History of Surfboards

Topics: Surfing, Surfboard, Surf culture Pages: 6 (1742 words) Published: June 1, 2014
Surfboards
Surfboards have come a long way to become as good as they are today. Many men have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of developing a better board for a better ride. Advances in surfboard design over the years range from size, weight and shape, to fins, to the materials used, to different boards designed for different wave types. Surfboard design has always been a personal thing. Shapers tend to be surfers themselves, and board design is as much an engineering act as it is a love for surfing. The history of the surfboard has shown great evolution in design and manufacture. Surfboards have been around for many hundreds of years. The Hawaiians were the first to invent the surfboard. The oldest surfboard in history dates back to 1778, and it is still on display in Hawaii’s Bishop Museum (“The History of the Surfboard – From wood to Fiberglass”). The first surfboards were carved from trees weighing 100 pounds, and having almost no maneuverability at all. The original Hawaiian surfboards were made from all sorts of trees and varied in length from 10-16 feet on average; however, board size was not based on skill level like it is today, but based on social class. The longer surfboards were for the royal family, and the shorter boards were for the peasants. These surfboards were made from trees and were solid. They had no fins and went in one direction only, straight ahead. During the late 18th century, Captain James Cook, a European explorer, sailed to the Hawaiian Islands and saw the locals surfing. By then, surfing was firmly established into the Hawaiian lifestyle and had been around for hundreds of years. However, when the western/white missionaries arrived to the islands, surfing nearly died out. At the start of the 20th century the missionary’s influence over the islanders began to decline and eventually the Hawaiians, Europeans, and Americans settlers began getting along and started surfing again. Amongst the new settlers was George Freeth, who through his surfing, experimented with board design and cut his 16 foot Hawaiian board in half, making the typical redwood Hawaiian board 6 to 10 feet long. George took his shorter board to California and became the first professional surfer. Soon after, surfing became more popular (“Surfboard History”). The major change in surfboard design occurred in 1926 when one the most well known names in surf history, Tom Blake, designed and invented the first hollow board. This design not only reduced the weight of the board, but also made it faster. The board was made of redwood, and had hundreds of holes drilled into it to make it hollow and was encased with a thin piece of wood on top and below the board. This new board was 15 feet long, 19 inches wide, and 4 inches thick and weighed 90 pounds. At first, the Hawaiians teased and poked fun at the new surfboard design, until they saw how much faster it was. Blake’s hollow surfboard idea took off and became the first mass produced surfboard during the 1930’s (“The History of the Surfboard – From wood to Fiberglass”). The next major changes to the surfboard design happened in 1934-1935 when the same Tom Blake added something called a “fixed fin” to the back of the surfboard. Before adding the fin to the back of the board, the board would spin out on the steep critical part of the wave. Tom Blake had got the idea to add the fixed fin from the idea of a keel on a boat. He tore a fixed keel off of a washed up speedboat and reattached it to the bottom of a surfboard, and it worked greatly. The fixed fin was one of the most influential breakthrough in the history of surfboards. The change gave increased stability, stopped the board from sliding sideways on the wave, and allowed surfers to have more maneuverability, which gave way for more intense maneuvers (“Guide to Surfboard Fins”). Blake’s design had inspired a group of surfers to experiment with the tail size of the surfboard. The group shaved off parts of the tail to get rid of...
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