Corky’s Corner: Getting to the roots of the shortboard
I recently got an e-mail asking me for my take on who was really responsible for the shortboard revolution that took place in the late 1960s. Was it the Californians or the Australians?
This subject has been debated for so long and I have read and heard so many different opinions on it that I hate to even offer my opinion on it. But I will anyway because I was deeply involved in that movement and for some reason, that I don’t fathom, hardly ever get any credit for. It’s not really not getting the credit thing that bugs me as much as those who take credit for these things when they shouldn’t. So anyway, here is the way I saw it all come down from a front-row seat.
In the mid 1960s California surfing was in love with noserideing. There was even a special noseriding contest that Tom Morey, of Morey Boogie fame, put on with a cash prize — the first cash prize ever offered. We were also riding pretty long boards at the time, mostly 9’6” and up. In ’65, Mickey Munoz, Phil Edwards and Hobie Alter came up with the “noserider” design for the Morey contest and that caught on big time. It seemed that they worked better in longer versions. Mine was 9’10.”
In 1966, the World Championship was held in San Diego. The Californians were favored. But we had heard about Nat Young doing some great things with a new board design and when he showed up it was apparent that he was onto something. His board was not really different than ours other than it was shorter. His was 9’2” — and him being a fairly large guy made it seem even smaller.
On the first day of the contest both David Nuuhiwa and I were able to beat him in sizeable lefts at Mission Beach. But then the event moved to smaller right-handers at Ocean Beach and he just flat out creamed all comers. When it was over he had clearly won and it was also clear to me that the shorter board length was the direction of the future.
Right after the contest got over with I started experimenting with all kinds of different shorter board designs. Dewey Weber made a little board for a girl surfer named Joey Hamasaki that was interesting but too square in shape for my taste. I borrowed a board from Mike Hynson that was pretty cool and I liked the nose outline a lot. I wound up using that outline along with a combination of the different experiments on the original “Mini Model” which we released at the end of 1966 and sold through 1967. That board was the first “shortboard” on the market.
These boards where not all that short by today’s standards, but for then they were radical. When I look back on those boards now they look like dinosaurs. I won almost every contest that year on boards in the 8’ range. Nobody else was riding short boards yet so I kinda had a huge advantage. I took some smaller boards to Hawaii that winter and everybody thought I was nuts. Dick Brewer told me flat out that they would never ride short boards in Hawaii.
By the end of ’67, the writing was on the wall and everybody was thinking “shorter.” Brewer made Gary Chapman a 8’11” semi gun and that board is called “the first mini gun.”
The Aussies showed up in Hawaii with a fleet of short wide “vee bottoms.” They had great results at Honolua Bay on Maui, but they spun out on the thick-faced waves on the North Shore.
In 1968 everybody was making short boards and within a couple of years longboards almost ceased to exist except in garages and under houses. Between late ’67 and the end of ’72 the most radical transformation in equipment took place. By then the boards were heading in the direction of where they are now. It’s been constant refinement since then and newer and better technology and materials.
So, getting back to the question at hand. Who was responsible for the shortboard revolution? If I had to pick out the one thing that triggered the whole thing and one person that I would give the credit to it would have to be Nat Young. It was his excellent surfing and powerful attack that won him the World title and certainly opened my eyes to a different and better way to do it. Here in California myself, Dewey, Hynson and maybe a few others were the ones who led the way — and Bob McTavish and a slew of others in Australia. But it was Nat Young who should get the nod for bringing on the shortboard revolution — in my opinion.
Corky is a five-time U.S. and three-time international surfing champion, currently offering surf adventure trips to surf with him at his home near Zihautanejo, Mexico. Send comments to email@example.com.
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