A brief intro to Vintage Surfboards
Collecting vintage and retro has become more and more popular over decades with a particular focus on boards from the 50’s through to the 70’s and even 80’s. These days almost anyone could be an avid collector. It’s very common to see vintage surfboards hanging from the ceilings in bars, restaurants not to mention surf shops, museums and of course personal collections a like.
Mark Richard (left and right) with his prized possessions
To understand the world of collectable surfboards, it’s paramount to have at least a grasp of surfing’s past, including its origins and birth into popular culture. A quick search online and you’ll soon discover the endless books available and countless articles. It can be overwhelming to get to grips with it all. So, for those looking for a quick-fire guide then look no further!
The surfboard - a very brief history
Some of the oldest surfboards were carved from native koa trees and date back to Hawaii, in the 6th century. But you’re not likely to stumble across one in your local thrift store or see a posting for one on second hand boards! In fact, the world's oldest surfboard is displayed in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii and was ridden by Hawaiian royalty. It dates back to the time when Captain Cook first saw surfing in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. Such boards in this era are extremely rare and it’s not surprising since the missionaries frowned upon it so much so that and by the end of the 19th century, surfing had been all but wiped out.
By 1907 a Hawaiian named George Freeth somewhat revived the sport before Duke Kahanamoku made surfing popular thanks to his demonstrations which were part of his swimming exhibitions. In 1927, in California, Tom Blake created the first ever hollow wood surfboard that weighed half as much as a solid wood board. Not long after, surfboards were being mass produced. In LA, Bob Simmons invented a rockered board to further progress its design. By 1949 Simmons combined balsa wood, Styrofoam and fiberglass to produce the fastest, lightest board ever to grace the surfing world. It wasn’t long before the Malibu design became iconic to the 1950’s and 60’s and this is when the first modern era of surfing began and popular surf culture exploded.
George Freeth (left) and surfing hits the Californian pop culture in the 60's (right pic)
By the 1970’s a shorter shape had emerged thanks to Dick Brewer that ultimately paved the way for the shortboard revolution crafting lighter, shorter "mini-guns" with teardrop outlines and narrow pin tails. This was also a time when the fish design also saw increased popularity thanks to the likes of Mark Richards.
"Rabbit" showing off a Dick Brewer pin tail (left) and Mark Richards on one of his trademark twin fins (right pic)
The 80s gave way to the thruster set-up, largely thanks to Simon Anderson winning at Bells Beach on his brand new three fin design. The 90’s and modern day boards aren’t considered vintage.
Simon Anderson (left pic) - and a typical shot from the 1980's surf scene (right pic)
But even with a brief understanding of the surfboard’s evolution, those that are new to the collector game, starting out can be tricky.You will struggle to find comprehensive vintage surfboard guides online unless you’re prepared to spend countless hours, days, weeks and months researching as best you can. Even then you’ll see that surfboard pricing is extremely subjective and is far from scientific. The worth can fluctuate due to many variables and influences. In fact, it’s always worth collecting simply for the love of collecting rather than looking to make a quick buck. And generally speaking, people typically tend to be looking for bargains rather than to pay top dollar.
If you have the time, a yard sale or flea market is the perfect place to dip your feet into the world of collectable surfboards.
Let’s face it, it’s no secret that the majority of the surfing community are far from the country’s top earners. Your best avenues to find a deal would be at a flea market or locally at a garage, house or yard sale (like above).
But for those with less time on their hands, then the internet is the quickest and easiest way to keep an eye out for a deal. It’s also the easiest portal to sell too.
Be sure to check out the latest vintage surfboards on SHB!