The Shortboard Revolution – Nat Young

An abrupt acceleration in the evolution of surfboard design took place over a three year period beginning in 1967 – commonly referred to as ‘The Shortboard Revolution’. Surf Historians point to the World Surfing Championships that took place in 1966 as the pivotal moment that ignited the shortboard revolution. The Americans were favored to win but it was Nat Young from Australia who took the honors on a board he called ‘Magic Sam’.

George Greenough and the Spoon Kneeboard

Magic Sam had been inspired by a kneeboarder from Santa Barbara, California – George Greenough, who had been traveling and surfing in Australia and experimenting with kneeboards that flexed – made with a thin layer of fiberglass with foam rails with a narrow-based high-aspect fin that was patterned after a bluefin tuna. Because of their dished out appearance, this style of kneeboard is still referred to as a ‘spoon’. Riding his small ‘spoon’, Greenough was able to do things and go places on a wave that had not been seen before.

Bob McTavish and the V-Bottom Surfboard

I was another Australian, Bob McTavish that refined the shortboard concept, but further reducing the length and adding Vee to the tail section – adding fuel to a revolution that was heating up.

Dick Brewer and the Mini Gun Surfboard

Around this same time that McTavish was refining his wide-tailed V bottoms, Dick Brewer had been experimenting on Maui with new designs as well – boards he referred to as “pocket rockets” or “mini guns”. Like McTavish’s V bottoms – Brewer’s earliest pocket rockets were basically trimmed down longboards. The big difference was that instead having a particularly wide tail like the Australian counterpart, his mini guns had a narrow / pulled in pintail.

Lightning Bolts

By 1970, the shortboard had been refined by nearly three years of relentless tinkering, shaping, testing and re-shaping. Lightning Bolt was the predominate label through much of the 1970s.  Led by Gerry Lopez, Lightning Bolt quickly became an elite boutique, with Hawaiian shapers Tom Parrish, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Bill Barnfield, Reno Abellira, Tom Nellis, Rick Irons, Bill Hamilton, Tom Eberly and Bill Stonebreaker all shaping boards out of their homes and bringing them to the Bolt retail store – all of them trimmed with that unmistakable electric logo.

Bonzers

By 1973, the Campbell brothers had seen early versions of two fin boards come and go, and they thought their three fin Bonzer had more to offer but they had only limited success marketing the boards themselves. So early that year they took the Bonzer to Bing Surfboards and signed a deal that payed them two dollars a board.

Stingers and Swallow Tails

Ben Aipa was another surfer / shaper that had an appreciable influence on the evolution of surfboard design in the early 70s. He opened his business the same year as Lopez’s Lighning Bolt shop – 1970. Within two years he introduced a more maneuverable, split-tailed “swallowtail” design. Aipa did not invent the form but did refine it and added ‘wings’ – a cut or step-in on the rails of about an inch at roughly one-third up from the tail. This allowed him to keep the width and volume of a normal board while making the tail more narrow and maneuverable. He called these swallow tail boards with wings ‘stingers’. The result was some of the most innovative small to medium-wave hotdogging the world had ever seen by local Hawaiian boys Larry Bertlemann, Michael Ho, Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani, Mark Liddel.

1970s Single Fin Surfboards

Through much of the 1970s, single fin boards dominated the landscape. Besides Lightning Bolts and Aipa stingers, some of the most prized 70s boards were built by perennial masters like Dick Brewer, Mike Diffenderfer, Mike Hynson, and David Nuuhiwa.

Mark Richards and Twin Fin Surfboard

Two fin boards had been experimented with since Tom Blake’s first attempts in the 1930s. Simmons built a number of them in the 50s. As early as 1968, Surfboards La Jolla had a two fin model – the ‘Twin Pin’. Other companies made a go at producing boards with two fins through the early to-mid 70s. But none of these attempts received any recognition of significance. It wasn’t until Mark Richards (MR) refashioned the two fin idea in 1977. Like the Bonzer MR’s fins were towed in and cambered out but they were not keel-like, they were of a more traditional design. Twin fin boards were hugely popular – until the Thruster made its appearance.

Simon Anderson and the Thruster

Like MR, fellow pro-surfer Simon Anderson was looking for a competitive edge. In late 1980, he began to experiment with boards using a three fin set-up. Like so many great ideas, they had been tried before. Dick Brewer tinkered with three fins in 1970, the Campbell brothers had limited success with their Bonzer starting in 72, and there were likely many others that dabbled with the concept but none took hold.

Simon Anderson’s design was made using three fins of roughly equall size. A center fin near the tail and two outside fins located close to the rail that were towed in and cambered out – a concept first created by the Campbell brothers then refined by Mark Richards. Anderson called the new model the ‘Thruster’ and it worked well.

Following the success of the Thruster, experimentation with fins ran rampant – if three was good perhaps four or five fins or more would be better. But to date, no other fin configuration has come close to making the kind of impact the Thruster did.

Today, some thirty years after Anderson first unveiled his Thruster – most boards, including longboards, kitesurf boards, SUP (stand up paddle) boards and tow boards use an adaptation of Anderson’s three fin set up.

Late 1960s Shortboard Makers and Models

Bing Surfboards

Pintail Lightweight, Lotus, Australian V, The Foil, Karma, Maui Foil, Glass Slipper

Challenger Surfboards

Micro Model, Star II Model, Platypus, Micro Roller, Island Lightning, Micro Railer, Micro Missle, Sudden Burst

Con Surfboards

C.C. V-Wedge Bottom, Super Ugly, Iron Butterfly, Mini Gun, The Auzzie, Butterfly Gun, Blue Morphos

Dewey Weber Surfboards

Strato, Ski, The Foil, Squareback, Feather Fastback, Performer Squareback,

Gordie Surfboards

Assassin, Quarter Speed

Gordon & Smith Surfboards

S.S. Model, Midget Farrelly V-Bottom, Hot Curl Pintail, Skip Frye Baby Gun, Skip Frye V-Bottom, Frye Double Eagle, Frye Fly Fishing, Magic Model, Gypsy Ryder, Fast Frye, Small Frye

Greek Surfboards

Maui Teardrop, Maui Bullet, Small Dimension, Macintosh Apple

Hansen Surfboards

Derringer Model, Doyle Eagle, SF 360 Model, Gerry Lopez Model, Baby Gun, Spherical Revolver, The Dimension

Hobie Surfboards

Corky Carroll Flexible, Corky Carrol Mini, Corky Carroll Hawaii,
68 Gary Propper, G.P. Wedge, Super Mini, Tri Plane, Silver Bullet, C.C. Deadly Flying Glove, Straight Arrow, Lee Roy Ah Choy, Positive Force

Holmsey Surfboards

Time Machine, Pin Wheel, Kaleidescopic Round Tail, Supersonic Flying Wing

Jacobs Surfboards

Mike Purpus V, Mini Gun,

Morey-Pope Surfboards

Stradivarius, Soft V, 68 Machine, Sopwith Camel, Camel, 3/4 Camel King, Camel Gun, Camel Minipepper, Camel Dart, Magnum, Island True Model

Greg Noll Surfboards

The Blob, Ironing Board, Super Pintail, The Bug, Fain Formula I, E Coast Custom, Fain Formula II, Roundtail Spear, Hawaii SS Roundtail

O’Neill Surfboards

Mini Gun, Love Craft Model, Morning Star

Rick Surfboards

UFO Stubby, Plastic Fantastic, 68 UFO, Gun, Tempo, Surf Disc,  Vector

Surfboards Hawaii

Hawaii V-Bottom, Aquarious Model,  Transition, The Roach, The Mini Brute, The Mystic

Yater Surfboards

Hawaii Model

For a whole lot more information on vintage and collectible shortboards from 1967 through 2013, including hundreds of photos, each with detailed descriptions and values, see the chapter Shortboards: V-Bottoms and Mini Guns and  Bolts, Bonzers, Swallows, Stingers, Singles, Twins and Thrusters in The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Surfboards & Collectibles.

Buy- The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Surfboards & Collectibles.

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