obelian : early big wave design history, 1989
Surfer, Volume 30 Number 10, 1989, pages 104-105.Give It the Axe
Early Development of the Modern Gun
by George Orbelian
Board, Axe and Knife
Photograph : Gary Lynch, page 104.
Takaki and George Downing were introduced to fiberglass by
in June 1948.
They met Simmons in California on their first surf safari outside the Islands.
Simmons showed them his first unfinished prototype: a lightweight surf- board made with balsa rails, a plywood inlay deck/bottom and a styrofoam-filled core (shaped to fill the hollow cavity of the board).
The balsa rails were foiled both in length and cross-section.
The deck line on the bow was scooped more than any they had done or seen as of that date.
Simmons told them that to build a board of this type he had to use fiberglass for waterproofing/sealing of the glue seams, and estimated the firiished weight to be 30 pounds (boards at that time were 50-120 pounds).
He also showed them how fiberglass could be used to hold together a bad/failed seam by fixing Downing's wing-nose, which had broken off that day after running into the pier at Malibu during a kick-out.
They watched Simmons fix the board that night, and were introduced to the complete fiberglassing process.
Classic men, classic equipment :
John Kelly, Wally Froiseth, George Downing,
credited with reinventing the big wave surfboard in 1936.
Photograph : Gary Lynch, page 106.
Back in Hawaii, Brown, Froiseth and Downing decided to work with lighter boards, and started to experiment with the skeg.
The first skeg they used was one taken from a water-ski, which was both troublesome to attach and dangerous.
As they lightened boards and reduced bottom curves, the tails started sliding-ass again, which convinced them the skeg needed more attention, if they were to continue on this design approach.
Because of the time involved in fiberglassing a skeg onto a board, Downing invented a wooden skeg/fin box, which he made out of teak.
He built a new balsa/redwood board, fiberglassed it, installed the box and started experimenting with skeg sizes and shapes made of wood.
Once he got the right skeg in the right spot, it was fiberglassed to the box.
2. For Catalogue details for two boards referred to in the above article - click images below.