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Surfing's Decline
Modern Surfing
The Duke
Modern Boards
Surf Clubs
Waikiki Beachboys
Competitive Surfing
Modern Surfing Greats
Surfing in Popular Culture
Tom Blake
Bibliography - Surfing

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Modern Boards

Boards in the early 20th century were based on the ancient alaia design but used redwood, pine and other imported woods and replaced more traditional finishes with marine varnish. Tom Blake, a major innovator in board design, began by building replicas of ancient boards but quickly added his own refinements. In 1935 he built a lighter point-tailed board with hollow compartments, a style that was used into the 1950s. In 1937, John Kelly introduced a narrow, V-shaped tail and a rounded bottom.

Watching surfers in 1866, Mark Twain commented, "It did not seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed.

In the 1940s and '50s, surfing's popularity in California grew and many board shapers there led the industry, among them Joe Quigg - a Honolulu-based boat builder - and Bob Simmons. They added fins, or skegs, and experimented with balsa wood and styrofoam sandwiched between plywood, using fiberglass as a protective outer layer. The smaller, lighter boards opened up the sport to women and made new maneuvers possible. The first polyurethane boards appeared in the late-1950s. Boards got smaller with a scooped nose and more pronounced rocker (bottom curvature), all of which allowed surfers to experiment with new moves on the waves.

The 1960s brought a new surfing craze as boards became more affordable. Design refinements and smaller size boards made it easier for beginners to pick up the sport at the same time they gave advanced surfers bigger challenges.

Modern boards come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate every imaginable surf condition. Boards are shaped with a needle or round nose and the back end might be a pin-tail, swallow-tail, or squash-tail.

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