"Shortboard Revolution, Surf Design 1967-1984" opened last week at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica. The exhibit aims to display "the evolution that created the modern surfboard and modern surfing as we know it" through more than 60 handcrafted boards from nearly two decades of rapidly evolving design and images from some of the great, early surf photographers. Performance and design are linked in many things, but in surfing, more than perhaps in any other sport, the rules of the game change constantly. And nowhere else is progression and design more inextricably linked.
Two examples: In 1968, when Nat Young brought a new, round-tail design to Malibu, he was able to do smoother, sweeping turns than his counterparts on squaretail boards. In the early '80s, when Simon Anderson combined three smallish fins with a square-tail, down rail body, the thruster was born. In less than thirty months the thruster accounted for over 90% of surfboard sales. It was the best of all worlds: fast, with maximum acceleration out of turns, but it held fast even during the most dramatic of maneuvers paving the way for surfers to do blow tails, aerials and flips with reckless ease.
Through just the 18 years of design on display, surfboards went from 9'10" to 5'6". There were boards with one fin, two fins and three; down rails, hard edges, twin keels, rounded tails, square-tails, pin tails and v-bottoms.
Also on display are photos by iconic surf photographers Art Brewer, Jeff Divine, Bernie Baker and others.
Aside from assembling the stunning collection of surfing history (including a Surfer Magazine cover from each year represented in the exhibit) the show's curator, original Z-Boy and surfer Nathan Pratt, also built an era-appropriate shaping room in the gallery.
A walk through the exhibit makes it clear that the design on display had redesigned the very act of surfing.
Hurley and The California Heritage Museum present
Shortboard Revolution: Surf Design 1967-1984
2612 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
Through April 22, 2012