Source Documents
tracks : surfboard guide, 1977. 

Tracks : Choosing a surfboard, 1977.
Dick Van Straalen : Second-hand Mickey Mac : Custom
Steve Artis : Flutes. Surf Sure: Rail Saver.
Number 84, September 1977.

Choosing a surfboard was the first entry in a series  for beginner surfers titled So you want to be a surfie, detailing how to select a second hand board or ordering your first custom.

In Design, knee-boarder  Steve Artis describes his experience with flutes, small concave channels running out to the rails at the flyer or wing.

The edition also featured  an unusual photograph of
famed Dee Why knee-boarder Peter Crawford riding while standing and wearing his flippers or swim-fins and a sequence of a prone surfer on a Hodgeman mat at a right-hand reef break, possibly at Little Avalon?

There is an early advertisement for the rail-saver, initially marketed as an extra to prevent the rope twisting around the fin and biting into the rail.
By the 1980s, all commercial leg-ropes came fitted with a rail saver.

Page 24

So you want to be a surfie

This month marks the start of a new Tracks summer series for beginners.
The series will cover, step by step, all the hints that will help you when you're learning to surf and save you a lot of time and effort (and perhaps injury) by warning you in advance of the most common mistakes made by the novice surfer.
In addition, experienced surfers will be giving heaps of useful advice on everything from water safety to ding repairs.

Surfing is a rare and beautiful and very personal experience and a sport which can span a whole lifetime.
We hope that this series will help all learners whether you're six or sixty to experience that indescribable natural high that surfers call "stoked".
One wave, the first wave perhaps on which you totter to your feet, is enough to get you hooked.
Get in there and Get Stoked!
We know you'll like it.

Illustration by Ray Macara

part one : choosing a surfboard

Second Hand
The beginner usually falls into one of two categories.
One has been associated with the beach and the sea for some time, and has maybe been riding a mat or coolite board before deciding to try surfboard riding.
The other group has no ocean experience, they're completely new to the beach and the sea.
The two types of beginners need a completely different kind of board to learn on.

If you're a newcomer to all surfing activities you should look for a board which offers good stability and flotation since, to the complete beginner, good balance is the hardest and first obstacle to conquer.
At first you will find it difficult even just to lie on the board and paddle it through the water while keeping your balance.
You should therefore look for a wider, stable board, full in the planshape (that is with a
widish round nose and a round tail) with plenty of thickness so that it will paddle and catch waves easily.
The rails should be very, very soft and roundish.
Hard edges in the rails will only hand you up by "catching"
or digging in.

A rough guide to the size of board you need can be calculated from your weight
 A 100 lb novice surfer should get a board around 6'6", a 140 lb surfer should get a 7'0", and a 180 lb surfer a 7'6".

When you're choosing a second-hand surfboard (which is the usual course of action for a beginner) check carefully the condition of the board.
Look for cracks around the base of the fin and make sure the fin is secure.
Have a look to see that the glass is not "lifting" or coming away from the foam, and that any holes (dings) in the board have been mended properly.
Leaking dings can be spotted by a brown discolouration of the foam by sea water.
After you've checked the shape and condition of the board pick it up and hold it under your arm.
If the board feels nice to you that will help you to learn to surf—it's important to your mental attitude that you like the looks and feel of your board
going to spend a lot of time together.

If you are a beginner who already has some experience of surfing, either on a surfoplane, mat or coolite, the transition to stand-up surfing should be a bit easier since you will already have the feeling of balance when paddling and you'll be a lot more familiar with waves and the water.
If you weigh around 100 lbs or less you should be looking for a board about 6 feet long, preferably a round tail, but with nice thin round rails.
It should have an even foil and rocker (bottom curve) but a slightly thinner tail.
This kind of board is just slightly more sensitive than the complete learners machine.
Nevertheless the board should be reasonably wide (19 1/4"- 20") and have enough thickness for your to paddle it easily.

In summary, the beginner who has no previous experience of the surf should look for a slightly longer, fuller, rounder and thicker board than the novice who has been playing in the waves on mats or coolites.
The beginner with a little experience should look for a slightly more sensitive board (but not an advanced high performance board) which could be a round tail or swallow tail, slightly shorter and not quite as thick or as full in the planshape.

Dick Van Straalen

Dick Van Straalen is one of Australia's leading surf-board designers and shapers and has a surfboard factory on the Gold Coast—Ed.

Page 25

Custom Built
As a newcomer to surfing, the beginner faces an immediate problem when it comes to buying that first surfboard.
When you walk into the surfboard showroom you're confronted with an array of surf-boards both new and secondhand.
It can be hard to pick one out if you don't know what kind of board you'll need to learn to surf easily, and without problems caused by your equipment.

One way to overcome this problem of choosing a board is to have one made personally for you.
This is known as having a board "custom built", and the way to do it is to go to a board factory and (don't be shy) ask to speak to the shaper. A good shaper will ask you a few questions about how much time you've already spent in the waves, (either on mats or coolites or on borrowed surfboards) and he'll make a note of your height and weight.
From this information the shaper will be able to produce a board on which you'll be able to learn in the confidence that you've got the right equipment.
Whatever you do, whether you buy a board second hand, new from the showroom rack or custom built, stay well clear of radical or advanced surfboards—these are for the experts only.
And do take advice from people who make surfboards and therefore know what they're talking about.

Assuming you're in the 9-14 year old age group (which applies to most beginners) and you're of average height and weight, the board I would be shaping for you would be around 6'6" in length, and 20" wide.
It would have enough thickness to float you easily but not too thick.
An over-thick surfboard is too buoyant and behaves bouncily, like a cork bobbing on the water.

On a board like this you'd never get the real feeling of surfing or how the board responds as you shift your weight from the front to the back foot or vice versa.
The bottom curve or rocker would be even, and there'd be plenty of it.
But it's a soft curve rocker because when you stand up and you're a bit unstable on your feet, you'll have a tendency to rock backwards and forwards.
When a board has flat sections in the bottom curve it will tend to skitter away.
A bit of curve will slow the board a little on take-offs and be stable enough (in combination with the width and planshape) to handle your instability.
The rails would be roundish, very soft, especially in the nose area so that when you're staggering to your feet and rolling the board from rail to rail it won't dig in and spill you over the side.
Hard rails in the nose are not a good idea for the novice.
However in the tail area around the fin I would harden and thin-out the rails.
This will give the board a little extra speed that I lose by putting on an extra even rocker through the bottom.
This speed will be felt mostly in turning and will give you the acceleration you need in order to learn to manouevre properly.
As far as the planshape goes, I'd be going for a roughly elliptical planshape, that is a nose that is not too pointy, with a fairly wide round tail.
A 6 1/2" tail would be about right.
You can have a very nice, modern looking planshape but, at the same time, it would have the width, fullness and stability that you need.

The deckshape would be flat and the bottom would be flat too.
There's no need at all to have vees, concaves or channels in your first surfboard—it might feel and look nice on the beach but it won't help you out in the waves.

One last word on fins.
Make sure that the fin on your surfboard whether new or used, has a soft, round leading edge and has no sharp point at the tip.
In a used board make sure that the fin hasn't been damaged so that there are razor sharp splinters of shattered fibreglass sticking out.
Fins which are sharp or damaged are extremely dangerous, especially to the novice.
If your fin is like that take it round to the nearest factory and have the sander fix it for you.
Mickey Mac

"Mickey Mac" McCahon shapes Hot Roc su
rf boards in Brookvale,
the heart of Sydney's surf board industry—Ed.

Page 27


After surfing double winger area pins for over twelve months and continually refining the design.
I've hit on something which is giving the boards a little something extra in their performance; flutes under the wings.

I've seen them before and so have you but I know nothing of the history of this refinement.
My first real contact with the idea came just before this year's Coke contest when I sanded a couple of boards-for Reno Abellira.
Reno has been putting flutes under the wings of his shooters for some time and I remem­ber well how particular he was to have them sanded with acute precision.
When the time came for a new surfboard for myself I decided to give the flutes a toot.

The board I made has flutes under the first set of wings and while I'm keeping the detailed specifications to myself, I'm stoked on the way they work.
Bottom turns can be pushed much harder and tighter since the flute appears to be providing extra bite gomg into the turn and extra release coming out of it.

The board itself is 5'11" long and is proving to be very loose in waves from two to six feet.
At the same time it is great on a steep face and very positive through turns.
- Steve Artis

Sequence: Hodgeman Mat Rider, ?


George Greenough : Surf Mats.
, January 1977.
Hodgman Surf Mat #375

Page 21

tanding.knee-boarder Peter Crawford.
Photo: Martin Tullemans.                                          Rail Saver by Sure Surf Supplies
PO Box 85 Torquay 3228
$2.00 by post.
Initially these were marketed as an extra to prevent the rope twisting around the fin and biting into the rail.
By the 1980s, commercial leg-ropes came fitted with a rail saver.

Page 29

Number 84
September 1977.


Geoff Cater (2019) : Tracks : Surfboard Guide, 1977.