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Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers

Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers: Craft, Creativity, and Cultural Heritage in Hawai'i, California, and Australia

Andrew Warren
Chris Gibson
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers
    Book Description:

    Over the last forty years, surfing has emerged from its Pacific islands origins to become a global industry. Since its beginnings more than a thousand years ago, surfing's icon has been the surfboard-its essential instrument, the point of physical connection between human and nature, body and wave. To a surfer, a board is more than a piece of equipment; it is a symbol, a physical emblem of cultural, social, and emotional meanings. Based on research in three important surfing locations-Hawai'i, southern California, and southeastern Australia-this is the first book to trace the surfboard from regional craft tradition to its key role in the billion-dollar surfing business.Hawai'i, California, and Australia are much more than sites of surfboard manufacturing. Their surfboard workshops are hives of creativity where legacies of rich cultural heritage and the local environment combine to produce unique, bold board designs customized to suit prevailing waves. The globalization and corporatization of surfing have presented small, independent board makers with many challenges stemming from the wide availability of cheap, mass-produced boards and the influx of new surfers. The authors follow the story of board makers who have survived these challenges and stayed true to their calling by keeping the mythology and creativity of board making alive. In addition, they explore the heritage of the craft, the secrets of custom board production, the role of local geography in shaping board styles, and the survival of hand-crafting skills.From theolo boardsof ancient Hawaiian kahuna to the high-tech designs that represent the current state of the industry,Surfing Places, Surfboard Makersoffers an entrée into the world of surfboard making that will find an eager audience among researchers and students of Pacific culture, history, geography, and economics, as well as surfing enthusiasts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3829-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    This is a book about surfboards. Surfing is an ancient interaction between humans and the environment, a fluid and exciting pastime where breaking waves, the body, and a surfboard interact. As the only essential instrument for surfing, the surfboard is a point of physical connection between the body and the surface of the wave. Surfers use their board to paddle with enough momentum to connect with a wave’s shifting energy before maneuvering to their feet and riding its breaking crest toward shore. To surfers, their board is more than a piece of expensive equipment; it is symbolic, even talismanic. Surfboards...

  7. 1 Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers: A HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY
    (pp. 26-54)

    This chapter focuses on surfing places and the surfboard-making scenes that evolved there. We introduce the reader to our three case-study locations: Hawai‘i, Southern California, and east coast Australia. In these places, surfing is accompanied by wider historical narratives of colonialism, postwar population growth, popular culture, coastal suburban and regional development. All three places have vibrant surfing cultures, legacies, and unique board-making skills. Environmental and technical knowledge are put to use in creating high-quality surfboards suited to local surfing populations and specific marine conditions. Surfing distinguishes places, and local wave types, surfing subculture, riding styles and preferences feed into the...

    (pp. 55-83)

    Since ancient times, important moments of surfboard design, materials development, and manufacturing processes have been determined by groups of creative surfers. Some of the innovators have been entrepreneurs; others have sought to push along surfboard design simply from their personal desire to find new, faster, more challenging or exciting ways to ride waves (table 2.1). Until very recently, most surfboards have been made using a traditional artisanal approach: the hands and hand-based skills, craft tools, and local environmental knowledge formed the basis for creating personal, customized surfboards. In most parts of the world, surfing scenes are accompanied by local production...

    (pp. 84-110)

    Early Southern California shapers continued to experiment with different designs and materials: composite constructions, foam cores, dual keels, concave planing hulls, and positioning of skegs. Surfboard making began to turn away from the use of timber altogether. There were a number of reasons for this. First, supplies of quality balsa wood dried up dramatically. Balsa was grown commercially only in Central America, where enough rainfall and a tropical climate combined to create ideal growing conditions. Then in the early 1950s, growers in Ecuador, who supplied most of the balsa wood to surfboard makers through California distributor General Veneer and Australia’s...

    (pp. 111-144)

    This chapter introduces how surfboards are now made by hand, drawing on the legacies of earlier craftsmen (discussed in chapters 2 and 3), in workshops in Hawai‘i, California, and Australia. Hand making surfboards today is an artisanal system of custom production that takes advantage of contemporary design innovations. But simultaneously, hand-based surfboard manufacturing relies on tools, knowledge, and practices similar to those that emerged in the 1950s—and which before that were part of ancient Hawaiian methods.

    There are two basic labor specializations in the current hand-based production system, as in the traditional Hawaiian method: shaping and sealing. Theshaper...

  11. 5 Crafting Surfboards: GENDER, BODIES, AND EMOTIONS
    (pp. 145-173)

    We examine in this chapter what working as a surfboard maker means emotionally, how it relies on (and in turn impacts) the body, and how it becomes gendered. We gather further insights from interviews with individual board makers and from their personal stories. What are the emotions that surround working, playing, and living as a maker of surfboards? In the introduction we discussed the inseparability of emotions from understandings of rational behavior: people in all aspects of life make decisions and relate to the world through multiple logics. People do things for complex reasons, some explainable, others intangible and instinctive....

    (pp. 174-192)

    The global boom in surfing has dramatically transformed its industries, from backyard operations to corporate giants. This chapter tells the story of this phenomenal global growth in the surf industry and considers the broad effects of the shift toward automated production in surfboard manufacturing.

    Some measure of globalization was apparent even before the surf craze of the 1960s. As early as the opening years of the twentieth century, the governors of Hawai‘i, plantation owners, and hoteliers were using surfing to promote tourism, with surfing imagery “soon printed, stamped, embossed, and etched onto pretty much anything connected with the islands—from...

    (pp. 193-218)

    We explore in this chapter what has become the common system of production in surfboard workshops, the automated or mechanized approach. As discussed in the previous chapter, since the 1980s the surfing industry has spread its tentacles of production, distribution, and marketing, selling surfing in a wide range of products. This has influenced traditional custom-surfboard workshops, which have noticeably, if sometimes reluctantly, shifted toward mass production, design replication, and retail-distribution arrangements. Surfboard making has also expanded into locations not known for surfing culture and into merchandise not required for surfing. Based on business models more akin to fashion apparel and...

  14. 8 Surfboard Making: NEW (AND UNCERTAIN) HORIZONS
    (pp. 219-242)

    In this final chapter we look toward the future of surfboard making. What are the challenges, directions, and prospects for surfboard makers? In the three iconic, and historic, surfing places, is the surfboard-manufacturing industry viable? Can the industry maintain uniqueness into the future so that surfboards prevail as finely crafted, cultural artifacts? These are some of the difficult questions facing the surfboard-making industry as it considers future development.

    There is great uncertainty. Major challenges are macroeconomic processes and events beyond the control of independent workshops. The persistent global economic downturn has resulted in a slump in consumer spending across most...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 243-254)
    (pp. 255-260)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 261-272)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-275)