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 bob mctavish  : break the straight line, 1967-8

Surf International
December 1967 - January 1968 - Volume 1 Number 2

At the end of 1967, Bob McTavish presents a ground breaking analysis of future advances in surfing performance.
The article does not have a formal title, hence the first line is quoted.
McTavish's central dictum is to break out from the straight line, and adjust to variations in wave speed by linking a series of turns to maintain momentum and travel at maximum speed across the wave face; not surfboard riding, this is wave riding.
This was a radical alternative to the accepted approach of adjusting to variations in wave speed by accelerating the board with trim and using stalls or turns to slow the board.
Less than six months earlier, McTavish had expertly analysed this superseded approach in: Bob McTavish is in this wave. He probably had a plan to get out of it.
This constant velocity style virtually established the direction of peak surfing performance for the next generation, and into the 21st century.
It was dramatically put into practice by Wayne Lynch, whose surfing in Paul Witzig's Evolution, 1968, had world wide influence.
Often overlooked by commentators, was the surfing of Nat Young at Broken Head in Albert Falzon's MOTE (1972); after not making the first two waves by attempting to trim in a straight line, Nat then shreds the rest of the session with a continuous series of bottom and top turns.
This technique was taken to its ultimate, turning inside the tube, by Shaun Tomson in the Off-the-Wall sessions captured in
Bill Delany's Free Ride (1977)

Essentially the genesis in print of what would be called the Short Board Revolution, the new approach was facilitated by the elimination of two feet of board.
In 1967, standard board length was about 9ft 6" x 23" wide, new designs shrinking below 8 foot in length.
Lengths continued to shrink and by 1970 most boards were less than 6ft 6", while board width was also progressively reduced down to +18".
These little wide-back machines (commonly labelled a Vee-Bottom Stubby) were only a brief stage of design development.
Initially with a negative wide-point (towards the tail, commonly called a pig-board), by mid-1968 the wide tailed Stubby had been replaced by a variety of foils (+ve wide point) such as the  Pintail,  small square-tailed Trackers or Double-ender round tails.
The pig template had some adherents in the early 1970s, but reappeared in 1978 with the No-Nose, typified by Cheyne Horan and Geoff McCoy's Lazer Zap.

Vee in the tail of surfboards became a standard feature in bottom design, but never as deep (3-4") as in the Stubby designs, it is best detected with a straight-edge ruler .

McTavish's praise for a changeable fin slot verges on prophesy, although a nose slot for real nose performance has yet (2020) to become a common feature.
In 1967, the available fin-boxes were expensive, heavy and bulky such as Tom Morey's Waveset, but by 1970 the introduction of the now universal Bahne box facilitated further experiments in fin design.
Bob's suggested designs included shallow drop- out fins (see the Side-Slipper), raked-back soft flex skegs, hot foils, and thrust fins, a faint glimmer of Simon Anderson's Thruster  in 1981.

Note that Bob McTavish specifically includes Midget Farrelly in the forefront of these design changes, a role largely ignored by the surf media of the time and, subsequently, rarely credited in retrospective analysis; particularly by McTavish himself..

The dates of Surf International magazines are not specified in the publication details, this article notes that it is written six weeks before news-stands.
Printed in Hong Kong, this was the standard printing lag and it is difficult to accurately date when the article was written.
Certainly with the rate of experimentation in this period, by the time the article was published, surfboard designs had been further refined. 
Page 8

The Flypaper ...
hanging under the curl banked over so your body weight
 is almost horizontal, pinned to your board by centrifugal force.

George Greenough developed it.

Page 9
Bob McTavish

Today, surfing's main school is the turn the board, walk to move out, get forward for trim,
adjust a little across the board, backpedal like a log-roller to haul the board into a cut-back type.

Noseride, slide white water, stick your body into any nearby mass of fluff.

CALL IT INVOLVED, "in", New Era, high performance, aggressive.

Call it anything.

Plenty of thrills in it, deep moving out, but, oh! in a straight line.

On the tip, hanging well over, feeling good, but that crazy straight line again.

Nice wall.

Walk up some, hold back on the inside rail, let it go!

Walk up for full trim.

Moving like crazy!

But. a straight line.


Go fly ...go free. ..up up and away down the barrel. ..down down and yup!
Drop, bounce, thrust. ..up, down thrust. ..cut!

Get your frame on the all-new

Kid's crazy.

Here's putting down news.

Surfing equipment evolution has swung into a new phase.
A huge new breakaway direction has sprung out of the conventional surfboard move.
The entire thought behind this new flow is freedom.
The entire freedom.
This is not surfboard riding.
This is wave riding.
These are not surfboards, these new vessels.
A board is a rigid flat plank for standing poised upon, balancing, defying waves from flinging.
The little wide-back machines, vessels or flying saucers are mind vehicles, just like your bodies.
Performing, like part of your body, the new unit will take your conscious many fantastic places, in some fantastic ways.

Elimination of two feet of board.
Limitation of walking.
Sounds like you're just going to hang around the tail.
Hang around upside down, sideways, doing 360 degrees, flying.
You see, the turn area doubles as a planing area.
It's wide and flat.
Many square inches of plane - acceleration and speed.
Fraction of a second from banking to full planing.
Maximum speed one-half second from banked on edge.
You can get yourself from some deep hole, out and up under the lip in the blink of an eyelid.
Up under the lip the speed you have allows you to bank up under there, much like a toboggan in an ice trough deal.
Centrifugal force.
The force that gave you the speed in the first place.
That wide, wide tail will not mush in.
That short length (7 feet and up) can be spun into a cut-back without ever digging and sinking.
Ridiculous manoeuvrability.
Especially the offsets.

Vertical performance.
Broken the straight line at last.
Replace nose riding as World's No. 1 fad?
Why not?
It's limitless.
Some exciting manoeuvres have been developed already, after only a few months of feeling out.
Try these.
The Superman.
First recognized and acclaimed at North Avalon, one Sunday nine months ago.
Ted Spencer on a standard board.
Blast up wave at great rate.
Two-thirds up, pull board out towards beach while still climbing.
Rise completely clear of the water, twist and drop back in after stall-out.
Best performed where you'd normally throw a conventional curl cut-back.
Desirable size 4 feet and up.
New equipment's great vertical speed and lightness make it a cinch.

The Flypaper is the most descriptive name yet for the hanging under the curl banked over so your body weight is almost horizontal, pinned to your board by centrifugal force.
Tremendous fun.
George Greenough developed it.

Really small arc turns are frequent on such small boards.
Really wind up some G forces in these tight powerful turns.
Feel your back ache and legs nearly buckle from rapidly doubled weight.

All kinds of bitchin climbs and drops of all classes.
Anything vertical.

At this early stage of refinement, it looks as though there will be no loss of noseriding, in fact probably a vast improvement over even the "noserider" shapes.
By moving the entire controls to the nose as soon as the surfer's weight is up front.
Perhaps even taking fulcrum up to a couple or feet from the tip.
Virtually still turning over the fin but on the nose.
Imagine the sensation of powering a full banked turn up the front, with the tail snaking along behind, even whipping along behind, like a mini minor's front wheel drive feeling, but really amplified.
Take off on the tip, take the complete drop just off vertical, power into a full blasting turn with your foot over the nose.

A great help is a changeable fin slot, it opens the range vastly.
Shallow drop- out fins, raked-back soft flex skegs, hot foils, thrust fins.
A nose slot for real nose performance.

Farrelly, Spencer, Young, Platt and this kid, were all riding considerably different styles of units at time of writing, six weeks before news-stands.
The wide range will give many results - by now we'll have the whole thing pretty wired.

Oh, yes.
It's all been done before.
Belly boards, kneeling did it.
And even Foley boards five and six years ago had the feel.
But now we're standing up digging it and doing it about doubly as well.

Surf International
Volume 1 Number 2
December 1967 - January 1968.

Page 8

The Flypaper ... hanging under the curl banked over
so your body weight
is almost horizontal,
pinned to your board by centrifugal force.

Tremendous fun.
George Greenough developed it.

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Geoff Cater (2000-2020) : Bob McTavish : Breaking the Straight Line v1n2.html