Refinements in Surf Board Technologies over the Decades

Surfboard Technologies pic
Surfboard Technologies
Image: popularmechanics.com

Based in Sonoma, California, Jon L. Curry is a general contractor who undertakes historic renovations and builds custom homes. He also sits on the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (SVMA) board. Having learned to surf under the tutelage of a well-known big-wave surfer, Jon L. Curry has an interest in an upcoming SVMA exhibition on the evolution of American wave-riding boards from the 1940s to the present.

By the 1940s, surfing had been present in California for three decades and had evolved from using bulky Hawaiian-style boards made of redwood to the sculpted, mass-produced “Cigar Board” of the 1930s. Balsa wood had come into use, bringing the weight of a surfboard from 100 to 30 pounds. Tapered tail ends gave wave riders greater control. Tom Blake introduced the fixed fin in 1935, setting the stage for the next major leap forward: the use of fiberglass instead of wood following World War II.

George Downing of Hawaii designed a method of creating boards from shaved polyurethane, with a fiberglass finish, that yielded “gun” longboards that could handle even the largest North Shore waves. In recent years, this basic model of the modern board has been further refined. In 2012, Global Surf Industries combined layers of coconut husks and fiberglass over an enlarged polystyrene core to create the lightest and strongest board to date.