I was reading through the February 1977 edition of the Australian magazine 'Surf' and I came across the an article called "The $8000 board".
It is about Mark Richard's famous Ben Apia shaped 'Flame' stinger.
It begins 'As we go through the seasons and surf many different surfboards, we often become sentimentally attached to favorite boards. Most you like, some you don't like and occasionally you find an extra hot one that suits your own style of surfing particularly well. To a surfer, good surfboard means a lot, so when you find a good one you try and keep it it as long as possible.'
The article goes on to reveal that the board had won Mark more than $8000 in 1977 which is equal to about $3 billion in today's money.
Apparently he had a pen friend in Hawaii by the name of Ronny Romero who was writing to him about a guy named Larry Bertelmen who was ripping on these Apia stingers. So when Mark arrived in Hawaii he went to Ben's shop and bought it off the rack for full retail- $200.
What I found most interesting was that Mark, a professional surfer, had had the board for 2 years and was planning to take it back to Hawaii for a third time. My new boards hardly last a summer and I'm not even a professional surfer. When I ordered my last custom and said I want a heavy enough glass job for it to go to Bali twice Froggy nearly laughed me out of the shop. Bastards!
My first ever custom ordered board was a little over the top even for 1983. I had waited so long for my own custom ordered board I added every feature possible just like when uncle Herb let Homer Simpson design a car. Homer added-
- Extremely large beverage holders.
- A horn 'here, here and here' cause 'you can never find it when you need it' and they all should play La Cucaracha".
- A little ball on top of the aerial so you can find it in the parking lot 'every car should have one'
- Tail fins.
- A giant spoiler.
- A 'letter box' intake on the bonnet.
- Bubble domes.
- Shag carpeting.
- For younger passengers a second soundproof bubble dome with optional straps and muzzles
Homer describes the car as "powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball".I added the following features to my space age custom surfboard design-
- 6'0" Greg Clough shaped Aloha quad.
- Double fly.
- Swallow tail.
- Channel bottom.
- 4 fins, the front 2 bigger than the back two.
- Custom painted blue fade stripes on all 4 fins.
- Textured deck for super fast application of wax.
- Rails sprayed dark blue to light blue and deck sprayed light blue to white with logo transfers with every colour available.
I describe the board as borderline unrideable as the channels fought the fin set up andthe double flyer swallow ail just made things even more complicated.
So when I found a similar example of the design for sale for $15 recently at a garage sale in Bondi naturally I just had to have it.
Today saw the close of the first online US Vintage surf Auction from Hawaii.
Although there were not many 'innovation period' pieces in the auction its always interesting to see the results. For example, a 1976 Lightning Bolt pin tail single fin shaped by Barry Kanaiaupuni 7’ 6", definitely the most prized collectible label of the 70s by one of the most sought after shapers. This all original Lightning Bolt was shaped and signed ’BK’ by the legendary Barry Kanaiaupuni sold for US$3500
But the piece of most note was a 1966 Greg Noll-Mickey Dora Black Da Cat 9’ 4" ’Black Cat’ which sold sold for US$19,000
You can check the entire listing of results at-
This has got to be one of my favorite boards in the collection. I found it in the roof space of a 'Money Lend' shop in Rockdale.
The 'Clinker Bottom' design is a combination of extreme vee and deep channels, usually four, placed between centre and side fins. Initially it was introduced on twin fin designs like this one, circa 1979 by Laurie Byrne at Byrne Brothers Surfboards, Wollongong, NSW and later used on 3 fin designs. Its 5'9" and has a single fly coming off the side channels with a swallow tail. It has really large base fins for this length of board. The spray is incredible, fading on the deck and striped down the rails finished with delicate pin lines. But it is the spray work in the channels that blows me away.
I've heard that its hard to get a good channel botom any more, not because the design isnt functional, but because glassers refusse to get in there and do all that extra work of glassing and sanding channels.
So one day I'm walking home from having a surf at Bondi. I'm walking up the stairs out the front of the Pavilion and I hear 'CLUNK' 'CLUNK' 'CLUNK' and I look over and this kid is dragging this Mark Richards stinger down the concrete steps by the tail. 'CLUNK' 'CLUNK' 'CLUNK'. I do a double take cause it looks immediately to me like one of the most famous boards in the world. Mark Richards 'Old Faithful/Flame' 6 ft 8" Ben Apia shaped stinger that he rode at the-
1976 Rip Curl / Mordy Bells Beach Easter Classic (second to Jeff Hackman);
1976 2SM / Coke Surfabout, Sydney (1st);
1977 (the first) Stubbies Contest, Burleigh Heads (Second to Michael Peterson).
I freaked out and caught the nose before it hit the concrete again.
A long story short, the kid went home from the beach in a taxi with his mates and I saved an important piece of surf history.
This board is not the one Ben Apia shaped for MR of course but a March Richards design made in Newcastle in about 1977 or 78.
Its main difference in design is the addition of the second fly or stinger, down near the tail.
I actually took this board up to Newcastle and offered it to MR as a gift. But true to his reputation as kind hearted soul he insisted that I keep it. What a great man.
Yep, that's right.
Best board ever, Local Knowledge 6'2" channel bottom, double fly, swallow tail, twin fin with super hard rails. Shaper- unknown.
I travel for miles to find boards, but this one I found just around the corner in Tamarama. As you can see in the sequence photos above it's fast and it can hold a line in the tube, the one thing twin fin critics say they can't do.
Of course there's no such thing as the the best board ever, only the right tools for the job.
This is my 6'0" single fly swallow tail twin fin with textured deck from Trigger Brothers on Victoria's west coast. The guy who sprayed it was obviously a Martin Potter fan as I found this pic in a Surfer magazine from 1982 of a hairless Martin Potter riding an almost identical board.
Sadly this joyful period of rainbow sprays and smooth shoulders came to an abrupt end when, in 1983, Martin started riding flouro geometric sprayed Town and Country's and sprouted a full back of 'buggers grip'.
Froggy and Joe Dirt have been arguing with me that although surfboard design may have stagnated in the past 20 years there have been huge leaps forward in the use of technology in surfboard construction. Expoxy, Tufflites, Bamboo rails, carbon fibre and the new hollow core Salomon boards.
He insisted I take a new 'Lost' hollow, carbon fibre fish away with me up the coast on the weekend and 'get with the program'.
I admit its a nice board, although it is impossible to wax a black surfboard in the sun. It's still not that much further advanced than my hollow polyurethane blow molded rounded pin tail single fin surfboard developed by (it says shaped by in the leg rope plug?!) Simon Anderson in the late 70's.
Be sure to click on the photos to see a blow up.
I was recently watching the 1981 surf movie 'Wizards of the Water' starring Mark Richards, Shaun Tomson, Tom Carroll, Bobby Owens, Jim Banks, Cheyne Horan & Larry Blair. I couldn't believe the size of the waves Mark Richards was riding his twin fin in at Mereweather in Newcastle. I could'nt believe his silver wetsuit either, but that is another post.
So I decided to see how big I could push it on a twin fin before the board stopped working. I took it out one day (alone) at decent sized Voodoo south of Sydney. The board went incredibly well! Which makes me think that what you can and cant ride in different size surf is all in your head. In fact most good and bad design is probably all just in the surfers head. If he thinks he's riding the best board ever made he will probably surf well. If he is unsure of the design, he will probably surf conservatively and think the board didn't go very well.
Which leads me to think that confidence in your equipment is probably your most useful aid to surfing well.
Here is a fine example of 80's innovation period surfboard designed and shaped by Glen Winton that I bought from Karl at Sam's board sale. A double hipped swallow tail, needle nose, quad fin with unique single deep and wide channel that goes 3/4 of the way up the board. It has interesting fin design too. The front 2 are long and elongated and are designed to flex and the back 2 are tiny but of the same design. Winton, known later as 'Mr X', grew up near Norah Head on the Central Coast of New South Wales and turned pro during the mid 80's. Rather than pick up on the unstoppable Thruster trend of the early '80s, Glen chose to run his own design race, developing a talent for shaping and re-shaping his equipment before during and after contests. He was known to lay resin edges along a board's tail, then sand them back in fractions, heat by heat, looking for the precise balance of release and drive. At other times he'd start an event riding a twin-fin, then convert it to a four- or six-fin overnight, or vice versa, depending on conditions - a somewhat radical approach that pre-dated the coming of multi-fin systems like FCS.
When I get hold of a vintage board I try and test it out in the conditions for which it was built to get a good idea of the functionality of the design. I'll take a Hot Stuff single fin out at Kirra, an Energy thruster out at Narrabeen and this Ligthning Bolt twin fin out at Makaha on the west side of Oahu.
I love the way the top photo (me in Hawaii) looks like its from the 70's cause of the red Bolt board and the empty beach. It looks like I could be part of Gerry's crew hanging on Sunset beach in m'74 (bottom photo). Stoked!