OCEANSIDE — The early history of shortboards is told in the “Transitional Thinking: A Short Story 1966 -1972” exhibit at the California Surf Museum. Details on board shape, fin design and early shortboard riders are detailed in the exhibit that covers the transition from surfing longboards to surfing shortboards that spans from 1966 to 1972.
A collection of 20 pivotal boards tells the story of the significant and sudden change in board design. The desire to surf more radically and get into the curl of the wave caused surfers to cut off the noses or tails of boards to make them shorter and faster.
Shapers soon began custom making shortboards. “Surfers were working with shapers or were shapers,” said Julie Cox, operations manager of the California Surf Museum and professional longboarder.
Sleeker surfboards lost 3-feet and 15 pounds. Once surfboards became shorter the reshaping of fins followed. In Hawaii, the nose of the board was shortened, putting the balance of the board behind its center and a short wide fin was added. In Australia, the tail was
shortened creating a “pig” board and a deep narrow fin was added.
The narrow single fin allowed surfers to gain more speed and ride closer to the curl of the wave. “People were surfing differently,” Cox said. “The single fin allowed them to ride the speed point of the wave.”
Woven into the shortboard exhibit are Woodstock, Vietnam War and Watergate artifacts that give context to the timeline when surfers were riding faster and more radically. Jungle fatigues from 1967 are displayed along with early single fins and a Bobby Kennedy campaign poster hangs by a 6-foot Dewey Weber board.
At the end of the short board time line is a 6-foot 5-inch Hansen short board and a 6-foot 11-inch Michael Peterson Speed Shaper with a rocker curved bottom.
Following the introduction of shortboards in the late 1960s, most surfers became exclusive to either riding shortboards or riding longboards up through the early 1990s. Today most surfers keep a quiver of boards to choose from and match their board choice with the size and shape of the day’s waves. “There was a resurgence of longboarding in the mid-90s,” Cox said. “Now people are riding all kinds of surfboards.”