Hobie Surf :: The Return of the Eighties : High Style Surfboards at Hobie Corona Del Mar

  Imagine way back in the day,  before the selfie existed. No 24-7 access to how the waves are at every single surf break in the world. Imagine a time when ‘spot naming’ was so verboten as to basically ensure expulsion from the local community. Wetsuits were all black, boards were all white, and logos were almost invisible on both. Sounds a little like Shangri-La compared to the non stop information advertising overload we live in now, right?
  Except it wasn’t.
  It was the mid to late 70’s. In the U.S., and especially in California, it was post Nixon, post Vietnam. Everything was brown shag and avocado green. The economy was at a stagnate standstill… Even the long haired hippies of the 60’s were losing their optimism. As for surfing itself, it was just as stagnate as the economy. And surf magazines, well they were in the ‘romance of the wave’ phase. Everything was back lit, hazy, almost soft focus. Photos were taken from far away, it could have been anyone on the wave and the break was never named. The articles were very much travel and destination driven. Also, more importantly, the mags were subscriber based, not advertiser based. Only a handful of ads appeared in the issues. Basically, in the early to mid/late 1970‘s you didn’t surf in California, not if you wanted your photos to be seen at least….
   Then, as with all tides that go out, eventually they come back in. And, from 1979-1981 the tide for surfing and surfers came back in like a tsunami.

Danny Kwock (dead center front row, blue trunks) and the 'Echo Beach' crew. Photo by :: Chuck Schmid

Danny Kwock (dead center front row, blue trunks) and the ‘Echo Beach’ crew. Photo by :: Chuck Schmid

Gone was anything plain wrapped. Wetsuits exploded with every color in the Crayola box, all black wetsuits were what your pops wore. Surfboards were the same…. The colorful wetsuits and boards represented a changing tide, not only in surfing, but the economy. Money was flowing again and when people have money in their pockets they aren’t afraid to strut in peacock finery… or, to ride a border line obnoxious technicolor board. In other words, when everyone is broke but you, you look like an asshole driving a red Ferrari, but in the 80’s Magnum Pi rocked the shortie shorts and drove with the top down, and so did everyone else.

In Newport Beach a crew of surfers, maybe inspired by the Aussie Surfing clubs, began to dominate the magazines. Led by Danny Kwock, polka dots, neon, checkerboards, good hair cuts, and mammoth sized logos became standard for anyone hoping to land a cover. Remember, up until the the late 70’s there wasn’t that much advertising in surf magazines, (by today’s standards anyway). Who ever was on the cover was on because they had the best shot that month, or they matched the story in the issue. In the early 80’s a lot of the magazines of the day, the covers became almost 100% totally sponsorship driven. If the guy on the cover was wearing ‘XXX’ wetsuit and riding ‘YYY’ board, it was a very safe bet that by the fifth page in the magazine, you would see ads for both of those companies. Surfers, especially the Echo Beach crew,  wisely jumped at the chance to capitalized on this change!

All at once, surfing good, and more importantly, looking good on a one foot wave in your own backyard in California at the height of summer became almost more important then going huge in Hawaii in the winter. Surfing and Breakout Magazine (an all California surf mag) captured the vibe in the water and on the beach perfectly. Waves and the riders were in your face. Photos were up close, spots were named, and the surfboards were artistic masterpieces. Twin or single finned, either way, your board during that time period had better be bright or it’s not making it onto the pages.  No single place defined that era quite like the ‘Echo Beach’ crews own backyard between the 52nd and 56th street jetties in Newport Beach. Not only did it provide photographers with perfect spots to set up and capture close ups of the surfers, but during those few years the surf pumped trough those breaks for summers on end. 
As a love letter to that time period, Hobie shapers, Gary Larson and Josh Martin,  got together to make a special run of  surfboards that pay homage to that uniquely special time period. Classically lined from that era, but modernly twisted for this one. Highly visual paint jobs, are of course present on each model. All handshaped…. We have each surfboard featured below in our Corona Del Mar Hobie Surf Shop right now for you to go see in person. Fitting that they should be there, in the same backyard where all the fun started. We also have them, as well as, all our Hobie Surfboards available online at www.hobiesurfshop.com shippable to anywhere in the United States. Stop in, take a board or two home to add to the quiver, and relive that truly magical time period. 

Epilogue ::
As with all tides that come in, they must eventually go out.
  By the late 80’s, that special time period of the early 80’s, it was all over. The ‘surf indusrty’ and surfing had become a parody of itself.  Anyone and everyone had a surf brand, and almost no one was showing surfing anymore. The magazines became bloated with ads for ‘lifestyle brands’.  
Typical ads found in 1987 surf mags...

Typical ads found in 1987 surf mags…

It was a style, a look, a fad… the surfing was gone from the ads. By the end of the decade, the color went away. The wetsuits went back to all black. The logos got tiny. Surfboards got potato chip thin and came clear with a sanded finish. The red Ferrari went back in the garage. The shorts went to knee length. And, Magnum Pi shaved his mustache. 
But……   eventually…….  much later…….  the tide came back in.
But, that is a story for another day. 
-Tracey Engelking 
Author Notes :: Let’s be totally straight up honest here, from 1979-1981 I was 6-8 years old and growing up in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. The only things I knew about surfing at that time was the movie The Endless Summer, the theme song from Hawaii 5-0, and a surfer named Gerry Lopez. All the information for this article came from a quick look through the book ‘Echo Beach : The Hottest 100 Yards’. However, the bulk of the inside story came from a meeting over corned beef hash and eggs at Harbor House with Eric Diamond. Eric gave me the whole deal on what the times were really like from his own personal perspective as a team rider and sponsored surfer. Being able to flip through the magazine issues from then was an unbelievable help. With out Eric’s help, this story would have just been a couple pictures of the boards with a note about going to check them out at our Corona del Mar shop. So I thank him for the top notch education that only cost me a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee… the corned beef hash and eggs were mine. Oh, and I thank him for the stellar description of california in the 70’s as ‘all avocado green and brown shag’ I’ll be using that reference for all time! 

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