Tom Blake invented the hollow board in 1929 as a response to heavy solid wood Hawaiian surfboards which proved unmanageable and heavy for him to control. By creating lighter boards with greater maneuverability he found relief.
Wally Frosieth, John Kelly and Fran Heath of Hawaii took Tom Blake’s work one step further by narrowing its nose and tail, modifying its rails, and creating an inverted V or U shape on its bottom surface. This allowed for easier maneuvering across waves as well as glide out on shoulders with ease for surfing in tight curls – something never before possible!
Tom Blake was one of the most significant figures in surfing history, revolutionizing it through lighter boards and alternative construction techniques he pioneered. An early adopter of fins, he published one of the earliest books about surfing titled Hawaiian Surfboard (1935).
Tom Blake is an inspirational story that continues to reverberate across time, encouraging countless individuals from various walks of life to experience life more fully. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he spent his early years in Washburn where he could escape from daily pressures while developing an immense passion for swimming.
His family was devastated when his mother died from tuberculosis as an infant, leaving him to be raised by relatives in Washburn. Following the Spanish flu epidemic that struck America in 1919, he dropped out of high school to explore New York, Florida, California and Hawaii – ultimately wandering across all four.
Aspiring to emulate Duke Kahanamoku, who visited Washburn during an exhibition tour in 1920, Blake decided to follow his dream and relocate to Hawaii so he could pursue surfing. While in Hawaii he designed a hollow surfboard which was lighter than traditional solid-wood boards used at that time.
Blake’s board was half the weight of traditional Hawaiian planks and much easier to transport to beaches. Additionally, he created the fin that allows for tighter turns at tighter angles while increasing stability when riding waves.
By 1928, Blake had introduced his newly designed board to mainland audiences at Corona Del Mar Beach during the inaugural Pacific Coast Surfing Championships. Ten thousand beachgoers witnessed its premiere.
Though successful in the water, Blake became restless over time and could no longer remain in Hawaii for long. Ultimately he moved to Southern California, where he found work as a lifeguard at Boca Raton Beach Club.
He was an inspired inventor, creating the first hollow surfboards that were more maneuverable than their solid-wood predecessors at that time. To accomplish this feat, he first drilled holes into a 15-foot long solid-wood paddleboard in order to reduce weight before covering both its bottom and top with thin plywood panels for insulation purposes.
Hobie Alter, known for creating the surfboard and catamaran that made sailing accessible to more people, passed away recently at 80 years of age.
Hobie Alter was an innovative self-taught innovator. At 15, he started crafting wooden surfboards in his garage at his family’s Laguna Beach home, later selling them successfully through Hobie Sporting Goods company he established. Hobie died Saturday in Palm Desert.
Hobie Cat made sailing more accessible by creating a high-performance catamaran known as the Hobie Cat. This made sailing easier for everyday people at an accessible price point of $999; becoming one of the world’s best-selling catamaran models and spreading sailing beyond swanky yacht clubs.
At an early age, Alter had a clear vision for his future: making a living without hard-soled shoes or working east of Pacific Coast Highway and hoping to do it while he was still young.
Alter’s family owned an orange farm, yet he was drawn to ocean life. He would spend summers at his family’s vacation house in Laguna Beach and eventually started shaping balsa surfboards for friends.
As his hobby evolved into a business venture, in 1954 he opened the first surf shop in Dana Point. Soon thereafter he went on to develop other watersports products, including remote controlled gliders, skateboards and even hybrid “surfboard-skateboard hybrids.”
But his greatest innovation was creating polyurethane foam surfboards – lighter, faster and more responsive than wooden boards – which quickly found favor among surfers.
As a result, he was able to produce boards in larger quantities at prices much lower than custom-made boards, creating the foundation of Californian surfing culture that became synonymous with fun and lifestyle.
Alter, the son of a second-generation orange farmer, had two passions in his early life – woodworking and the ocean. By merging these interests into an innovative career and developing products to simplify life on the water, Alter created products which helped people enjoy this way of life more freely; forever altering world events. His unique legacy will long outlive him.
As more small waves were added to the World Tour, Australian surfer Simon Anderson felt pressured to find ways to enhance his performance on boards that didn’t hold as well in these smaller waves. In particular, he wanted something which could perform in what he termed as the ‘grey area’ – that being what wave size most often appeared during tours.
Anderson rose to this challenge by devising an innovative new board design he dubbed “Thruster”. This fin configuration allowed Anderson to have the drive of a single fin with the speed of twin fins while still offering stability during turns – something crucial when riding small waves.
Anderson built the initial prototype Thruster in October 1980 and took it with him on his maiden pro tour to Hawaii. Additionally, he produced another Thruster for use at the 1981 Bells Beach Classic where it won first prize.
Tri-fins quickly became one of the go-to surfboard shapes after this win, becoming a fixture among high performance quivers and shaping surfing’s history worldwide. Credited with revolutionising surfing itself and being replicated globally.
Anderson first made her trademark thrusters under Energy Surfboards label and this original example is stunning. Based on comments posted to Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook thread it seems likely this board was created in 1983.
Anderson is known as an internationally acclaimed futurist speaker, emerging technology and trends consultant, and author of the 2014 Bellwether Award-winning book Foresight 20/20. As such, he works to assist leaders identify opportunities within rapidly advancing technologies that are rapidly changing businesses and communities worldwide. Furthermore, he enjoys urban exploration and has long been involved with Communities of the Future International Organization.
Winton is an award-winning professional surfer and shaper who is widely credited with popularising the quad-fin setup, which is effectively a re-design of twin fin. Now one of the world’s most commonly used surfboard models, it has become part of Winton’s signature style and can be found both Hawaii and Australia.
Winton first created his board, called ‘Pig’, using balsa. However, soon afterwards he recognized that polyurethane foam would make an ideal material to replace wood for longboard design purposes. So in mid 1950 he began producing polyurethane foam designs commercially.
Glen Winton combines Australian and American styles using an assortment of materials. He developed a board with an instantaneously recognisable cutback stance.
John Kelly began experimenting with fins on his plank surfboard to gain greater control of waves, ride them more smoothly around curves, and ride more easily in and out of curls. To this end he attached a 1′ long by 4′ deep speedboat skeg from its tail to his surfboard — one of the key milestones in surfing history.
Inspired by this design, a young Hawaiian shaper named Dick Brewer began creating fins to assist his customers in riding more comfortably in the water and perform turns more easily. Additionally, his designs featured square tails – precursors of today’s swallow tail designs.
Australian shaper Jim Pollard introduced another influential design, the “channel bottom”, in 1974. This design would flush water from behind the board towards its wide point for maximum speed.
Later in the late 1970s, Geoff McCoy and test pilot Cheyne Horan conducted experiments aimed at creating what has since been termed ‘Needle Nose’ or pig-tail shapes that allowed for increased speed and tighter turns; now one of the standard tail designs.