The Thagomizer, so termed by the great Far Side creator, Garry Larson. This model checks every box an eye-catching noserider should have. Prominent parallel rails running equidistant from your choice of stringer configurations. The rails featured are 50/50, round and forgiving, like a tennis ball; at the tail they are up-turned in an arc-tail shape, for that all important lift. Terry Martin’s influence on surfboard design is unrivaled anywhere, especially here at Hobie. We used T. Martin rocker in a green weight U.S. Blank, relaxed the nose, and accentuated the tail rocker in the last 30 inches; more lift doubles hang time. Up front, under the nose, reveals an expanded, canyon-esque concave, almost rail-to-rail, extending a third of the way down the bottom. The idea behind Larson’s Thagomizer is speed and hang-time. None of this is theory. The design has been tested and proven by our team. You want to nose ride and have your sandwich too, get on a Thagomizer.
It’s noseriding, the magic art of walking foot-over-foot on a traditional longboard. You’re hanging five toes, maybe ten, off the nose with nothing except air and water before you. You’re flying, Jonathan Seagull free, working without a net.
Born in the 1950s, noseriding a longboard – done while riding the front third of a surfboard — became an accomplished maneuver. The greats: David Nuuhiwa, Corky Carroll, Lance Carson, and others tested their cat-like skills while balancing on a moving surfboard, propelled by a spirited wave.
In the mischievous game of surfing shenanigans, new tricks beyond the classic hang five and hang ten were added to the dance. The Stretch Five, Hanging Heels, Front Foot/Heel Hang, Back Foot/Heel Hang, and the Crow Bar.
In 1965, philosopher, inventor and accomplished jazz drummer, Tom Morey (Morey Boogie Board fame) created a cutting edge surfing competition — the first of its kind — The Morey Invitational. Morey’s concept was a timed noseriding event. Whoever stood with both feet on the front third of their surfboard the longest would be crowned champion. Two Hobie riders emerged triumphant that day. Mickey Munoz won the men’s division, with Corky Carroll taking out all comers in the junior’s. Both victors rode boards that were specifically designed and shaped for the event by the great Phil Edwards.
Today traditional noseriding flourishes worldwide, thanks impart to Donald Takayama and Joel Tudor. This is not to slight any of the shapers and surfer’s who have contributed to the resurgence of longboarding and noseriding. After all Herbie Fletcher proclaimed, “The Thrill Is Back” in the 80s. I believe that history will show that it was Takayama’s Hawaiian linage and South Bay history of designing and shaping surfboards for the greatest of all noseriders, David Nuuhiwa, that foretold the rise of eminent world champion, Joel Tudor. Traditional longboarding, like a hibernating bear, emerged to take its rightful place in the surfing pantheon. Many dismissed longboarding and noseriding, labeling it retro, but Tudor, whose skills rivaled and surpassed those of the greats, passionately defended the ride, igniting an underground, grassroots movement that has fueled the imaginations of today’s young riders of the nasal passage.
“Waves can’t be the god of the sport; if they were, we’d all live in Hawaii. It has to be getting out in it that counts – surfing because you love to surf, and getting pumped full of life and whip and snap.”
Phil Edwards, also known as “The Guayule Kid” was born in 1938, in Long Beach, California; the year that the Church of England acknowledged the theory of evolution, Benny Goodman introduced jazz at Carnegie Hall, and heavyweight boxer, Joe Lewis, KO’s Nathan Mann in 3 for the title.
Nine years down the road, Edwards and family relocated to Oceanside, California, where the seed of surfing took root in his psyche and blossomed in the physical. Taken aback by the sight of Oceanside’s surfing lifeguards, Phil recounts that “the sight of them set me on fire…, I went home and came back, dragging my paddleboard in a staggering, waving tail through the sand, my pride and joy, and I wrestled it into the water, [paddled out to the waves, turned and caught one,] jumped up… and rode the board all the way in to the beach…. In the next few minutes a surfer was made, not born…. Don’t miss understand, I was not yet a surfer. I fought and swam, I paddled, fell down, drowned a little, tipped over, got thrown off, drowned a little more, paddled and worked for another two years before I ever caught another wave.”
By the age of 15, Phil was on his way when introduced to Killer Dana, a graduate level wave, now drowned under the somber granitic rocks and still waters of Dana Point Harbor. Chaperoned by Jim “Burrhead” Dever, the young Edwards delivered a Master’s thesis on wave riding that has forever changed how a wave could be ridden. Burrhead and Phil took off on a looming wave together, and when his mentor yelled, “head for the green!” as was custom on such a dangerous wave, Edwards reversed course, cutback towards the curl, then filled his board around and ran to the nose, attacking the wave where those before him ran for safety. A new standard for surfing had been set.
It is well documented that Phil had a love/hate relationship with surfing competitions. He entered a few but never won one, and it didn’t matter one bit. The trophy-chasers won, but it was the unquantifiable areas of his style that couldn’t be scored: his timing, transitions, and gestures that set him apart. When it came to contest surfing Edwards had two theories: first the stylist. One who “concentrates primarily on maintaining control at all times – with good form. This naturally limits maneuverability and tricks…, but looks smoother. The stylist he states,” [sees] a wave [as] simply a beautiful expression of nature and respected as reason enough to participate.” On the other hand, there’s the “get the job done” contestant; trophy chasers and performers. These “surfers do many things on a board and are willing to lose some control and composure and even take an occasional spill.” The wave is incidental. “A gym or a track field would serve the same purpose.”
In December, 1961, Hawaii’s Bonzai Pipeline was deemed too dangerous to ride. The cavernous wave roared out of deep water, rose to the heights of skyscrapers and broke over flesh-shredding coral and lava rock, in very shallow water. While on a causal afternoon surf check, Phil and surf film maker Bruce Brown, of Endless Summer fame, stood alone on the beach at the Pipeline. Could this wave be ridden? Phil determined that the time was now. He believed it was possible to ride the Pipeline. As he waxed his board, Bruce ran to the car for his camera. On his return, he found Phil already entering the water. While Phil positioned himself, Bruce setup. Sighting his wave, Phil spun his board shoreward, arms digging gaping holes in the ocean’s surface, in order to catch the approaching thing. Standing, Phil plummeted down the concave face, turned at the bottom as the wave through its guillotine-like lip over his head. Entombed and racing the cascading swell for daylight, Phil emerged to the relative safety of the wave’s shoulder, rode directly to the beach; mission accomplished, and Bruce had the historical ride on film.
Edwards’ surfing skill, contribution to the sport, knowledge of the sea, and public persona won him the inaugural, 1964 Surfer magazine reader’s poll. Phil was different, wrote one journalist. His surfing was elegant and improvisational, smooth and fast. It appears as though he was having a conversation with the wave. Phil Edwards surfed into history bring an endless stream of surf riders along with him. For his part in surfing, he will be forever enshrined in surfing history.
Surfers and surf shops, one can’t exist without the other; theirs is a symbiotic relationship. From grommethood to adulthood, from working-life into marriage and parenthood, legions of the truly obsessed continue to visit surf shops. Like the growth rings of a tree, significant moments in the life of a surfer can be marked in these “Temples of Stoke;” a framework of existence made up of freeze-frame moments. Surf journalist, Sam George likens the surf shop experience to a “mirror into which surfers have gazed, searching for self.” And historian Matt Warshaw suggests that the surf shop is “a time tested cultural stronghold,” functioning as a channel for information, gossip, and propaganda, a supply center, workshop, and quite often as the theater of the absurd.
Historically Dale Velzy is credited with creating the surf shop ideal, when opening his 1950s factory and showroom in Manhattan Beach, California. Rudimentary at best, the first surf shops were little more than small, one room operations producing a single product: the surfboard. You, the customer, upon entering would likely find a pair of sawhorses, and a single, bare light bulb suspended from the ceiling, with balsa wood shavings, inches thick, carpeting the floor.
With time, and surfing’s cinematic popularity, the surf shop morphed into a factory/retail operation. Hobie Alter is credited with being the first to construct a purpose-built operation at Dana Point, California. By 1961 surf shops were becoming full service emporiums with silk-screened tee shirts, trunks (today’s boardshort), magazines, wetsuits, and board making supplies. By 1963, according to Peterson’s Surfing Yearbook, surf shops were exploding nationwide. There were 41 in Southern California alone!
Today the surf shop means many things to many people, but, as Justin Housman explains, writing on the Surfer Magazine blog, “the anchor of the surf shop is still the surfboard… you’re sure as hell not buying surfboards online…. We still insist on holding a board in our hands before buying it.” Houseman again, “… from the very beginning [surf shops] have always been about much more than just commerce…. [They have] functioned as a ‘third place’ – another place to gather and socialize outside of work, or school, or home.” For those of you who may be new to surfing and the current expression of the surf shop, there are still a few old-school “Temples of Stoke” around. Places were the guy or girl behind the counter can actually talk about the nuances of surfboards, and sell you the latest beach-lifestyle fashions, all while telling you about how the waves were that morning — because they surf. But you’d better hurry, they are an endangered species in today’s e-commerce, big-box, mass-produced society.
For more on the “Temples of Stoke, A Tribute to Surf Shops” experience visit the SURFING HERITAGE AND CULTURE CENTER (SHACC) at https://shacc.org/temples-of-stoke-on-display-through-october-29-2019/.
Andrew Cowell for Hobie Surf Shop and SHACC.
Before Cocoa Beach Florida’s most famous surfing native son, Kelly Slater, was a twinkle in his parent’s eyes, there was another famous transplanted native son… though a much more vocal one; Mr. Gary Propper. For 50 years now this uninhibited, wildly talented, wildly brilliant, forward thinking “hotdog ambassador to the world” has called the Big H of Hobie home.
Born in the late 40’s in the not so surf capitol of the world, The Bronx, NY, it took a few logistical moves before Gary Propper would find his first surfboard under him. At the age of 13, after a family relocation to the beach breaks of Florida, Propper was introduced to his first and maybe most enduring passion, surfing. For a kid with an undeniable overload of energy and natural athletic abilities, he took to the waves like a fish takes to the water. The match was one for the ages.
By the early 60’s, Gary left the dumpy and choppy waves of Cocoa Beach for the glassy surf of Southern California. He was 17 at the time, he was looking to make his mark on surfing and, more than anything, he was looking to become famous.
He had built a following on the East Coast as much for his early success in contests as for his legendary volatile temper. His West Coast counterparts were known globally for their laid back attitude in and out of the water, so, let’s just say that Gary stood out on the sunny shores of Southern California for more than just his surfing skills. Florida surfboard builder, Dick Catri recalls, “I saw him throw a trophy into the bushes because it was for second place. Another time he, again when he got second, he just turned around right there at the presentation ceremony and gave it to some girl he’d never met.”
By 1964 he had improved greatly as an already great surfer. He came back to the East Coast and won the juniors division of The East Coast Surfing Championships. He had found his fame, and now he had a title to show it wasn’t unjustified. In this same year Gary invented a new title for himself “Professional Surfer-Athlete”. He even put it on his tax returns for that year, which I guess is how you make something unofficially official. Again, Propper was nothing short of forward thinking.
Around this same time, Hobie Alter was starting to make a plan to expand his growing surfboard sales eastward. Who better to help in that expansion than a surfer who had made himself a household name within a few years of catching his first wave? Yes, Hobie saw exactly what he needed in the brash, confident Propper. Somehow the two polar opposites created a perfect partnership.
“He was an aggressive surfer and still just a young kid, but he was good and rising to popularity really fast. We had Corky Carroll and Phil Edwards models and we wanted something for the east coast, and he was the first east coast surfer to really get noticed,” Hobie said. He was immediately put on Team Hobie and has been with us ever since.
Hobie involved Propper in every aspect of his signature board, not just design but advertising and promotion. “[Gary] and I got along great. He was always loyal and hard working,” Hobie said. Along with the Corky Carroll signature model, the 1966 Gary Propper was among the first surfboards to feature Hobie’s molded, removable polypropylene fin, and the finbox that secures it into place with a brass screw.*
When the board debuted in 1966, it went on to become the world’s best-selling signature model. Let’s say that again, shall we? It became THE WORLD’S BEST-SELLING SIGNATURE MODEL. With almost all of those massive sales numbers going to homes between Florida and Maine it is wild to think that in 1967, a year after it hit the water for the first time, the model accounted for 50 percent of the 6,000 boards Hobie Surfboards made that year! It was a huge success then and continues to be one today with sales still strong for the “sloppy surf wonder board!”
Propper competed in the Surfing World Championships in 1966, ’68 and ’70. In the early ‘70s when it was time for him to expand on his fame out of the water, he turned to the world of entertainment. Finding himself under the mentorship of the legendary Bill Graham, he became a music promoter who booked acts such as The Police, Blondie, and Devo. Later, he managed comics like Gallagher and Carrot Top. But, his greatest instance of forward thinking, was to secure the film rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book characters. Yeah, back in the 90’s, he saw the franchise as something that would endure.
Much like his surfboard model, his fame, and his confidence, Gary Propper endures, and we are proud to have endured with him for 50 years. Cheers, Mr. Propper, and congratulations on your golden anniversary. -Tracey Engelking
* Surf journalist Paul Holmes describes the Gary Propper surfboard model in his book “Hobie : Master of Water, Wind and Waves” as a noserider with a concave, teardrop pattern shaped into the bottom. Today, Hobie Surfboards offers the classic 1960s longboard in 9-foot to 9’8” lengths.