Showing posts with label Vale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vale. Show all posts

Thursday, September 1, 2011

California mourns the passing of another Surfboard building legend

Iconic Californian Surfboard builder has passed away

Newport Beach, California: Robert ‘Russell’ Brown, founder of Russell Surfboards, who shaped custom surfboards in the city since the 1960s, has died. He was 63. Brown hanged himself, the Orange County Coroner's office has determined his death to be a suicide.

Robert 'Russell' Brown founder
of Russell Surfboards at the
'Echo Beach' movie premiere.
Brown was known for his handmade surfboards, and had become a legend in the Southern California surfing community, since opening his shop, Russell Surfboards, on the Balboa Peninsula, in Newport Beach in 1967.

On Tuesday, flowers lined the Newport Boulevard shop, some with pictures of children with their first board purchased from there. 

Russell, as most knew him, intentionally never changed with the times. He didn’t shift his small shop Russell Surfboards to adhere to the big business of the surf industry. He proudly ran a core surf shop – you’ll find no clothes for sale, except for the Russell Surfboards shirts he’d give away most of the time. Boards were the business here, hundreds of them lining the Newport shop.

Russell Surfboards Surf Shop this week in Newport Beach, closed
as a mark of respect to the founder's passing.
The surf world is now mourning the loss of another classic surfboard maker, who was one of the first to hit the scene in Newport Beach and whose name was synonymous with this part of the coast. If you rode a Russell, particularly in '70s, those next to you in the line up immediately knew you hailed from Newport Beach.

As news of his death spreads, friends and loved ones are remembering Russell for his character, and his contributions to the surf culture.

Customers and friends have been flooding into his shop – which was just recently moved from its long-time location to just north of the Newport Pier, closer to the beach.

Longtime surfer and Newport resident Tom Cozad posted this on his website
A note of thanks and and a last
goodbye to
Robert 'Russell' Brown
[click photo to enlarge]

“No other surfboard manufacturer has had a grip on the Newport surf culture as long, or as strong, as Bobby “Russell” Brown and his Russell Surfboards has. The older Blackies crew can be found cruising on his boards. The younger Upper Jetties crew can be found flying around on them. And the Underground Point and School Yards crews can be found pulling into pits throughout the world on them. No one person has transcended the vast array of Newport surf crews over the years like Russell has.”

Russell laid down the roots of surfing in Newport, and soon the scene exploded with the start of big brands taking over. While Russell was still a household name in the ‘80s, it wasn’t long before most surf shops were carrying the latest expanding lines of beachwear, sunglasses, and everything in between.

Not at the Russell Surfboard shop.

“There was all this potential money making, but he wanted to stay in his purist surfing ideals,” Reynosa said.

He often ate any profit on boards – if a board had a tag on it for $400, but a young surfer only had $200 in his pocket, he’d say ‘just take it kid, get outta here’, Reynosa recalled.

Despite his rough exterior, Russell has been described as a modest and generous man who became a dedicated friend to many.

Floral tributes garnish the
door of the
Russell Surfboards
Surf Shop
this week in
Newport Beach.
“The thing that set him apart was his complete lack of ego,” Reynosa said. “He didn’t even understand why anyone would think much of him, or why they would want to take a picture with him. He could never figure out why people wanted him to autograph his surfboards”

Friends say they’ll miss dinners shooting the breeze, the life lessons he shared. They said they hoped to share and maintain his legacy.

“The past few days, people have come in and out of the shop. I never really knew how much he was respected,” said employee J.P. Roberts. “He loved to build boards, he made them all by hand all these years. There are not a lot of shops like this left, but we’re going to try to keep it going.”

Customers and friends have been flooding into the shop - which was just recently moved from its long time location to just North of the Newport Pier, to be closer to the beach.

Russell is survived by his wife Cynthia, brother Richard, and sister Nancy. Thousands of surfers are expected pay tribute to Brown on Sept. 10th and attend a paddle-out at Blackie's, adjacent to the famous Newport Pier, at 7:30 a.m.

Compiled from various US Sources, with special thanks to the Orange County Register, Tom Cozad and Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime for the shop photos and who is the local editor of the Newport Beach Patch.

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

Monday, June 6, 2011

Memorial Service for Russell Hughes planned for Toronto, Canada

A more recent photo of former 60's and 70's
surfing great Russell Hughes.

Photo courtesy of the Kew Gardens Tennis Club,
Toronto, Canada
As we now well know, former legendary Australian surfer, Russell Hughes passed away on May 25th, 2011 at his home in Montreal, Canada.

He is survived by his wife Monik Roy and son Kokee.

Apart from his surfing abilities and love of the ocean, Russell was a keen and fit tennis enthusiast. As a lover of the game, Russell was a long time member of the Kew Gardens Tennis Club in Toronto, Canada.

The good folk there have posted their kind thoughts on how much they will miss their fellow player and dear friend.

If you would like to send flowers, cards or condolences to Canada, you can address them to:

4 Avenue Du Berri
St-Lambert, QC J4S 1H8

A celebration of Russ's life there in Toronto is being planned by his Toronto based Canadian friends. Date, time and details will become available as the finer details are worked out.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions, please direct them to Bryan Prettie in Toronto at 416 710 0644 or by email

As a long time Kew Gardens Tennis Club Member and friend to many, Russell will be sadly missed.

Steve Core

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Russell Hughes - Fashion fades; but style is Eternal

A Shane Surfboards Ad, highly symbolic of the era,
from the back cover of Surfing World Magazine
featuring emblematic figure
- Russell Hughes.
Image courtesy of the PT Collection.
Fashions fade - but style is eternal... so I have to thank life-long friend, and former '76 ASP World champion - Peter Townend for providing the scanned image of Russell Hughes here.

In direct reference to this very photo, PT stated this week from his home in Huntington Beach, and I quote - "when I was a grom and I saw this shot of Russell Hughes on the back page of Surfing World magazine, I immediately wanted to run down to the Mens Wear store in Coolangatta [no Surf Shops in those days] and get a shirt exactly the same. Russell was all about style".

This is an Ad for Shane Surfboards in the late sixties where Russell had just introduced his new 'Crystal Vessel' model. Few photos of the era convey such a strong sense of arrested time as this.

In the Ad, a handsome young Russell in his early twenties, has embraced the flower power culture [flowers were the chief metaphor for the peace movement] and he is posing in absolute sartorial elegance, modelling a San Franciso, Haight-Ashbury inspired floral piped, Nehru-collared hippy shirt. Set with matching heavy, wide wale, brown corduroy trousers.

But folks; it's important, please don't get 'Style' confused with fashion. 'Style' is an expression of individualism mixed with Charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.

Notice a very important aspect of the ad shot? What's missing? No surfboard in the frame - the man and his 'style' carried enough weight in 'sell' to make people want to invest in a new 'Crystal Vessel' surf board.

In those days, most icons had to be manufactured by the surfboard builders themselves. The advertising and results were unsophisticated, but so were the faithful. Style is a magic wand that turns everything that it touches to gold. And in the photo above... Russell Hughes is in gold.

Steve Core

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Russell Hughes - RIP

A surfing magazine Ad from circa '66/'67
when Russell Hughes had just signed
to surf and produce a model for Shane
Surfboards. Back when Shane Stedman
was still based in Eastwood in Western
Sydney [prior to moving to Brookvale].
Another great legend of the early longboard days of the glorious sixties era of surfing in Australia has passed away.

Sad news this week beginning to filter in as we learned that sixties and seventies reclusive stylist, Russell Hughes, has ridden his final wave.

After several battles with Cancer over the years, Russell aged 64, passed away this past week in Quebec, Canada, the home country of his surviving long time French Canadian partner, Monik Roy.

Originally from Brisbane in Queensland, Russell started his involvement with surfing and love of the ocean with the Surfers Paradise Surf Lifesaving Club.

Russell was a smooth wave rider and a true master of style. What Ernest Hemingway referred to as; "grace under pressure". He was a pathfinder and a bona fide Aussie surf pioneer in every sense of the word.

Attracted to the multiple point breaks, relative seclusion and clean living on the Northern NSW Coast in the late sixties, along with Bob McTavish, George Greenough, Nat Young, Chris Brock and the cutting edge crew, Russell was one of the handful of gifted surfers to be spearheading the avant-garde transition from clumsy longboards to modern responsive shortboards.

Always exhibiting style both in and out of the water. Who can forget Russell's classic floral Nehru-collared shirts during the flower power hippy era of the late sixties?

Researcher, biographer and curator of Cronulla's surfing legend; Bobby Brown, Queensland's Andrew McKinnon has penned a great exaltation on Russell's surfing history and achievements, as well as his recent past. I direct you to Pacific Longboarder's website to read a nicely written tribute:

To read Andrew McKinnon's veneration of Russell Hughes in Pacific Longboarder Click Here

One of my fondest memories of watching Russell Hughes surf, is that I was standing with a thrilled crowd on an offshore day at City Beach in September 1967, in Newcastle, NSW to see Russell take out one of his very rare major surf contest wins at the '67 Mattara Surfing Contest - in true contemporary style.

Despite his sparse list of contest victories and few podium finishes, he was regarded by all of his peers as one of our greatest surfers of his time. He was one of the headline surfers featured in Paul Witzig's 1967 breakout surf film 'The Hot Generation'.

Tributes are now beginning to pour in, not only from surfing's anointed royalty who shared many wondrous times over the years with Russell, but from a host of ordinary people who were simply touched by just knowing the this gentle and kind human being.

God bless you Russell, you will always be remembered in Australian surfing's folklore and your legacy of images will live on for many years to come. Time to join your old surfing soulmates Bobby Brown and Kevin Brennan who have been waiting in the line-up over that far horizon for some time now. I am sure you will be doing a beautiful, impressive, soul arch turn as you glide magically across the glassy waters in the straits between heaven's gates.

Steve Core

Below: See Russell surfing from George Greenough's Innermost Limits of Pure Fun

To watch a trailer for 'The Hot Generation' Click Here


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frank Latta Tribute

Very sad news with the passing of Cronulla surfing legend Frank Latta in August 2010.

I knew Frank very well in his old Cronulla days. He actually shaped surfboards for me in 1969 when I was making surfboards under my own name, Steve Core Surf Boards in Taren Point.

The footage I have posted here on You Tube is from my 1971 16mm film 'In Natural Flow'. I shot the footage of Frank at Sandshoes Reef in Cronulla in 1971. In 2010, thanks to the technical wizardry of the guys at Video-8 the footage has come up really crisp and sharp - considering it is 39 years old.

I had the footage close on hand because in the past couple of months I have been preparing 'In Natural Flow' to be re-mastered onto the digital format for general release on DVD in September/October this year.

The original 16mm Frank Latta footage at Sandshoes Reef is a buried treasure unearthed, because 'In Natural Flow' has not been screened or seen the light of day anywhere for over 30+ years.

For more information and details on my two films 'In Natural Flow' [1971] and 'Ocean Rhythms' [1975] please visit my website at Utmost Spirit.

Steve Core

Ad from Witzig's Surf International
magazine in 1969 when Frank
shaped for me
[click to enlarge]