The history of surfboards
22 June, 2023
Early forms of surfboards in the late 19th century consisted of boards originating from Pacific Island forests such as Koa, Willi Willi, Redwood and Ula. Redwood was one of the most common materials for surfboards in the early 1900s, but it is known to be not water resistant. The board tends to get heavier and more out of control the longer it is in the water.
Balsa wood from South America became popular in 1932. The average balsa board weighed about 30 pounds, and that was big news at the time in the quest for faster, lighter boards. This type of panel is water resistant due to the additional layer of glue and other composite materials.
In 1946, board manufacturer Pete Peterson showed the world the first fiberglass board wrapped in fiberglass tape, with redwood strings at the innermost core. A few years later, Californian manufacturer Bob Simmons popularized what they called "sandwich" surfboards because they consisted of a foam core wrapped in plywood.
In the late 1960s, synthetic materials were rapidly replacing hardwoods. In 1969, major builders such as Pete Brewer and George Greenough contributed to the improvement of the 1.8 m shortboard, also known as the "pocket rocker", as the 3.2 m board was sometimes a challenge to transmit waves. Longboards allow surfers to ride the waves vertically; Shortboards have the same performance but also the ability to carve turns.
Major advances in surfboard design from the 1950s and 1960s – such as lightweight foam, flexible fins, fiberglass materials, and faster shortboards – are still around today.
At this point, the development of flippers on board is also a cool story. The three-fin arrangement, which is more of an ordinary surfboard today, was absent in the wood board age. Later, manufacturers introduced a type of fin that gave the board a certain stability. In the 1970s, an Australian named Mark Richards created what he called a double-fin surfboard, which featured two slightly larger fins on either side. This allows for more control over the board, which is great for practicing technique.
In the 1980s, Australian Simon Anderson invented the three-fin design, also known as the thruster arrangement, which is still used in about 90% of surfboards today. The three-fin arrangement slightly increases the width of the back of the surfboard. But the performance has increased with the addition of a little more propulsion and stability.
More recently, developments over the last 20 years have focused on rail curves and how the technique can be applied to the underside of a board. There are multiple rail turns available for different levels of surfers. This innovation was also important because the softer, more curved rail softened the turns and was preferred for beginners; Straight cut rails allow for faster turns. A cut in the form of a stream of water is made at the bottom. The doubly concave bottom of the surfboard circulates water through two small indentations, resulting in a smoother ride and easier control. V-Bottom provides a V-shape in the center of the board which aids vertical wave installation.
We hope you enjoy your winter activities while learning to surf. Now is the time to brave the freezing waters, because they say the waves are better in the South Australian winter! All the best for your next surf lesson and don't forget to send it!
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