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  bob mctavish : a decade of design
A Decade of Design
By Bob McTavish
Tracks magazine January 1980
Copyright Bob McTavish 1980
*Annotation in italics or links to references in this page.

The seventies started with the tiny Aussie single fins, a rash of twins and the spaces were filled by Hawaiian speed shapes. The seventies ended with liny Aussie single fins, more twins and Hawaiian speed shapes. It may seem that this decade of design ended in the same place it began. But it didn't happen thal way. It's what went down in between that counts.

As everyone knows, the short board revolution of 67/68 set the surfing world on its tail, and a tremendous turmoil in design followed. Developments didn't just happen in the industry on a dollar level, but in designers' head,. Suddenly there was a blank cheque. The question was, how should we spend it? A forest with a dozen fascinating trails lay before us. Which one led to the right destination?

(George) Greenough was empathic about his hull fully bowled and obviouslyy ripping, Midget (Farrelly) was full into speed pins, narrow and very racey, handling big waves betterr than any previous shapes. Everyone was expanding the limits of performance in sizable waves. Up in Byron (Bay) we went for the flat bottom with rocker, and we went short, down to 6' 8'' in 1968. The same thing was happening in California, plus the super S deck, Tom Morey's 'Camel' with the hump.

In 1969, boards became shorter. Ted Spencer was riding less than 6' of suflboard with eggrails and he made the roundhouse cutback look easy. At Dale( Surfboard)'s we made plenty of 6'4" egg railed boards and they were well received. Some shops were going even shorter, but their rolled bottoms gave a dead response. Basically, in Australia an this time there were many theories being listed and some results. And in Hawaii something very position (sic. positive?) was happening.

With fast waves as the constant feature, the Hawaiians had the prime place for the testing of design theories. Dick Brewer took the wheel while Joey Cabell provided much of the force. The Hawaiian waves' speed and pitch eliminated the full nose, and Cabell named his new outline the 'no-nose'. Widths came down to 19 1/2'', rocker stabilised at 5'' nose, 1 1/4'' tail. I saw Cabell give Ryan Dotson , a current hot shaper, two graph paper designs. Outlines down on paper were identical, the only difference between the two was an extra 1/4'' of tail rocker in one board. The shape interview took 90 seconds with Ryan going to Honolulu to see Cabell about it. That's how onto it Cabell was.

Another strong feature that came out of Hawaii in 1969 really put them ahead - the down rail. I was with (Dick) Brewer and (Mike) Hynson in 1967 when we saw the first down railer, produced by an unknown on a 9' 6" board. Do you know how the three leaders in design from California, Hawaii and Australia at that time reacted? We laughed! The guy proceeded to paddle out at Pipeline on his knife-edged down railer and to our shock and amazement, it didn't dig in. It just flew across the wall (half out of control).

Two years later, Cabell had his rails down, nose to tail. like Midget in Australia, big wave npping like never before. Significantly, in Honolulu at Surfline (Surfboards), (Gerry) Lopez was doing shorter, wider, down railers with a small round in the bottom edge. They were very nice, and handled town surf like nothing before. Lopez was heavily into side slipping at this time.

OK, what's all this got to do wish the seventies? Stay tuned and I'll tell you.

How come Nat?
I'm in Honolulu an early 1970 and there's a phone call from the airport. It's Nat (Young)! Randy Rarrick and I pick him up and he's got his latest hoard with him- It's a 5' 8" squaretail. Russell Hughes, third in the world contest in 1968, arrives two days later with his 5' 8" and they 're raving about them. The boards are tiny down-railed little things. But Nat had just been done in the world contest at Johanna by Gunsmoke's kid, Rolf Aurness (son of James Arness, the star of a television western series, Gunsmoke). Rolf was on a seven footer, and Midget placed on a 6' 8'. How come Nat? We paddled out at 8' Ala Moana and I found out why. First he had trouble finding the right spot to take off.  Secondly, when he punched it with those giant animal feet he sunk it too far; it didn't push back ,and the power was being wasted.

I go back to Australia and start working on Hawaiian speed shapes at Noosa and Sunshine. Nat arrives back at the end of the year with Cabell's pintail template, his rocker template and you can buy one off Nat anytime, nine years later. They're truey a classic pintail (see # 38 ),but Nat still over-buries them. Please get back on a powerful tail Nat and blow them all away!

So it's 1970 and Rolf the world champ has gone to Hawaii. So has the number one surfer of the late sixties, Nat. Midget is there too and he is still a force to be reckoned with - all world champions.  As I explained earlier, Hawaii had it all together design wise when the seventies hit and their influence was world wide. Nobody seemed to mind much. Most surfers who loved waves thought a was long overdue. The home of the greatest waves in the world was finally making it. California was king through the early sixties, Australia through the later part of that decade, and now, in 1970, Hawaii ruled.

The next design influence of the decade slipped in late in 1970. I received a letter from Mike Cundith in Santa Barbara one morning supplying details of a strange little vessel with two fins (Twin fin 1). By 4.30 that afternoon Kevin Platt and I had one in the water al Sunshine Beach. I cut my foot on the back of the fn, caught one wave and chucked it. But or a few days it had become quite popular. We heard that Rolf the world champion was ripping on one in California. Tom Hoye arrived at Bennetts (Bennett Surfboards) and started ripping them out. Terry Fitzgerald (at Shane Surfboards) ripped into it along with the whole Narrabeen entourage including Dappa (Grant Oliver), Mark Warren, Col Smith and the rest.(most at McCoy Surfboards) They were simply ripping - shredding!

Col Smith was incredibly acrobatic at this lime. Fitz (Terry Fitzgerald), was covering so much territory and pulling electric cutbacks. Dappa and Mark were all over the wave. I missed this era -I was up north. But the magazines caught the action. At the same time, Michael Peterson was ripping around up in Queensland on a little no-nose squaretail.

But the Hawaiian pressure was too great. The twins and mini squaretails of Australia lost favour under the pressure from the big wave success of the Island designs.The Islands had the waves and at last they had the equipment to handle them. The results were so spectactular that the mostly small wave Aussie trends were overshadowed.

Island gun freaks
In 1971 Fitzgerald returned from his Island trip (his first I think) a total Brewer, Island gun freak. His full foiled spray jobs. ultra down the line body english specials influenced a lot of people. Then the final nail hit the coffin. Geoff McCoy went to Hawaii and returned as a total Barry Kanaiaupuni fan and started making Bazza's model, an Island style gun. Next he did (Jeff) Hakman's then Reno (Abelliro)'s and the Hawaiian domination was complete. (See  #210)
Design development stayed around the basic Island concepts but the tail outline came in for close scrutiny. Until this lime it had been pintails, roundtails and squaretails. Then in late 1972 Ben Apia in Honolulu announced the swallowtail. (Technically, a twin pointed tail was common on solid wood paipos of the 1920's, also note Twin Pin by Surfboards La Jolla, USA circa 1967)

In 1973 the loose, off-the-lip, swallow turned a lot of people on, Terry Fitz picked up on the wing. done originally on Greenough's Velo (Spoon) and copied and emphasised by me on Wayne Lynch's 1969 San Juan (Surfboard) and a few at Kevin Platts (Surfboards) in 1970. (I have no other supporting evidence for this). Terry Fitzgerald labelled it 'The Flyer' and it took off. Others got into it at the same time. John No-talk (?) at Lennox was one. 1973 was truely the year of the tail. Meanwhile, Lopez emerged as the star of the seventies and that's the way the story went until 1975.

1975 was the year the Australians stepped onto the Hawaiian made guns - Parishes - and scooped the pool. Ian Cairns, Peter Townend, Mark Warren and especially Mark Richards. I arrived in Hawaii in February and everyone was still scratching their head.What happened? The shift in professional power from the Islands to Australia set the stage for design changes. It provided the Aussies with the confidence to try their own equipment again.

You know M. R. had a twin fn stashed away somewhere there right through that period. He wasn't riding one, but he knew they worked. As far as I'm concerned the most signifcant surfboard made in the latter part of the seventies appeared at this stage. Mark Richards, asked Dick Brewer to do him a twin fin and paid hansomely for the priviledge of seeing and learning how it was done. He came home to Newcastle and proceeded to pick up where twin fin designers had left off a few years before previously. This time the board had Dick Brewers (Brewer's) Island power behind it.

With that little stick Mark proceeded to make his incredible low centre of gravity, leg-braced style work. Taking slow steady commonsense design steps to develop his twin design (Twin fin 2), he moved right ahead of everyone in the feld. Others, like Michael Cundith and the small band around him, had been developing it too, before if became a "craze" board. (Notably Steve Lis and his Fish devotees in California)

Meanwhile in Queensland, the seeds sown by (Michael) Peterson - the narrow nose, comfort-in-the-Kirra-tube number, were flowering. Dick van Straalen and company (The Surf Co.) popularised and modified little single fn squaretails that really took apart the Gold Coast's small waves. Gil Glover and Rabbit (Batholomew) moved into it too. The boards were almost like miniature Island sticks. They had the rocker and profile, even the rails developed by the Parrish push in the Islands during the 1973-75 period. But the outline was strictly Gold Coast design.

Formulas for the future
So here we stand, poised at the brink of the eighties. What have we got under our arms? In Australia, it's basically the two formulas just described: the hot twin, very short and punchy over a short distance, acrobatic and comfortable in and around tight areas. When put together by a qualified shaper, this little number should give no hang-up surfing to anyone agile enough to utilise its quick response.itsacrobatic qualities and its untapped future potential as we introduce newer and better pressure zones like the reverse see or concave under the wing, channels or nose to tail tucked under edges.

The small single fin, usually a rounded square, although it could have any reasonably full tail outline, is
the second basic formula. Sleek nose entry for longer twins means a no catch edge in vertical work like lip punching and re-entries. There's heaps of area under the feet for punch and rocker is flatter there for the same reason.reason. Tail lift to handle vertical drops and to loosen the tail has also been introduced.

Once again. the spaces are filled with Island gun concepts because they work when the waves get a little strong, long and large.

For me, the future of design lies in the area of technology. I don't necessarily mean materials but shapes. As I mentioned earlier the seventies have been a process of elimination - if it doesn't work, it doesn't survive. So by now, if a designer hasn't t got his formulas (formulae) right to the point we understand and his measurements right too, where is he going to stand as new pressure zones are utilised? When I write 'technology' I mean formulae, measurements, information, experience, accurate technique and attention to detail.

The current twin fin has new features, like variable axis. Ram wing pressure under your foot if you want - very shore engine room, good radar and safe outline curve - that's, technology. As bottoms become more complex we may have to use the plastics industry to incorporate ideas cheaply. But it has to be proven first. And that's where the seventies showed the way, by using the process of elimination.

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