pods for primates : a catatogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
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design history overview 
History of Surfboard Design : Overview.

Emaill correspondence, February 2010 (edited to retain anonymity):
"I am getting a little pissed off and now set the record straight as all
this yahoo of Simon Anderson invented the triple fin (thruster).
I invented the triple fin in 1966-67 built by XXX Surfboards in Adelaide
when you guys were in nappies and I will if required prove it."

Some brief comments pertaining to the history of surfboard design:

Precedents and Experimentation.
Surfboard design is rarely the result of pure individual inspiration (the notable exception is probably kneeboarder, George Greenough).
Invariably the designer is aware of design precedents and/or waveriding experimentation.
Design experimentation is usually validated by a group of "test pilots" who provide performance feedback.

An Evolutionary Process
In a majority of cases, surfboard designers attempt to improve wave riding performance by either:
a. take an existing design and by modifying or changing one specific feature.
b. combine two or more previously delevoped features to produce a new design.

Successful surfboard designs are generably not patentable, and most attempts to do so have been demonstrably unsuccessful.
When a new design becomes available it is able to be quickly reproduced by other manufacturers from an existing observed example, diagrams or photographs.

Successful designs are promoted to the surfing community by either, and often a combination of:
1. available as a commercial item.
2. media exposure.
3. contest performance.

Designs are detailed in various media- magazines, books, films, videos, DVDs and the internet.
Apart from the recently developed internet, most media has a significant lag-time between composition and publication.
For most magazines, the lag-time can be up to three months.
This was significantly reduced in Australia during the 1970's with the adoption of the low cost newspsper format by Tracks magazine.
For books the lag can be twelve months,with a similar time for film.
Video and DVD releases can be somewhat shorter.

Contests have been instrumental in presenting new designs to a wide and experienced peer group.
Significantly, contest reports can be critical in specifically dating design developments when subsequently detailed in various media.
While most commentators focus exclusively on contest winners, when discussing design it is just as important to examine those who are finalists.

The Surfer/Shaper.
Up to the mid-1980s, design developments were usually the attributed to surfers of recognised ability who designed and successfully rode their boards.
The last of the recognised surfer/shapers was probably Simon Anderson who introduced his three fin thruster design in 1981.
Since the late 1980s design has progressively become the provenance of the established shaper who provides boards for a stable of competitve professionals.

Big Wave - Small Wave Designs.
While surfboard design has had many variations there has generally been a distinction between boards built for small waves (up to 8 feet) and big waves (substantially larger than 8 feet).
Given that most surfers regulary ride waves in the small wave category, this has tended to be the area of most experimentation.

Custom Designs.
When examining vintage surfboards it should be noted that for boards may have been shaped specifically for a particular rider, the dimensions are often resized from those of the average surfer.
For very large surfers the dimensions are scaled up, while for juvenile or smaller riders the dimensions are scaled down.

While surfboard designers have invariably promoted their boards as an "improvement in speed", in actuality this feature has been largely over-rated.
Generally the answer to how to make a surfboard go faster is to simply make it smaller, as demonstrated by the "Short Board (R)Evolution" from 1967 to 1970.
The major design requirement has been rather a matter of control - how to maintain control of the board at high speed or in extreme wave conditions.

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home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2010) : History of Surfboard Design : Overview.