The Coast News Group
Former World Skatboarding champion, pro skateboarder and hall of famer Dennis Martinez with a stack of classic G&S Skateboards. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: San Diego’s Gordon & Smith, pioneers of skate and surf

Gordon & Smith Surfboards was a big deal in my hometown in the mid-1960s. Not only were the boards among the best on the coast, but local hero Darryl Diamond rode them.

Darryl and many other top surfers from Rincon to Baja rode Gordon & Smith boards, and I resisted their pull until the Hynson Model arrived on the scene. Then, I had to have one.

There was nothing fancy about Hynson’s model. In fact they were quite plain, and pretty much the same.

Each of them was clear with three redwood stringers and a raked red fin.

What made them stand out was not their appearance but the way those knifed rails made them turn.

They didn’t roll into turns like the round-railed surfboards I had been weaned on, but sliced the water like a hot knife.

I became a much better surfer with my Hynson Model under my feet and I can honestly say they brought me to places on a wave I had never previously explored.

That Hynson Model was the only Gordon & Smith Surfboard I ever owned, but I coveted all the ’70s era Skip Frye / G&S Vee bottoms, eggs and swallowtails, all of which are now highly collectable.

By the mid-’70s skateboarding had gone from surfing’s little brother (it was called “sidewalk surfing” prior to that) and became its own sport.

The urethane wheel is largely responsible for skateboarding’s revolution and vertical riding.

During that era skateboards were made of solid wood, fiberglass or plastic. While the half-inch wooden boards offered no flex at all, fiberglass and plastic boards had too much.

The perfect balance was struck when Gordon & Smith produced the Fiberflex, one of the most beautiful skateboards of all time, a composite of flexible woods and the fiberglass used in the making of skis.

From the first time I rode one, those boards felt like they were alive.

Somewhere around 1976 I was unemployed, a state I often found myself in during those years, and Gordon & Smith team manager Dave McIntyre called and asked if I wanted to accompany him to the Las Vegas Magic show.

Of course I said yes. While my memories of the trip are sparse, I vividly recall skateboarding on the newly finished Caesar’s Palace tennis court, and being chased by security guards who were unable to catch us as we quickly rolled away.

Skateboarders can be a rowdy group and it was McIntyre’s job to keep things somewhat orderly among the team.

Those in his stable included G&S team riders Steve Cathey, Joe Roper, Tommy Ryan, Ellen O’Neal, Doug “Pineapple” Saladino, Dennis Martinez and Stacy Peralta, many of whom are in the skateboarding hall of fame.  

Sadly McIntyre passed away about a month before the G&S reunion. His life was celebrated, however, by the kids he mentored and who rode those fine skateboards to international fame.

According to Cathey, “This was his life, he had a love of the surf and skate lifestyle.”

Gordon & Smith Surfboards and Skateboards continues to produce fine surfboards and skateboards in the San Diego area. Eric and Debbie Gordon, the children of Larry and Gale Gordon, currently run the company.

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