The Shortboard Revolution began in 1967 when longboards reigned supreme and over the next 2 years, board lengths dropped from 10-foot to 7-foot. Such was the era of hippies and psychedelics.
The designs that defined the summer of ‘69 actually had their origin in the fall of 1968 at the World Surfing Championships in Puerto Rico. While Hawaii’s Fred Hemmings eventually won the contest, it was the influence of the Australians that was the talk of the event. Defending champion, Nat Young, lead the charge and it was his designs and his fellow Aussies, that set the American manufactures on a path that came to fruition in the summer of ‘69.
At the Puerto Rican event, everyone took notice as to how much more manoeuvrable the Aussie boards were and began to mimic, duplicate or downright copy the designs. It took about 6 months for the major manufactures to develop a design, come up with an advertising campaign and then break the ads in the major surf magazines—which was how everyone found out what was happening in the design world. The American manufactures scrambled to sign the Aussies onto their teams, with Nat Young going with Dewey Weber and Keith Paull going with Bing. Midget Farrelly was already with Gordon & Smith and Bob McTavish was with Morey-Pope. The surf media of the era became infatuated with the influence of Australians and everything was about “high performance.”
These boards were displacement hulls with high rails up front and a rolled-belly nose blending into a flat, down-railed tail. There was virtually no bottom rocker, which meant the tails were dead straight for speed and contributed to an S-deck with kick in the nose and a hump in the middle, caused by the straight, almost reverse rocker. The move to a George Greenough inspired fin resulted in multiple fin systems, which allowed the fin to be moved up and down, along with more foil in the fin and less area. The three main systems were the modified Variable W.A.V.E. Set, the Fins Unlimited Vari-Set and the Guidance fin systems. All the major manufactures came out with a model that represented this push and there were, among others, the Weber “Ski”, the Bing “Foil”, the Gordon & Smith “Magic”, the Morey-Pope “Camel”, the Surfboards Hawaii “Aquarius” and the Design 1 “Reflector”.
What is interesting about these boards and the other models from the summer of ‘69 is that they were the last cheer for many of the major manufactures of the time. They had been trying to emulate the advertising campaigns of the longboard era and that just was not what was happening anymore. By the end of the summer of ‘69, these boards were made obsolete, and the death blow came with Mike Hynson’s introduction of the breakaway rail design, which was the flat-bottomed nose and down-rail design that changed everything. Within months, nearly all boards went to flat bottoms and more tail rocker. The belly noses were gone and everyone had low rails. It was also the beginning of the garage soul, where design characteristics were coming from regional backyard designers at such a pace that the big manufactures could not keep up with the changes. So, the shapes of the summer of ‘69 were the last link, bridging the gap between what had been the longboard era and the opening of the door for the modern shortboard.
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