Source Documents
mctavish : new materials & windsurfing, 1981. 

Bob McTavish : New Materials and Windsurfing, 1981.
McTavish, Bob: Understanding the New Materials
  Tracks, Number 124, January 1981.
McTavish, Bob: Windsurfing - Are you ready for it?
  Tracks, Number 124, January 1981.

Two articles by Bob MacTavish (sic) published under the general heading of New Products.
The first article describes a number of then exotic materials that, prophetically, became familiar by the turn of the century.
He notes the initial experimentation with epoxy by sailboard manufacturers; although it took the
large European companies another ten years, and lots of money, before they were seen as a viable alternative to the cheaper roto-moulded boards or the quality of hand-shaped polyester boards.
In Australia, Simon Anderson had already marketed a roto-moulded single fin surfboard, similar to Peter Crawford's Slab knee board and the twin fin Bellybogger, ridden prone.

In 1989 McTavish introduced his Pro Circuit boards, machine-mould replicas of the boards used by several top professionals. .
Artist, Scott Randall worked for McTavish at the time and (in 2007) commented that the Pro Circuit Board, the precursor to Randy French's Surftech, was a well conceived, but poorly designed attempt at mass produced “pop-outs”, .
Although the designs were contemporary Thrusters, apparently the multiple fins were weak points as they were moulded with the board, in preference to the extra weight of fin boxes.
Conceivably, the light-weight FCS fin plug system, not released until 1994,
would have benefited McTavish's Pro Circuit designs.

French had previously produced Seatrend Surfboards and Sailboards in Santa Cruz, mostly in the traditional polyester but he also experimented with moulded boards such as the Aqua Toy, a small board for juvenile surfers similar to Australia's Pipeliner Junior and the WaveTight Capri.
By 1990 the major sailboard companies were producing their boards (and sails) in Asia and, following the sale of Seatrend, French started Surftech in Thailand in the early 1990s.
The company initially had considerable success with the growing demand for contemporary Malibu designs, large boards with a central fin-box, and later used the FCS system (or similar) for a wide range of multi-fin models in all sizes.

The windsurfing article is an mixture of personal experience, echoing the best of his writing in the late 1960s, and technical details with photographs by Jeff Devine and Peter Crawford.

Other articles of interest in this edition include:
Nick Carroll: Simon Anderson's Thruster
R.C. Pennie: Why Gays Don't Surf- or do they?

Page 31
Understanding the New Materials.
By Bob MacTavish

The cry has been going up for years... "Lighter, lighter, yet keep it strong!"

And the quiet, perhaps nervous reply has been coming back: "We can't, not unless the materials improve".
The trouble is, they have! Improved, that is.
Yes, the polyurethane foam blank has been in regular use since Grubby Clark invested some time, a little money, and an old shed and, egged on by Hobie Alter (of Hobie Surfboards and Hobie Cat fame) fiddled around a bit and came up with ... presto! a surfboard blank.
What was that... 1960?
Well, Hobie ran off with it and glassed it with fibreglass cloth (10 oz) and polyester resin.
Twenty years ago.
And we are still doing it, worldwide, today.

Photo Implosion
True, there has been some tuning, but basically we're using 50s technology in fact, more accurately, wartime technology, 'cause that's when those materials were invented.

Well, as you may have noticed, the motor car industry, the electronics industry, the entertainment industry, have not kept still.
Wouldn't you agree that they have come a long way since the war?
Well, what of the plastics industry?
Thirty years ago the only common plastics were stiff brown Bakelite, and cellophane.
A Plastic Bag was a valuable item, used, washed and re-used.
Just cast your eyes around your kitchen.
Your car.
Your clothes even.
Spot the plastics.

Then think about the secret industry, the one that costs us $1,000,000 a minute, the military industry.
Who do you think gets first grab of any hot new item that comes out?
Who's got the bucks to develop new stuff?
You guessed it.

So surely, with private industry supplying the government's materials, and even war products in the U.S., surely they, the big businesses, must look broader for markets for new products.
Surely they are available — or are they?

Well, judging by the surfboard industry you'd almost have to say "no".
But in reality, yes, there have been vast steps made in our kinds of plastics.
The hand laminate kind.
Heard of Kevlar? Carbon  Fibre?
What about "S" Glass, Kegecell and Mylar?
And their varieties, Satin, crows feet, unilateral, four in hand?

And Resins.
Why just polyester?
Epoxy has been on hand for years, as long as polyester it seems.
It's much much stronger.
Why hasn't it been used, at least in part?
And urethanes, especially the two pot mixes, fine finish resins.

And cores.
Why was styrofoam, "Coolite" rejected back there in 1960?
O.K. it's expensive to tool up for a plug, but it weighs less than half a regular blank.
Used with epoxy, you end up with, simply, a stronger, lighter board!
The elusive dream.

And you know what else?
Some guys used to use it, back in '58 to '62.
Like McDonagh Surfboards in Brookvale.
And Pa Bendall.
In fact Pa Bendall's were the first foam boards I ever saw, and beside our balsas, they felt so light you thought they'd float away.
"Too light, Ben. Get a balsa," we all cried.
He stuck with it for a couple of years, made about five, then started buying his ready mades in regular materials when they came out.

Anyway, now in 1980 a new force has emerged.
Sailboards to jump waves.
And land again.
Without breaking in half.

First the Hawaiians did it on a regular Windsurfer, and they held together just fine, as they are rotationally molded out of cross-linked polyethelene, an incredibly durable plastic.
But the weight!
They come in somewhere around 37 pounds.
So the well-off yanks start into the materials game, especially Ricky Naish and Larry Stanley.

First it's to surfboard blanks.
Too heavy, if you're going to glass it strong enough.
Next, to coolite.
That's better.
Now, to the skin.
Have to use epoxy with the coolite.
Glass? Now, what's new? Kevlar.
Three times the tensile strength and lighter.
Means you won't shear or snap a skin when you land on it.

But what's this?
The decks are collapsing under landing impact.
O.K. what's got compression strength? Carbon Fibre.
Latest aerospace fibre.
Really expensive. (Out here it's around $13 a metre for a two inch wide ribbon. $60 a pound in the U.S.)

Still popping 'em.
So let's make a sandwich out of it by putting a thin foam spacer between our cloths on both sides.
You know, cloth/foam/cloth, then the shaped core, then cloth/foam/cloth again.
Klege-cell, a spacer material.
All this combined together has produced a pretty durable, pretty expensive rig.
But they hold together longer than any other custom rig so far.

So back to surfboards.
What can we learn from all this?
Coolite is a light core.
Epoxy is a much stronger resin.
Kevlar won't tear.
Carbon fibre resists buckling.
Klegecell creates sandwich skins.
If you want to use glass, there's new "S"Glass, twice the strength.

Maybe you're curious enough to want a stronger board - or a lighter one — What do you do?
1.    ask your local boardmaker,
2.    make your own, or
3.    write to me, or
4.    wait 12 months till the big distributors make it easy for the manufacturers.

If you go for 1, you'll probably get a blank stare.
If you go for 2, get the pink pages out and use your brains and spirit of adventure.
If it's 3, you may have to wait till after the summer.
And as it's probably 4, you opt out for, that 12 months is only a figure; the reality could be well either side.

Oh yes.
On surfboard materials there's a few other processes we should mention.

Firstly, on skinning a shaped core, there's boogie foam, expanded polyethelene, same plastic as your lunch bag or your "Windsurfer" sailboard, only a different form.
Well, there's plenty of argument pro and con that stuff, and if it could be used in the correct way it would definitely serve a purpose.
But it ain't available, so forget it for the moment although there's talk of Aussie production.

Next, on to the molded models.
You may have seen Simon Anderson's, it's rotate molded polyethelene too.
And Pete Crawford's knee board.
And Bellybogger.
And the "Squatter" ski and the Hawaiian "Water Saucer".
But you aren't going to rush out and spend $8,000 on a die are you?
But boy, are they strong!
Wonky but undingable.

And finally the other successful molded model, the Hollow Wave, from California 10 years ago.
Actually the hottest molded board ever.
It was made of "pre-pregs", epoxy impregnated cloth, sandwiched around "Honey" comb" then shut off with heat — the two sides then joined like a ski.
Pity they weren't better received.
Strong, light but not quite accurate enough.
Very advanced, epoxy sandwich hollow construction.

Anyhow, back to earth.
Today you can put together a stronger, lighter, board.
But you may have to do it yourself.

Bellybogger, 1975.

Bob McTavish's Pro Circuit Boards 1990, contributed by Scott Randall.

Page 33
Windsurfing - Are you ready for it?
By Bob MacTavish

The Feeling

For three or four weeks I've had my Windsurfer sailboard on the lake — weekends, week days, at every opportunity.
There's been no surf so I've been stoked to have something else to do.
There's been heaps of wind, typical spring on the east coast ... endless northerlies.
Now I reckon I'm ready for the surf.

The book said not to take your rig into the surf
until you're what they call an "expert", but that book was from Europe and the guys that wrote it probably never even heard of surf till "Windsurfing".
Even now I bet what they call heavy surf is just our slop.
I've been surfing for ages, and I reckon I know how to get the sail up quick enough to try it between waves.
I'm a bit dubious about this breaking-a-mast story I hear.
But I'll give it a go.
Page 30

The adrenalin is flowing fast just carrying my rig down the beach.
The beach is deserted, eight in the morning, and the northerly is strong enough already for surfers to have written the day off.
The few tourists in town aren't up yet.
It's high tide, the dry sand is narrow, the shorebreak pretty steep, but close in there's a deep hole just beyond the shorebreak whompers, and further outside fifty yards or so there's the bank with a five foot set standing up.
If I drag the rig out past the shorebreak, I'll be able to get a clean start in the deep hole and wind up some revs before I hit the break itself.
Sounds good. . . but my old heart's a-thumpin.

O.K Ram the mast foot in the slot, tie it to the leg rope plug in case I lose it out there.
Now pick up the sail by the boom end, grab the hull by the nose, and drag ...

No problem, out through the shorebreak, (the tension's making my brain act funny).
Jump upon it, haul on the thick rope, up pops the almost dry sail, haul if over, pull the boom in, and "THWACK!" the sail fills, the power surges thru my arms, braces in my legs, my feet ram into the deck, and board leaps away like stamping on a V8.

Immediately, it seems, I'm hitting the first white-water wave, ripping straight through it, not even affecting the speed, which is getting greater and greater as I make subconcious adjustments to the wind.

The second wave is right there, bigger but white.
Ram into it, a slight lurch, but an immediate pick up as I clear the soup.
The next wave is green still, just about to break, but I get into it just in time, the nose penetrating the top.
I get a little airborne, lose a bit of speed, have to haul the boom on again when I get organised, a new start almost, the acceleration is phenomenal as I ram at number  four, a beautiful four foot slope with a little foot-high cap of white on the top.

I'm laid over in full beam reach as we rocket up the slope, kick onto the cap at the top and the rig and I are totally airborne, flying through space feeling unreal.
My feet grope for grip but there's not enough and as I land I come unstuck.

But no worries.
I'm out past the break.
Can safely get organised again!
Survived my first rip-out or whatever you'd call it.

And that's just going out!
The adrenalin has eased now that I've done something physical.
OK, haul up the sail, steady, things tend to rock about a bit out here, not like the lake.
Have to make several attempts at a speed start before I get going ... got to get your starting steps right, especially now that the chop and swell keep trying to throw me. Finally, I've got the balance, quick, haul her over, then sheet in, fall into the wind and OFF!

Another power surge and suddenly the low swells become ramps again and I'm leaping up and off them.
Never realised swells were so steep way out past the break.

After leaping and gliding a dozen or so I drop the power out of the sail, prepare to come around, and head back through the break.
This is scarey.
The white zone in there seems to be shouting "broken masts" at me.
But what the heck, you'll never learn how if you buzz around the lake all your life.

Spin the board around under my feet, let the sail feel the wind with my other hand now.
A quick look seawards.
A set — very close.
Can I handle it?
Ah well, let's find out.

Haul across, sheet in, and a steadier start this time, not so radical.
A swell is passing under me, I let it go.
Now, as it chugs away, I point up into the wind a bit, running almost parallel to the beach.

The next swell is clearly defined, approaching cleanly.
My brain is organized.
When I feel the swell get under me I'll throw the mast forward to pull the nose around toward the beach and pick up the swell.
I think that's the process.

Making nice speed, the board lifts as the swell gets under it.
I rock the mast forward, the nose immediately swings around like in a cutback, then the surge again as a new force comes into it.
Suddenly the sail goes light and the Board is doing the driving, racing off down the face, as all boards do.
It feels comforting to know I've been here before.
Feet and legs act instinctively to help the nose keep clear, just a simple glide ...
But what's this?
Five feet of wall is standing. . . looming. .. what comes next?
What do I do?
Out of nowhere, right on cue, the sail fills just a little and there's sufficient power to simply keep her running just in front of the tumbling soup.
II feels GOOD!
Easy, controlled ... for the moment.

Next minute I'm driving along the bottom

Photograph by Peter Crawford.

Page 34

something's gone wrong.
Soup's got me by the legs ... I do what I do on a board and drive the inside rail into the wall to counter the side drift.
That doesn't work... and I'm falling ... the rig's gone and the last thing, a sail grazes by my head ... nothing to grab.
I hardly even sink, just start clawing after my $800 worth.
I'm there almost right away — it didn't go far.
Now, what was the thing to do?
Get the mast out of water.
So I grab the tip, stand up in the chest deep swirl, hold it over my head as the next wave womps into me — a pull as the board gets caught.
Then it's clear of the soup bouncing over the back.
What next?
Slack off the sail.
Dive for the boom, grope for the rope, yank it out of the cleat.
And a slow wet billow of red and white folds up gently towards the mast lying askew on upside down board.

We drift off the bank into the hole giving me time to re-rig and give 'er another go.

That's the basic run-down on getting into the waves on a Windsurfer sailboard.
I mean basic.

You've all seen the photos of guys 10 feet in the air, totally flying.
If they were to describe the rush of confronting a ten footer at 25 knots it would totally overshadow my comparatively feeble experience.
And yet, that's the biggest buzz I've had in the ocean since that perfect swell nearly two years ago, when only half a dozen guys shared a perfect day of 10 foot walls at The Point.
Yes, sail boarding is a rush.

Photograph by Jeff Devine.
OK, so sail boarding doesn't turn you on you say.
So what's new? SURFER mag had ads on them 10 years ago; we've all seen dribs and drabs of it on the media, photos, in ads, you know the stuff.
I felt the same.
It looked like hard work
Then in February after a hot session at The Point, (the biggest clean day of the year still), the nor-easter drifted in.
Oh well, that's it tor the day, I says, and gets busy with other things.
At lunch, the wind is fairly howling.
We're sittin, eatin, when, down there in the break, what's this?
A white triangle, hurtling out through the great fines of white water .. hitting waves, leaping, getting going again, over and over, till clear of the white, then leaping, soaring over the big greenies, then out and gunning it till about half a mile out.
They must be sailboards, I says to my wife.
Three of em.
And look!
That one's caught a wave, a big one.
He's chargin' across it, headed right into the wind.
What'll he do when it closes out?
He just guns it out in front, onto the flat ... amazing!
So much speed.

I watch for half an hour, fascinated.
A dim outline
of an ambition, a goal, seems, to bee forming in my mind.
I'm going to do that one-day.
Next morning at The Point I tell Lennie and Andre about it, and Andre says he saw the lot.
Lennie has heard these hot guys from Hawaii are around- Robbie Nash or something, and Mike Waltz.
And an Aussie or two.

Turns out it was Mike Waltze, and Robbie Naish, not Nash, both from Hawaii and Mark Paul, hot Sydney wavejumper.
They'd been up at Coolangatta for Wrigleys, the chewing gum people, doing some kind of gig.

That was February.
My first experience in the waves came seven months later, in October.
(It took that long to get the necessary gear together, for about $800), but that wasn't the hazy dream come true.
Just the first feeble step.
Feeble, but FUN.

The facts
The sport is really "sailboarding", not windsurfing.
"Windsurfer" is the trade name of the first commercially produced rig ... a good name, yes. but still a trade name.

Holye;Schweitzer didn't actually invent it, but he sure made it viable, and that's important.

It's gone bananas in Europe, as everybody coming home from the World Contest will tell you.
But that's not usually a terribly stimulating concept to the Aussie mind.
Europeans, showing US how to do any kind of water sport ... the hide of it!
But Hawaiians, well, that's a different matter.
The Oz mind says, you take what they've got, and-do it, better.

It's not as hard as photos make it look, physically.
Oh, you get a good workout but you don't have to be a 14 stone sand kicker.
In fact, a big percentage of the hotties are light.
So it's technique (and a harness) that the secret.

Is it hard to learn though?
Well, compared to learning to surf, it's a snack!
But, get a lesson!
(Who, me?
Hey, I've been surfing fifteen years.
I've got better balance than the commissioner of taxation, you reckon I need some peanut who can't even surf to tell me how to hold a dumb sail up.
Just watch.
I'm going to be the one they'll all talk about: "he did it first time up!!).
Then minutes later— why are 
all those fishermen roiling around on the sand splitting with laughter, only a few fall offs.
Anyway, I'll get the stupid thing going this time. . . KER SPLOSH!

Page 35

It's a piece of cake if a good instructor teaches you the basic starting procedure on the beach first.
And if the wind is really light.
Don't get fooled by this macho stuff, "Oh I'll need a stiff breeze to give me some stability".
Not first time.
You've got too much to think of at first to want a wildly flapping sail and tons of force you don't know what to do with.
Be humble, you can't fail.
Then, when you've got the feel, go find some wind.

The surfing side of things is where it's really at.
Once you can handle a bit of speed and can do a pretty good speed start, you can think about the waves.
Once again, a modest start is best.

Photograph by Jeff Devine.
The next thing about it is, the whole sport is only 12 years old, basically, and the surfing aspect, well it's only been since about 1976 that the Island guys really started getting into it.
To me, it feels like surfing in the early sixties, when there were new manouvers to be developed, equipment was to be heavily modified and horizons were broad.
It feels like that, while surfing has been suffering the slow death from crowds, commercialism, crowds, and crowds.
Oh, you're going to get the sailboard eggs who won't ever hit it unless there is a crowd, just like his surfing counterpart we all know and love so dearly.
But the point is, as long as the wind is coming up the side of the waves (or down the side), like on our typical summer day, and has a bit of oomph to it, conditions are right! That means hundreds of miles of beach are on at any one time.
So off you go and find your own spot.

True, some spots lend themselves to it more than others, but haven't you been happy on that nice beach break alone while the crowd claws eyes out on the point?

Which leads us to ...

The fantasies ...
Some truly amazing things have been done, like Sunset on a sailboard, and plenty of lesser known but equally critical sailboard spots, like Hookipa Park on Maui's North shore.
And big waves at the bay near Kuilima.
I mean big waves... 15 feet at least.
And Long Reef back bommie, an ideal spot, big too.
And that big day at Lennox blew me out.
I mean, those guys were jumping ten foot close-out beach breaks, and many jumps, eight or ten or twelve, just to clear the break.

And that story of Arnaud de Rosnay, supposedly sailing 900 kms in a few days on his sailboard, through open ocean, leaving his back-up yacht lost in the night.
And from Alaska to Siberia across the Bering Straits (can you picture that?), on a sailboard.

Some guys can "sail" their board down the sand dunes on it's rail, into the surf, and kick it over and power off.

Others have made two and three man rigs on 20 foot boards.
There's a three man rig fitted with hydrofoils even.
Others with outriggers.
At the Weymouth Speed Trials for all kinds of sail powered craft, a stock Windsurfer with a big sail blew 'em all away on one run, the fastest thing under sail in the world.

So where will it go?
Well, hulls are undergoing incredible experimentation.
Most surfers like us guys want something hot pretty soon, so the custom lightweights and wavejumpers are hitting the ocean and, just like in surfboards, the shapers' minds are going berserk.
The latest shots in magazines are grabbed and poured over.
Here in Australia I see a huge call for the surf-orientated hull because our population is so heavy with surftrained consciousness.

In Europe they're still mainly after speed — through the water, flat water speed.
But here in Oz and also in Hawaii the surf calls loud so now that board designers of some depth of background, like Midget, Nat, Greenough and myself are hot for it — combined with the talents of Mark Paull and Mike Maguire — lookout world!!

There's got to be some way to incorporate another swivel and a bigger, different, hang glider-like sail, so you can pull the sail right overhead when you've jumped, or better yet, when you've caught a swell, running into the wind.
Then a low sail like that plugs into "in-ground effect" and you're actually flying, soaring like a gull or a gannett, over the swell with the offshore ruffles flying by beneath.
What a buzz!

But you know what?
When you're out on the rail hanging off your sail, roaring silently across some long swell on your standard basic every day old Windsurfer even, that's all you can see underneath; just the ruffles racing by, and streaks of spray jetting out from the nose.
What a buzz it is!
And it's getting better every day.

Page 30

Number 124
January 1981.

Understanding the New Materials.
By Bob MacTavish

Windsurfing - Are you ready for it?
By Bob MacTavish

Why Gays Don't Surf- or do they?
By R.C. Pennie

Simon Anderson's Thruster

By Nick Carroll


Geoff Cater (2019) : Bob McTavish : Windsurfing, 1981.