Surf board history
19 September, 2022
Looking for winter activities in South Australia? How about surfing? Not keen on freezing cold water? Then how about reading about the history of surfing and move particularly, surf board history? In this article, we explore the rich history of the traditions and experiences that put together the futuristic-looking surfboard we know today.
The early forms of surfboards during the late 1800s consisted of planks sourced from Pacific islands’ wood, such as Koa, Willi Willi, redwood, and Ula. Redwood was one of the common materials used for surfboards circa the early 1900s, but it was notoriously not waterproof. The board had the tendency of getting heavier and uncontrollable as it spent more time in the water.
Balsa wood from South America made its mark as early as 1932. A balsa board tipped the scales at an average of around 15 kilograms, and back then, it was big news when searching for quicker, lighter boards. The boards of this type were watertight due to the added layers of glue and other combined materials.
By 1946, board manufacturer Pete Peterson showed the world the first board made of fibre glass, encased with fibre glass tape, with a redwood stringer at the innermost core. A few years later, California maker Bob Simmons popularised what was known as a "sandwich" surfboard, since it consisted of a foam core and was wrapped in plywood.
As the 1960s ended, synthetic materials rapidly supplanted hardwoods. By 1969, builders such as Pete Brewer and George Greenough contributed to the rise of 1.8-meter shortboards, also known as "pocket rockers," as 3.2-meter long boards were sometimes a challenge sending over waves. Longboards let surfers ride waves vertically; shortboards have the same performance, but also the capability to carve turns.
The major advancements in surfboard design that came out of the 1950s- 1960s — such as lightweight foam, flexible fins, fibre glass material, and speedier shortboards—remain up to the present.
At this point, the evolution of fins on boards is a cool story in itself too. The tri fin setup, which is rather a common surfboard now, was non-existent during the days of wooden boards. Later manufacturers unveiled a single fin type, which gave boards a little amount of stability. During the 1970s, an Australian named Mark Richards created what was known as the twin fin surfboard, which featured two somewhat larger fins on both sides. That allowed more control over the board, which is excellent for those practicing techniques.
In the 1980s, Australian-born Simon Anderson came up with the tri-fin design, also known to some as the thruster setup, which is still used in around 90% of surfboards today. The tri fin setup slightly increased the width of the surfboard's back. But performance improved with the addition of a little more drive and steadiness.
More recently, developments over the past 20 years centered on the rail curve and how engineering could be applied on the underside of the board. For different levels of surfers, there are several rails bends available. These innovations are important too since a softer, more curved rail dampens turns and is preferable for beginners; a straight-cut rail allows for a faster turn. On the underside, cuts are made in the shape of the water flow. A surfboard's double concave bottom diverts water via two tiny depressions, resulting in a smoother ride and simple control. A V-bottom provides along the center of the board a V shape, which aids in mounting vertical waves.
We hope you enjoyed you winter activity of learning about surf boards. Now time to brave that freezing cold water as they actually say the surf is better in winter in South Australia! All the best in your next surfing lessons and make sure to send it!
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