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History of Surfboards

An excerpt from Popular Mechanics website

CIRCA 500: Surfboards are to sixth-century Polynesians what Ferraris or giant flat-screen TVs are to Americans today—the ultimate status symbol. And size matters: Tribal chiefs and nobles ride boards as long as 25 feet, while commoners catch waves on 7-footers.

1778: During a stop in Hawaii, the crewmen of Capt. James Cook's HMS Discovery become the first recorded Europeans to witness surfing.

1907: Surfing makes its mainland debut at an event for, weirdly, the railroad. Hawaiian George Freeth—who reinvigorated surfing by cutting his 16-foot redwood board to a more nimble 8 feet—demonstrates his skills in this publicity stunt for the Redondo—Los Angeles Railway.

1926: Tom Blake—who was born in Wisconsin and later moved to Hawaii—drills holes in his 15-foot-long redwood board to reduce its weight, then encases it in two other pieces of wood. His friends scoff at the "Cigar Board," but in 1930 a version of his super-fast board becomes the first ever to be mass-produced. Seven years later, he publishes plans for a DIY board in PM.

1932: The introduction of balsa decreases surfing board weights from 100 to 30 pounds—which makes impressing beach bunnies by hoisting a board overhead much easier.

1934: Hawaiian surfers taper the tail end of their boards; the new, more hydrodynamic design allows them to maneuver into the curl of the wave and ride in the pipe.

1935: Blake creates the fixed-tail fin, which increases maneuverability and stability. (Twin fins hit surfboards in the late '60s, triple fins in the early '80s.)

1940S TO '50S: Fiberglass, invented in the '30s, is used on surfboards after World War II. In the '50s, Hawaii's George Downing creates "gun" longboards: Shaved from polyurethane and finished in fiberglass, the narrow, lightweight boards are ideal for big-wave riding.

1971: Sick of losing his board after wipeouts, Californian Pat O'Neill (son of wetsuit designer Jack) comes up with a DIY solution: suction cup + surgical cord = surf leash.

FEBRUARY 2011: Spanish firms Tecnalia and Pukas equip a board with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a GPS, and strain gauges to gather data. They find surfers experience up to 5 g's during sharp turns.

NOVEMBER 2011: Hawaiian Garrett McNamara rides a 90-foot wave—shattering the previous record, a mere 77 feet—off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal.

2012: Global Surf Industries layers fiberglass and hand-laid coconut husks over an expanded polystyrene core to create a surfboard that is 25 percent lighter—and 35 percent stronger—than most other boards. Surfboards continue to get more high-tech, thanks to devices like the WaveJet, a water-propulsion system that attaches to the bottom of boards and allows surfers to cut through water at up to 7 mph. Using the device, McNamara paddled into a 45-foot wave; the only way to catch a breaker that big before was to be pulled in by jet ski. Gnarly!

2019: Greenlight Surf Supply unveils the "Greenlight Method" of building surfboards and not only changes the way surfboards have been made for the past 60+ years but puts surfboard building into the hands of the surfers themselves for a higher connection to surfing waves and an ultimate sense of pride. The Greenlight Method reduces 80% of waste and dust made in the surfboard building process and incorporates a unique combination of a super durable EPS foam core with high strength hybrid fiberglass/carbon cloth and toughened epoxy resin.

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