Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Huntington Surf Pioneer passes away

Surfboard Pioneer 'Gordie' has passed away in California

The man credited with helping turn Huntington Beach into Surf City has passed away. Pioneering surfboard maker Gordie Duane was helping to transform Huntington Beach into a surfing capital when he received the city's first ticket - for surfing illegally.

The surfboard shop he opened at the foot of the town's pier in 1956 also served as a hangout for local kids who skipped school to catch waves. Huntington Beach took aim at the behavior by banning surfing after 10am, then made a statement by singling out Duane as the first official scofflaw, he later recalled.

Gordie Duane in 1988. His boards were prized for their
and design. Gordie's early commercial presence
helped establish Orange
County's Huntington Beach as 
the 'Surf City' it is today. Photo: LA Times 
"Back in 1956, they didn't want surfing in this town. Man, they thought it was a bad element," Duane told The LA Times in 1997, the year he was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.

Duane, whose custom made surfboards were prized for their craftsmanship and design, died July 27, 2011 of natural causes in Huntington Beach, he was 80.

"He was sort of the Mr. Big of board making in Huntington Beach at a time when Huntington was regarded as the board-making center of the world," in the late 1950s and early 1960s, said Matt Warshaw, author of "The Encyclopedia of Surfing."

When Duane opened Gordie Surfboards, dozens of other surfers were making and selling boards, but only his good friends Dale Velzy and Hobie Alter had similar storefront retail operations in Southern California, Warshaw said.

Gordie Surfboards' display booth at Surf-O-Rama
during the sixties in California.
As balsa wood gave way to polyurethane foam-core surfboards, Duane was among the first manufacturers to strengthen them in 1958 by incorporating a thin strip of wood — called a stringer — down the center from nose to tail. That concept endured and became and industry standard.

"They're still like that," Duane told The LA Times in 1980. "I have a reputation for being a rebel, okee dokee, but history is still history. God, if I'd have patented that!"

The surfing community nicknamed him the ‘Compton Cabinet Maker’, a nod to his beginnings. Regarded as a talented surfboard shaper, he originally honed his skill with wood while working at his uncle's cabinet shop in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.

"Gordie was a supreme craftsman and his shapes were better than most," Steve Pezman, publisher of the Surfer's Journal, wrote in a remembrance.

The classic 'Gordie' Surfboards logo and in behind
it - the wooden stringer - a 'Gordie' innovation 
In the late 1950s, Duane was also known as the "King of the Abstracts" for dramatic designs that ran the length of the board, according to Pezman.

After a 1958 fire destroyed Duane's shop, he reopened nearby on Pacific Coast Highway and remained in business until 1988. "He truly helped turn Huntington Beach into 'Surf City,'" said Tom Hamilton, who joined the local surfing scene in the 1960s. "He was one of the industry giants."

Gordon Patrick Duane was born Feb. 2, 1931, in Los Angeles and learned to surf in his early 20s while serving in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He made his first surfboard out of surplus balsa wood from Navy rafts. Upon leaving the military, he moved to Compton and started making commercial surfboards in his parents' Lynwood garage.

He made over 6,000 balsa boards before the invention of the foam blank. To stop the the early new foam blanks from bowing, Gordie cut them in half and put a wooden stringer in them - being the very first to do that. Between '56 and '80 - he shaped, glassed and produced about 50,000 modern foam and fibreglass surfboards.

As a surfer, he was a member of the Hole in the Wall Gang, a Huntington Beach group that was the hottest team in amateur surfing in 1977. At the time, members ranged in age from 23 to 54 and had won about 20 Western Surfing Assn. contests in a row. The Hole in the Wall Gang was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in July. Duane's survivors include a daughter.

Read the full story in the LA Times

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vintage Car Takes Out Vintage Surf Shop

Vintage car takes out Vintage Surf Shop - but no fear; some Vintage CHiPys are on the scene...

A wayward car takes out the front window of 'The Greek' Surfboard Shop in Huntington Beach.
Photo Courtesy of the OC Historical Blog

Just love this classic black 'n' white image above - which shows Bob 'The Greek' Bolen's retail Surf Shop which was [in those days] located right on the Pacific Coast Highway in Surf City; Huntington Beach in the sixties and seventies.

After an automobile accident on the busy PCH, the vehicle has careered out of control and crashed through the shop's front plate glass window taking some brick work and the supporting frame work.

With his clipboard out, and in attendance on the far left, you can see the classic 'Chippy' - a member of the California Highway Patrol. [Hands up those who can remember the lightweight CHiPs crime drama on TV in the late seventies?]. In the State of California, CHiPs are responsible for patrol jurisdiction and enforcing law on California roads and highways - they also act as State Troopers.

The famous 'Surfboards by the Greek' logo
Surfboards By The Greek was a creation of a true Californian surfing legend; Bob 'The Greek' Bolen, who grew up surfing the beaches of Orange County.

Nicknamed 'the Greek' by high school buddies because of his Greek ancestry, he decided to call his brand 'Surfboards by the Greek'. By his own admission, he figured names like 'Surfboards by Bob' or 'Surfboards by Bolen' weren't going to cut it.

'The Greek', as he is known in the Surfing Industry, started surfing in 1958 and began shaping in 1959. The Greek started out making surfboards for himself and a few friends, but it was a local bicycle shop owner who gave him his first shot at building boards commercially. Witnessing the huge growth in surfing's popularity, he asked Bob to make boards to sell in his bike shop.

Bob in the halcyon days of Surfboards
by the Greek in Huntington Beach.
In 1960 Bob opened his own shop, where he manufactured and sold surfboards. The shop closed its doors way back in 1980. But thirty years after shutting the Surf Shop, Bob is still just around the corner where he sells real estate. His office, at 322 Main St, in Huntington Beach, also features a small 'Surfboard Museum'. The accident photo above came from the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board.

Even though he shut the doors of the shop in the summer of 1980, Bob never traveled far from the beach he loved or the surfing industry he helped change with his now-famous surfboard shapes such as the The Maui Model, The Eliminator, The Liquidator, The Pickle and The Outlaw (among others). More recently he has added The Stylemaster and The Shorty to his growing list of memorable designs.

In 2011 at 68 years old, Bob 'The Greek' Bolan is still considered by many of his peers to be an all-time master of his craft. 'The Greek' has been designing and shaping custom surfboards for over 45 years. In 2006 he was inducted into Huntington's Surfing Walk of Fame.

Today: Californian Surf Legend Bob Bolan in his unique
Huntington Beach Surf Museum/Real Estate Office
To this day, you can still check-out his surfboard designs when visiting Huntington Beach Realty... a real estate office/surf outlet, where Bob is the Broker/Owner as well as the President of Surf Incorporated.

Bob says; "my office looks more like a Surf Shop than a Real Estate office". The office is located right on Huntington's famous Main Street at 322 Main Street in Downtown Huntington Beach, CA 92648.

After all these years; Surfboards by The Greek are also still available. Click here for their website.

Steve Core

AUG 2011: Check my brand new blog; Swap Surf - a blog [as it grows] that will list, detail and report on Surf Swap meets and dry land surfboard events. Click Here

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Surf School Instructor sees amazing sight in the surf...

Surf School students take a pause in their lessons to watch the launch
of the Space Shuttle 'Atlantis' last week from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Photos courtesy of Florida Today
I am a big fan of the Space Shuttle program and I am very sad to see the program come to end. On my many surfing expedition trips to Florida over the years, I have been lucky enough to witness first-hand, three live launches of the Space Shuttle over it's 30 year history - which covered some 134 mission launches.

I have to say, it's one of the best things I have ever seen with my human eyes!

My good friend from Florida, Surf Contest Announcer and founder of Indo Boards - Hunter Joslin took me too my first ever live launch of the Space Shuttle back in 1983.

Together we had just done the commentary for the '83 OP Pro in Atlantic City, New Jersey and had driven and surfed the entire US East Coast from New Jersey all the way down to reach Hunter's home in Florida.

The Mission logo from STS 08
from back August 1983
On the 30th of August 1983, Hunter and I were standing on the beach at Cocoa Beach at 2:00am in the morning to watch the first night launch of just the eighth shuttle mission ever [STS 08] and it was flown by the Space Shuttle Challenger [that was subsequently lost in a disastrous fashion during take-off on January 28th, 1986].

I am also reminded in looking at the photo at the top, I have some really good friends who are Surf School Instructors. One of them is Cronulla's own Mark Aprilovic.

A time exposure of a Space Shuttle launch, as reflected in
the waterways behind homes near Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Mark runs the very successful Cronulla Surf School in Cronulla. Another good Surf Instructor friend is Rick Gamble.

Rick, an expatriate Aussie, is the only fully qualified instructor on the island of Phuket in Thailand. [Yes, Phuket gets surf]. He also runs the only hard core surf shop in Phuket located in Surin Beach - the shop is called Saltwater Dreaming.

I wonder if my good Surf Instructor friends like Mark or Rick will ever see anything like a Space Shuttle being launched while giving a surf lesson in Cronulla or Phuket? Quite an amazing distraction as you paddle back out to the line up eh?

In the photo at the very top taken last week; Lauren Holland, holding the board on the right, is a surf instructor for School of Surf in Cocoa Beach, Florida points out the launch of the final Space Shuttle Atlantis to two of her surf students Sam Jannke, 10, left, and his brother Gianni Jannke, 12, from out in the surf off the end of Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach.

What a classic backdrop sight to have during your first surfing lesson.
Steve Core

AUG 2011: Check my brand new blog; Swap Surf - a blog [as it grows] that will list, detail and report on Surf Swap meets and dry land surfboard events. Click Here