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Merv Larson

Merv Larson bottom turn

Rincon, California, circa 1970.

Photograph by Glen Fye.

Surfer Magazine
May 1970
Volume 11 Number 2 page 59.

Merv Larson was a highly competent boardrider and kayak paddler before riding an Australian surf-ski, which he further developed and invented the wave-ski.

Merv Larson, Carpentaria Beach, California, 1963.
Photographs by Toni Larson.

Merv Larson sprays foam with his head and right hand
 while Mr. Huge watches impassively.
Stern and Cleary :Surfing Guide to Southern California, 1963, page 54.

"Merv Larson bought this ski in late 1964.
The story is as follows...
This is actually the 3rd ski brought to the US from Austraila.
The first 2 came with Phil Coles and Gordon Jefferies for a Surf lIifesaving Team event with LA county.
This is a spec ski for lifesaving, not a wave ski as many of your comments thought.
No rudder, no footwells and barely an indent for your bottom..something like 45 lbs and 18' long.
Merv saw them paddle these skis in Carpinteria racing around the oil rigs with the Dorys.
The skis were so far ahead, Merv ordered one on the spot.
The ski in the picture is located at the Maritime Museum in Santa Barbara, another one is displayed in the Bath House, East Beach, Santa Barbara.
The location of the 3rd one is unknown."

- Patrick and DeAnne Hemmens: OceanPaddleSports News, Fri, September 25, 2009, viewed 13 September 2013.

Also see
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
The Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse at 1119 East Cabrillo Boulevard, built in 1927.

With the introduction of poylester foam billets in the early 1960s, surfboard designers embarked on an intensive ten year experimental program that saw surfriding performance soar and board volume shrink.
Circa 1967, American lifeguard and Olympic kayaker, Merv Larson revolutionized surf ski design  and riding performance on a short fibreglassed ski without a fin.
Larson initially started with an Australian surf ski, purchased following the visit of an Australian team to California in 1965, see above.
A combination of footstraps and a seat belt (Larson's major innovation) bound the rider and craft, similar to a kayak, and virtually guaranteed he could survive the most extreme wave riding situations.
The craft would later be termed wave skis.
In 1970, with the leg rope still four to five years away for the general surfriding population, Larson noted:

"In three years, I've never had to swim."

- Unaccredited: The New Adam, Surfer Magazine, May 1970, Volume 11 Number Two page 56.

Larson's performance was eclectic - using the rail and the paddle blade, he carved hard high speed turns comparable with best surfboard riders of the period.
Alternatively, (without a fin) he could side-slip and spin the surf ski in a combination of extreme stalling manourves.
Merv Larson's surfriding is documented in John Severson's Pacific Vibrations (1971).

Left Merv Larson surf-ski 1975, with dished foot-well and seat  with side-handles, one missing.


Merv Larson Aquatic Designs
2316 Channel Dr.G.
Ventura, California, 93003
Phone: (805) 653-0551

Merv Larson: Surf-skis and wave-skis.

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Geoff Cater (2016)  : Surfer : Merv Larson.