by Corky Carroll
Yes kids, today is going to be one of my ventures back thru time and space to the beginning of what has been called “the shortboard revolution.” This joyful period began roughly late 1966 and the bulk of the “evolving” took place thru the early 1970’s before it tapered off and became more of a general consistent slow progress of “tweaking,” leading up to todays high flying speed surf machines. One of the great stories from that period was the short lived, but highly publicized Australian “V-bottom” design.
Let me lay some groundwork as to how this all came about. In my opinion the short board revolution began when Nat Young showed up and won the 1966 World Championship in San Diego riding a slightly shorter board than everybody else. It was still a long board, but smaller enough to make a big difference in the way he surfed it. In short, no pun intended, it was obviously better. This inspired a few of us to immediately throw out everything we were working on and change direction. Shorter boards were the future of surfing as I saw it. By the end of that year I released my “Mini-Model” from Hobie Surfboards. A few others were working on shorter board designs too, but for the most part the real impact was still a year or so away. I was the only one riding shorter boards through the next competition year here in California, maybe a reason I had one of my best years ever. That winter I took a quiver of minis to the North Shore. I will never forget local shaper Dick Brewer looking at them and proclaiming boldly, “They will NEVER ride short boards in Hawaii, PERIOD.”
Fast forward to the next winter. By now mostly everybody is riding shorter boards of one form or another. A group of surfers, including Mickey Munoz and Skip Frye, went to Australia making a movie called “The Fantastic Plastic Machine,” and came back raving about these amazing new “v-bottom” boards that guys like Nat Young and Bob MacTavish were riding down there. In the late fall film emerged of Nat and Bob ripping the heck out of Honolua Bay, on Maui, on them. The media was ablaze with reports of this new design that was going to take over the surfing world.
The real proving ground for how legitimate, or not, a surfboard design really was in those days was always the North Shore of Oahu. We were expecting the Aussies to show up with these new boards and were wondering how they would work in real power surf. Well, to make a short story even shorter, they did and they didn’t. The Aussies showed up with the boards and they DID NOT work. AT ALL. They just spun out all over the place. It was pretty horrible. Also of note is the fact that right about that time Dick Brewer made an 8’11” “mini-gun” for a kid named Gary Chapman, from Newport Beach, and to this day claims that was the first one and that he invented the whole thing. Now, no offense to Dick, who I totally respect as one of the great shapers of all time, but that claim has a lot of holes in it. I am not saying that I invented anything, but there were more than one of us who had them well before then.
So, what was the deal with the v-bottoms and why didn’t they work? The design was basically a huge deep “Vee” though the back half of the bottom of the boards. It created one turning radius, and when you hit that exact radius it gave you kind of a power steering feel. Pretty cool when it happened, but it had to be just the right turn on the right wave. The powerful and faster waves in Hawaii were not the right waves at all. After everybody saw what happened on the North Shore the design was greatly modified and actually was incorporated slightly into many bottom contours and still is used in different ways, but the glorious deep v was deemed a failure by the surfing world and totally disappeared very quickly.