminate surfboards

  • Bob Simmons experiments with half moon-shaped fins on his wide-tailed balsa boards

  • Wally Froiseth taught George Downing how to make surfboards, and introduced him to the big surf at Makaha

  • Balsa, fiberglass, and resin become the new board-making materials

  • Los Angeles surfer Bob Simmons making all-balsa “speed” boards

  • Joe Quigg launches the first pintail gun at Malibu in June: built for speed and maneuvering

  • Joe Quigg makes a shorter, lighter surfboard for Darrilyn Zanuck

  • Polystyrene core, balsa rails, plywood deck: Simmons makes a board that weighs 9 pounds

  • Blake makes some hollow surfboards out of aluminum in the late 1940s

  • Simmons, quite possibly unaware of Blake’s two fin board, built some two fin boards

  • George Downing met with surfer/board designer Bob Simmons and learned how to fiberglass surfboards

  • Joe Quigg makes Pintail #2, a “speed board” and “first narrow pintail” for big Hawaiian surf

  • The lighter, shorter “Malibu chip” board makes turning easier and inspires nose-riding

  • Nose-lift, rocker, “soft” rails, two fins; Simmons reinvents the surfboard

  • Joe Quigg makes the first fiberglass fin

  • The Simmons “Spoon” is 10 feet of balsa, thin rails, pointed, “spoon” nose, glassed wooden fin

  • Simmons puts a fin on each corner of his squaretail, inventing what he calls a “duel fin” design


Woody Brown Hot Curl

Hawaiian Surfer

Owen Churchill Swim Fin, June 8, 1943

Simmons Sandwich


2.5 billion

152 million


Loaf of bread: 16 cents
Gasoline: 29 cents per gallon
Movie admission: 55 cents

Invention is the talent of youth, as judgement is of age.

~ Jonathon Swift


  • According to Greg Noll, Bob Simmons was the very first to ever try foam in a surfboard

  • Hobie Alter makes balsa boards in his garage

  • George Downing creates the ‘speed skeg’ that with its broad base and narrow tip is 20 years ahead of its time

  • Hawaiian George Downing builds the first wooden ‘fin box’ incorporating a removable ‘speed skeg’

  • Hugh Bradner, in San Francisco, begins work on the first wetsuit

  • First fin box used by Hawaiian George Downing

  • Dave Sweet of Santa Monica builds the first polyurethane-core boards

  • Jack O’Neill introduces his surfing wet suits at Ocean Beach in San Francisco

  • Dale Velzy introduces his popular, easy-riding, wide-tailed “Pig” design

  • Board manufacturer Dale Velzy designs broad ‘dorsal’ shaped fin, attached at the tip of the tail

  • Hobie Alter and “Grubby” Clark begin working on large-scale foam production

  • White zinc oxide used by surfer for sun block, flesh color Australia in 1970

  • Larry Gordon and Floyd Smith build a mold and begin blowing their own foam and building surfboards

  • CSU-Long Beach Art Professor Lee Willmore begins career creating artistic laminated wood fins

  • Surfboard and wetsuit maker Jack O’Neill opens a shop in Santa Cruz, CA

  • George Greenough makes his first balsa kneeboard in high school woodshop


Dale Velzy Malibu Chip (Balsa)

Tom Zahn and Joe Quigg Wave Break Malibu Surfboard trophy

Dale Velzy, Hap Jacobs and Bill Meistrell at Dive N Surf shop

Surfboard Fins 1950-60


3 billion

177 million


Loaf of bread: 25 cents
Gasoline: 32 cents per gallon
Movie admission: 75 cents

If you’re having a bad day, catch a wave.

~ Frosty Hesson


  • The typical surfboard ranges in length from 9’6″ to 11’0″ and is 22″ to 24″ wide

  • Hobie Surfboards, now built from the new polyurethane foam, comes with a solid fiberglass fin attached

  • Print fabrics for clothing are laminated onto surfboards to add color and graphics by Bill Holden of Huntington Beach

  • O’Neill and Dive ‘n’ Surf are the top wetsuit manufacturers

  • George Greenough makes a 7′ 8″ x 22″ Baby Surfboard and also his first solid balsa kneeboard

  • The clumsy, rudder-like “D” fin becomes the industry standard, limiting surfboard performance for years

  • George Greenough, an eccentric kneeboarder from Santa Barbara, takes his spoon kneeboards to Australia

  • The Donald Takayama model is released under the Hap Jacobs brand

  • Hobie offers a removable polypropylene fin attached by a screw that tightens through the deck of the board

  • The Lance Carson Signature board model by Jacobs Surfboards is released

  • George Greenough’s “Velo” kneeboard is mostly fiberglass, with foam in the rails

  • Karl Pope designs the Tri-Sect, a travel board that breaks down into three pieces

  • Harbour Surfboards introduces the Trestles Special with the input of Mark Martinson

  • Surfers at the Morey Noseriding contest have boards as short as 8 feet, turbo-fins and tail bricks

  • When most boards are 9′ 9″, Bob McTavishs’ 9′ 4″ for Nat Young is dubbed “Magic Sam”

  • Life magazine calls the skateboard “the most exhilarating and dangerous joy-ride this side of the hot rod”

  • The John Peck Penetrator evolved from the Snub, which was designed by Tom Morey

  • Mike Doyle and Rusty Miller create the first wax designed for surfing

  • First limited-edition signature model “Da Cat” is made by Greg Noll

  • Dewey Weber designs the sport’s most distinctive fin, the narrow-base, wide tipped Hatchet or Turn Fin

  • Dewey’s new fin comes with an optional removeable “Wonder Bolt” fin-box system

  • The Lance Carson model is introduced in conjunction with Jacob’s Surfboards out of Hermosa Beach, California

  • Bing Surfboards introduces the David Nuuhiwa Noserider model.  The design is the all-time winningest noserider

  • Hobie Surfboards introduces the Gary Propper Signature model and it surprises everyone

  • Designed by Bob Purvey as an extreme noserider, the Ugly is introduced by Con Surfboards

  • Nat Young tries a Greenough fin on 9’2″ “Magic Sam.”  Nat wins ’66 World Contest in convincing fashion

  • U.S. Surfboard Championship was first to use computers for scoring surfers

  • The Bing Pipeliner, is an influencial design most big-wave riders want to ride

  • The Surfatorium at Tokyo’s Summerland Water Park is the first wave pool for surfing

  • Hynson, Brewer, Rarrick, Fletcher and others experiment with 8-foot and under “mini guns”

  • Ever-innovative Tom Morey develops W.A.V.E. Set, a removable fin system

  • Steve Lis of San Diego shapes a split-tailed kneeboard he calls the “Fish”

  • Board sailing (windsurfing) is invented in Southern California

  • The Mike Doyle model is introduced by Hansen Surfboards.  This 9’0″ to 11’0″ board sold for $160

  • Made by the Morey-Pope The Blue Machine was designed and ridden by Bob Cooper

  • The C.C. Rider is introduced by Con Surfboards.  Claude Codgen was one of the top East Coast surfers in the ’60s

  • Bob McTavish and Nat Young travel to Hawaii with their newly devised Keyo V–bottomed surfboards

  • Reno Abellira rides a 6′ 10, 7-pound roundtail at the ’68 World Champs in Puerto Rico

  • Average board length drops below 7’0’’

  • Fins Unlimited introduces the “Vari Glas” movable fin system, allowing surfers to experiment with fin placement


Noseriders 1965-68

George Greenough

Holden Surfboards Logo

Bing Copeland


3.7 billion

203 million


Loaf of bread: 25 cents
Gasoline: 59 cents per gallon
Movie admission: $1.50

The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready made knowledge.

~Seymour Papert


  • The typical surfboard is produced with one or two layers of 8oz. fiberglass cloth

  • Hobie, Bing and Hansen all market wide squaretail twin fins

  • Bill Bahne’s new Fins Unlimited adjustable channel box is introduced and remains virtually unchanged today

  • San Diego kneeboarder Steve Lis turns heads with his twin-tailed, twin-keeled Fish design

  • Skip Frye designs a wide, thin, mid-length surfboard called the “Egg”

  • Ben Aipa of Hawaii designs double-pinned “swallow-tail”

  • Dewey Weber introduces “the Pig.” The board is incredibly short (5’3″ to 6’3″), with the widest point behind center

  • Ventura surfer Tom Morey invents the boogie board using polyethylene foam, an electric carving knife and an iron

  • Reno Abellira and Dick Brewer experiment with tri-fin designs

  • Pat O’Neill invents the surf leash, which first attaches his wrist to the nose of his board

  • Con Colburn, of Santa Monica, invents the leash plug

  • U.S. Champ Corky Carroll rides the wide-tailed “twin-fin” featuring two double foiled fins set right on the tail

  • Mid-length (6’6″ to 8’0″) narrow-tailed semi-gun speed shapes are popular in California and Hawaii

  • The Campbell brothers of Oxnard, CA introduce their three-finned “Bonzer” design

  • Ben Aipa innovates a spilt-back tail he calls the “swallowtail”

  • Smooth-riding urethane wheels bring skateboarding back in vogue

  • Jim Blears and David Nuuhiwa finish first and second at the World Contest riding Fish

  • Dick Brewer’s broad-based, thick-foiled single fin design is used to 90% of all surfboards built for the next five years

  • Ian Cairns rides a Bonzer to victory at the 1973 Smirnoff, beating Jeff Hakman

  • Hawaii Ben Aipa creates the split-railed, single-fin swallowtail “Stinger” design

  • Mike Doyle and Tom Morey introduce a soft surfboard with interchangeable fins

  • Australian Jim Pollard is credited with shaping the first deep-channel boards. Many embrace the design

  • Surfers Brian Gillogly, Clyde Beatty and Dean Edwards begin refining their “Rocket Fish” a prescient twin fin design

  • The average surfboard is now produced with six-ounce fiberglass cloth on deck and bottom

  • Use of airbrushed color on shaped foam allows abundant color on surfboards without significant weight increase

  • Mark Richards unveils his winged-swallow, towed-in flat-foiled twin-fin design on an unsuspecting public

  • Mark Richards’ version of the twin-fin takes the surf world by storm

  • Michael Barland invents computerized surfboard building in Bayonne, France

  • As surfboards are refined and weight is reduced; surfing maneuvers evolve

  • While the standard board uses 6oz. cloth, 4oz. cloth is slowly being integrated into pro performance surfboards


Adjustable Fin and Slotted

Gerry Lopez Pipeline Gun

Ben Aipa with Sting Surfboard

Mark Richards Twin Fins Off the Wall


4.4 billion

227 million


Loaf of bread: 85 cents
Gasoline: $1.25 per gallon
Movie admission: $2.60

No amount of skillful invent can replace the essential element of imagination.

~ Edward Hopper


  • Narrabeen surfer Frank Williams shows his three-fin design to Simon Anderson

  • Multi-fin surfboards (twins and tri-fin) spark a return to non-box, glassed-on fin designs

  • Simon Anderson designs a board that combines the three-fins with the “needle nose”

  • Hobie Surfboards introduces the Peter Pan Slug.  The Slug has becomes one of the best-selling models of all time

  • Simon Anderson adds a double-foiled trailing fin to similar-sized, flat-foiled side fins and calls it The Thruster

  • Subtle channels and concave bottom contours become common in all surfboard design variations

  • Serious experimentation with polystyrene blanks and epoxy resins is initiated in the U.S.

  • Gerry Lopez and other Hawaiian surfers try windsurfing in large North Shore surf

  • Simon Anderson wins Bells, the Surfabout and the Pipe Masters to prove the Thruster

  • Simon Anderson’s guns are swallowtails.  He wins the ’81 Pipe Masters on a 7’6″ swallowtail

  • Squashtails maintain dominance for most small/medium wave designs of the era

  • Cheyne Horan, men’s tour runner-up for the fourth time in his career, tries riding a 5’9″ surfboard at Waimea Bay

  • Four fins make a brief appearance, ridden by Australian pro Glen Winton and California freesurfer Davey Smith

  • Cheyne Horan begins working on the winged keel, inspired by the America’s Cup sailing races

  • Cheyne Horan introduces the winged keel and amazes all by winning the annual Bells Beach contest in Australia

  • Bill Stewart spearheads the modern longboard resurgence with the hydro-hull design concepts

  • John Bradbury, Clyde Beatty, Greg Loehr and others experiment with epoxy resin

  • Sunset Beach superstars Bobby Owens and Mark Foo swear by their oddly-curved, reverse rake Boomerang fins

  • Rash guard made of Lycra first used to prevent wetsuit chafing

  • Tom Curren wins the first of three World Titles riding a Channel Islands Thruster

  • The rubber-silicone nose guard first marketed by Surf Co Products.  Hawaiian Earl Arakawa and Dave Skedeleski developed the guard

  • Herbie Fletcher uses a JetSki to tow Martin Potter during the Pipe Masters in Hawaii

  • Multi-fin big wave guns become commonplace on Oahu’s North Shore

  • Auto-focus 600mm lenses by Canon, Nikon, etc. bring quality surf photography to almost anyone who can afford it

  • Willy Jobson takes the twin-fin, moves the side fins in and adds fins forward on the rail.  The design fails to catch on

  • Surftech develops a mold-lamination process using epoxy resin and polystyrene blanks

  • Warp cloth, a new fiberglass, is introduced but E-cloth remains standard for production boards


Simon Anderson Tri Fin Surfboard

Curren/Merrick Black Beauty

G&S Team Surfboards

Al Merrick Tri-Fins


5.3 billion

249 million


Loaf of bread: $1.57
Gasoline: $1.34 per gallon
Movie admission: $4.59

Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.

~ Benjamin Franklin


  • Rear-foot traction pads, led by Astrodeck, are standard equipment on performance surfboards

  • Modern longboards (single, tri-fin and 2+1 designs) regain popularity

  • Cut-away fin designs from the windsurfing discipline are adapted for use on modern longboards

  • Applied traction pads for the rear foot, led by Astrodeck, become standard on high performance surfboards

  • Astrodeck creates full deck traction pads for longboards

  • Kelly Slater test-rides the new Typhoon Lagoon wave pool at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida

  • Longboard resurgence creates a cottage industry of hand made single-fins, fitted to the Fins Unlimited channel box

  • Spray-on deck traction sees a return on both short and longboards

  • The 650cc Yamaha Wave Runner III emerges as the machine of choice for tow surfers

  • UV-Cure resins gain popularity in usage for surfboard ding repair

  • The first signs of color laminations reappear, and gloss-and-polish longboards become popular again

  • After a 30-year absence, 1960s style resin tints and pinlines return on custom longboards

  • Soft, rubber-edged fins are developed for use in interchangeable fin boxes

  • Aussie Brian Whitty designs the FCS plug, the first truly functional system for high performance surfboards

  • After a 30-year absence, resin tints and pinlines return on custom longboards

  • Natural materials like Agave Cactus are used for surfboard blanks with epoxy resins

  • Small (7’0″) solid, heavy wood boards with footstraps become standard big wave tow-in surfing

  • Karl Pope reinvents the two-piece travel board, “The Bi-Sect”

  • Soft surfboards make a comeback with Surftech’s soft-top technology

  • The typical tow-surfing board is down to 7′ x 15″ with lead for extra weight


Astrodeck Surfboard Traction pads

Kelly Slater Surfboard

Lisa Andersen & Al Merrick 1990-95

Pope Bisect Travelboards


6.7 billion

305 million


Loaf of bread: $1.72
Gasoline: $1.52 per gallon
Movie admission: $6.50

Style is a natural extension of who you are as a person.

~ Mark Richards


  • Retro board designs from the late 1960s and 1970s are re-evaluated and become very popular

  • Bob “The Greek” Bolen of Huntington Beach invents the Turbo Tunnel Fin

  • Hydro Epic produces a hollow carbon fibre and epoxy resin surfboard series

  • Randy French is voted one of Surfer Magazine’s 25 Most Powerful People in Surfing

  • Clark Foam’s closing is a catalyst for the greatest era of surfboard manufacturing diversity in years

  • Ocean-X constructs prototypes for a transparent skin, polycarbonate surfboard series

  • SurfTech has 10,000 TufLite boards in 150 different flavors in their Huntington Beach warehouse

  • Hemp, bamboo, flax and other natural materials are tried as a replacement for fiberglass cloth

  • The Ron Jon Surfpark project is shut down after millions of dollars fail to produce a wave

  • Kelly Slater wins the Pipe Masters on a 5’11”, four-fin surfboard later called “the Wizard Sleeve”

  • After almost three decades of tri-fin domination, four fin designs begin to make inroads

  • Nathan Fletcher adapts his small wave four fin Stretch models to big wave four fin guns


Bob ‘The Greek’ Bolen

Turbo Tunnel Fin

Tow-In and SUP (Stand Up Paddle)

The Future Fins


6.9 billion

309 million


Loaf of bread: $2.49
Gasoline: $2.73 per gallon
Movie admission: $6.50

An invention has to make sense in the world it finishes in, not in the world it started.

~ Tim O'Reilly


  • Scientists equip a board with an accelerometer, and other gauges. They find surfers experience up to 5 g’s

  • Kelly Slater wins the Teahupoo Pro on a four-fin. Later, he wins the U.S. Open at Huntington Beach, also on a four-fin

  • Shane Dorian wins the XXL Ride of the Year Award riding a monster Peahi peak on a John Carper four-fin gun

  • Global Surf Industries layers fiberglass and hand-laid coconut husks to create a surfboard that is 25 percent lighter

  • At the inaugural ASP Big Wave Tour event held at Pico Alto, Peru, 99% of all competitors ride four-fin gun designs

  • Mick Fanning wins the J-Bay Pro in epic conditions riding a Thruster virtually unchanged since 1981

  • Shapers now targeting volume and over-all water displacement (not dimensions) for performance shortboards

  • Surfboard and Fin flex is being seriously studied for future board designs and materials

  • Soft surfboard decks being developed to reduce impact on surfers ankles and feet of aerial landings


Kelly Slater with five fins surfboard

Shane Horan on McCoy surfboard

Mick Fanning

Mick Fanning at J-Bay Pro