The story board

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

"That board would've left the factory in 1980," says Phil Myers of the 5'11" six channel Free Flight singley we're looking at in the photo.

The 1980 singley unsheathed from its stretch cover

"It was probably shaped in the second half of 1980, just before Simon launched the Thruster," continues Phil. "I say that based on the stickers and the channels. The earlier ones had longer channels, but they were shallower and rounded, but Col [Smith] and I figured we had to do them shorter and deeper."

"That board's a good example of it."

Whoever bought the board, and Phil can't remember, took home a state of the art single fin, a defining board of the era, but one that would only stay relevant for a few months before Simon wiped the slate clean with his three fins of equal size.

Fast forward 34 years

In 2014, Port Lincoln surfer Shane 'Fredo' Smith is sniffing around a garage sale in his hometown, a Baby Boomer couple are downsizing and amongst the clutter is a board in an old stretch cover leaning against a shed.

"I grabbed a rail, as you do, and it had some meat in it," recalls Fredo, "then I ran my hand down towards the tail and that's when I felt a channel."

"The price was $30, and I felt guilty haggling for $20 but I waved a redback in her face and she was happy."

"However, I didn’t really know what I actually had until I got it home a few hours later."

Made by one of Australia's channel pioneers, the board had minimal damage, just a few small dings and slight discolouration. The spray was unblemished, the sharp edges of the channels intact.

In 2018 Fredo posted it for sale on the Vintage Board Collectors site, with a slight mark up, and a number of Burleigh Heads crew vouched for Shaun 'Hymie' Martin as a keen buyer. 

"I've got lots of old single fins," says Hymie, "a few ABs [Allan Byrne, Hot Stuff], but also boards like the Free Flight single fin."

A member of Burleigh Boardriders, Hymie laid the board down on the grass for their single fin festival both last year and this year too.

Chris 'Snowy' Faneco at Burleigh (Burleigh Surfography)

Then in August this year Hymie took the board to Bali for the Uluwatu Single Fin Classic. Tai 'Buddha' Graham needed some old singleys and Hymie obliged.

"The board was ridden almost every heat," says Hymie. "A lot of the good guys rode it."

On the first day of the contest, Agus 'Blacky' Setiawan scored a perfect 10 on the board, then the next day he rode it to third place in the final. Ozzy came first, Chippa second.

Agus 'Blacky' Setiawan

Blacky, third from right, with the 1980 singley and fellow finalists

A few weeks later the board was stashed in Buddha's overflowing garage in Canggu when Harrison Roach went looking for a board. Rather than grab a black Channel Islands - apparently Buddha's got a few - the six channel singley beckoned.

"Can I have a go of that?" asked Harrison, and with Buddha's approval he took it for a spin.

The board left an impression, 'cos as soon as Harrison got home he rang up Phil and asked to make one identical to it - the son of the 1980 singley!

"I sort of knew Phil," says Harrison when I call, "because he shaped me a similar-style six channel single fin back when I was 17. That board changed my approach to surfing. I started looked at surfing differently, and soon afterwards I was riding for Rhythm clothing and had a thing going."

"It's so good to connect again and I can't wait to ride the new board," says Harrison, who even ordered a period correct spray.

Harrison's son of the 1980 singley in the factory

The period, 1980 as you recall, is a whole decade before Harrison was born, yet here he is getting jazzed on a board that's ten years older than him.

"People talk about sustainable surfboards," says Harrison, "but that board is...what, 39 years old and still going. Which shows what a strong glass job can do."

Harrison continues: "And it's such a significant board: the last of the performance single fins before the Thruster took over."

After he takes ownership, Harrison is hoping to take the board on a surf trip to Alaska, spreading the story father and wider, while the original board is still offically Hymie's but lives in Buddha's garage and gets the occasional run. Such as just last Thursday at Canggu.

Buddha at Canggu on the 1980 singley, photo taken last Thursday by Bali Surf Report

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 2:26pm

love those singly's that were made right on the cusp of thruster hood.

I found a Bill Cilia/Nirvana in a mates parents garage. Similar outline as the free flight with fluted flyers and a round pin. 1981 vintage.
thing went so good, rode it almost exclusively for a year before my mate reclaimed it.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:12pm

Yep they were really well refined by that stage and were as good as you could get a single fin. Lot of guys used to rip on them back then and they were easy to paddle due to the thickness. Simons boards were the same template without the channels, pin tail and of course added a couple of fins.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:21pm

I think Simons first thruster all had that wide squash tail with a wing.
plenty of planing area. with the three fins for control.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:25pm

That is craftsmanship at its best (in this context, at least). Is the new one going to get a finbox as well, or will it be glassed on?

Don't let the bastards grind you down

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:41pm

Fin box. In the photo the board didn't have box or finish coat.

Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:39pm

Cool story. Reminds me of the flick "SINGLEFIN : Yellow"

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 3:56pm

Great story!

Could have not haggled it down to $20, though.

Dale Wilson makes some very nice channel singles, too. Would love to give one a go.

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 4:01pm

the short board single fin lives on.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 4:44pm

Fark, I’d love to get my hands on a board like that. A few years ago I found a Byrning Spears six channel thruster under a house I was working on. It was pretty fucked, but I pretty much had to have it. I swapped it for another board I had and then restored it. It was quite a mission, especially fixing up the channels which were pretty munted. From time to time I take the thing out and admire its lines. The wife thinks I’m mad.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 4:55pm

The wife is spot on :-)

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 at 10:00am

Yep, she puts up with a lot. I was fuckin’ lucky to meet her.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 6:31pm

The pinnacle of their era. Still relevant - look at the carves. Anyone got any Joe Engel photos?

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 6:44pm

How different would that feel compared to a Russ Short Bonzer? Help an ignorant brother out.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 6:49pm

Buttons at V-Land on short singles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X0ybabB6e8

Legend.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Thursday, 24 Oct 2019 at 2:22am

Yeah, that's a good one. Sweet music too.

I kind of miss cheesy voice-overs like that too.

"And sometimes... his surfing is so radical... it makes him look like a wizard casting a spell over the waves."

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 at 10:06am

Hard enough surfing a single well...but much harder with where the single fin placement was on most of Buttons boards..

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 at 8:26pm

Seriously, why haggle it down to $20?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:41am

Well for one, he said they were a Baby Boomer couple so I don't think they'll miss the ten bucks, and he also didn't know what was under the cover.

Reckon I'd haggle and roll the dice too.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:30am

I owned essentially the sister board to that one, spray job almost identical with everything original and amazing condition for it's age. Sold it to a guy who said it'd be surfed in the single fin comp then hung on the wall, never seen it though in comp pics. I remember him trembling with excitement when he took it off me he was so stoked. Glad it went to a good home

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:37am

Wasn't this board was it?

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:47am

Nope, that's another one! Looks nice too, though they always are (bit of a fan of FF's). The graphic on mine was more similar to the story board, also with the same bee tail.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 11:03am

Bought this board on the Gold Coast in 2000, took it back to WA. It's a very late (maybe '79, maybe '80?) green and gold 6ft Gordon & Smith, shaped by Solness. A truly beautiful board, which goes fantastically - tbh I think I prefer it over the multifins!

The shape is very refined - it has no edge around the tail, features subtle single concave to double to vee with vee panel in tail area. My first wave on it was a barrel to my shock! Our grom started surfing on it before going to multifins.




Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 at 10:03am

Hey Johnno, what do you mean by the tail has no edge? Do you mean no hard edge? Cheers.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 6 Nov 2019 at 9:50am

Hi Spuddups, only just saw this.

By no edge, I mean the tucked under edge around the fin area. I checked again, and the board does have a tucked under edge, but only in about the last 2" of rail at the pintail. Around the fin, imagine it is smooth on the upper side of the down rail, but also smooth at the smaller curve of underside rail.

If you get a chance to see any of Geoff McCoy's modern Lazor Zap or Astron Zot single fins, they will have smooth underside rails around the fin. If they are multi-fin Zaps, they will have the tucked under edge in front of the side fins.

A single fin that is well done needs no edge until maybe the last bit at the very tail. Our G&S looks very refined when you look down the rail from about halfway to tail, and this tends to back it being one of the later, more refined short singles - they'd had a decade to get the single fin shortboard to a high level of evolution/refinement.

Of course channels in a late 70's single will create a different need for the underside edges...

The side fins in a multifin necessitate a tucked under edge to allow water to shear off the underside of the board. No worries about losing grip as the sheer amount of fin area at the rail on a multifin will tend to hold you in. If you had no edge (and I did this once with a thruster) you'd tend to 'glug' in and hold and stall - that's what I found anyway.

In the 2000s I surfed a series of thrusters with the tucked under edge the whole length of the rail. They were very nimble in small surf, but I did have the board spin out sideways on a few bigger down south waves when angling into them!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 2:48pm

Cheers Johnno, some stuff for me to think about. I never realised that the old single fins had such soft rails near the fin.
I tend to make my boards along those lines, but not too that extreme. I think it might because I generally like to ride flat bottoms, and it's possible that they go better with slightly softer rails. It's something I have played round with over the years. I once I made a couple of boards with heaps of resin on the edge so I could play around with sanding it back to make it softer to see what difference it made. That's mostly how I got to where I am today.

RE your board with hard rails the whole way round: There was an old MR twin fin down at the surfshop a few years back that had rails like that. I never found out who bought it. Would be interesting to find out how it goes. It's a pretty radical design feature when you think about it.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 4:03pm

It sounds like you have taken a similar path to me Spuddups. The "I did it my way" school of surfing equipment!

It might interest you as well that our 1981 Energy thruster also has the edged underside rail all the way up. This board features a single to double concave running through a tail vee which seems to apex at the front fins. It's all very subtle, not heaps of mm deep in the concaves, and it works - this board is incredible to surf. Very thick fins too as the early ones had, great hold in heavy takeoffs. The other part about this board's underside edge, is the whole underside rail curve is very close to the outline, I concluded to give it quick rail to rail transition.

I've been surfing little 6'0"s I made back to back recently, the other thing I find is if you give the board the beaked nose, the 70's 'S' deck rocker ('shoulder distribution' iirc) and especially 70's style rails (chunky up front even though down rails) they are far more difficult to access easy performance out of compared to the same bottom rocker and outline, with a modern flat (or slight concave) deck rocker outline, and modern dome deck and modern rails. Cannot emphasise this enough, it goes way beyond the number of fins.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 12:01pm

That board is incredible, VJ. I love that G&S logo, and it matches the spray too.

Geoff Solness was an incredible surfer around Cronulla, huge personality, played in local bands, but met a horrific ending, murdered in a South Coast caravan by a kid who worked in his Cronulla shop.

Some good photos of him here:

http://cronullasurfmuseum.com.au/tag/geoff-solness/

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:25pm

@Stu net,
Thanks for the link , rip .......
I'd like to know more about him, seems a damn shame ......
?

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 7:56am

There's a G&S by Solness on the tree in qld. Not as nice as the one above and a bit overpriced for the condition, but still a nice shape.
https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/diddillibah/surfing/vintage-6-3-gordon-s...

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:16pm

thanks for the link Stu, great to see some pics of the shaper. He's a legend. RIP.

What the pics of the G&S don't show is just how refined it is, doesn't have an edge on the underside at the tail until about the last 3", the rail profile looking down toward the tail looks like an aeroplane wing, all the measurements (eg thickness at 6",12" from nose etc are spot on imperial measurements). The spray is a beauty and tops the board off. It still gets the odd surf, but is mostly in preservation now.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:27pm

Preservation is key!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:41pm

I've got one of Geoff's Shark Island Design Thrusters that's in great nick. Textured deck, plus hot pink and black tiger stripes down the rails. Not a single fin of course, but still a classic of the era.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:23pm

Photo please.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 8:11am

Happy to oblige.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 8:41pm

Check out the geoff McCoy interview on YouTube.
Go into lengthy detail about edge design / fluid dynamics .

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 24 Oct 2019 at 9:17am

Thanks LD, have done so before. Singles generally benefit from no edge until after the fin. It's amazing how loose a Zap can be for something that is all soft curves!

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:32pm

400$ mark up on the board.
Wonder how much it's really worth?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:38pm

A year ago I saw one of Phil's very early channel bottoms in a second hand shop about 100m from where I'm currently sitting. The channels ran 3/4 the length of the board, and along with the Free Flight logos is written 'GTHO XUI FUEL INJECTED' under the glass.

I took a photo, showed it to Phil, and 30 seconds later got a reply:

"That's my board!"

Phil asked how much the guy was selling it for.

"$1,000," I replied.

A year later the board is still there.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 9:14pm

Apparently a FF channel much like the story board did sell for about $1200 several years ago on an online vendor. Raises a good question, has the vintage board bubble burst? Guys seemed to be throwing coin at anything a little while ago, but not so much now?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 24 Oct 2019 at 8:38am

The vintage market hasn't burst. The mistake that many people make is to assume that old board's will forever increase in value.

If you want to make money from selling old board's there are two points you have to understand:

1) For most people, buying old boards is about reconnecting with their youth.
2) People have the most amount of disposable income - i.e to buy old boards - when aged in their 40s and 50s. Before that they're saving for a house, after that saving for retirement.

Put those points together and you have the maximum market price moving as a bulge along a timeline, increasing around 20-25 years after boards were in fashion, and then decreasing after about 40-45 years.

Many a collector has been burnt holding onto 1960s longboards for too long and seeing the market drop out as the bulge - the maximum market price - moved along to the 1970s and now 1980s.

EDIT: There will of course be boards that never decrease in value, those that hold significant value to surf culture at large, but they are few, and they're all in the hands of collectors.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 24 Oct 2019 at 9:20am

That's a really interesting observation Stu. I get that the wave surfs the peak in incomes 40s-50s. Have the longboards been hit in their values?

In the car market, you'd think the same would occur, however everyone younger also loves those muscle beasts of the 1960's and 1970's. My son recently lamented that a mid 1970's Fairmont with GS pack was about 20k 3 years ago and now is out of reach for all intents and purposes. There was an auction about 2 or 3 years ago when an HK GTS Monaro (a 327 or a 350 iirc) doubled in price to over 300K, perhaps a Brock Commodore did the same if the memory serves me, and an LC GTR peaked around 90-100K. It sent shockwaves through the rest of that market, effectively doubling everything else over time. Here, the original owners are into their 70s. Perhaps different dynamics at play.

Surfboards are way easier: fewer moving parts.

Edit: there will also come a time when the late 20s-30 something traditional longboarders will hit their peak incomes, and a traditional original log of their parent's generation will be prized.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 4:26pm

A Phase 3 once sold for 750 k

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 11:38am

Yep, you're on the money there. What will be interesting is if the 90s wafers come into fashion with the next generation reconnecting with their childhood. Clean examples will be rare as hens teeth... Don't you have a couple of tidy Webbers you posted up a while ago?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 11:51am

I've got an Insight banana that's never been surfed, no heel dents, still fridge white etc.. Plus a few other Insight bananas that are in really good condition.

Not sure how the market will respond to them. They'll never be riders, simply cos they ain't that easy to ride, especially for middle-aged crew, but then again there aren't many 90s boards around that are in good nick because of the light glass jobs.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 2:51pm

An insight banana never been surfed no heel dents..test the market and list it ..
was it once clumsily handled Stu ?

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 4:47pm

Very interesting... volumes were low then and those nostalgic will be a few/lot of kgs heavier.

However, there was a flip side to the 90's - think Curren at JBay on the fish (and the Pupas McKee quattro), think Tom Peterson's Fireball Fish, think Litmus, think Longboards coming back and TC & Glenn Winton going in that pro-longboard comp (at Haleiwa?) and nearly winning/actually winning it. 90's Longboards were part of the high rocker/low volume philosophy and were 2+1s that could do big carves with crazy nose and tail rocker. My first one from 1996 has about 7 inches nose rocker, a squash tail and is relatively narrow - very different to the idea of a log today. It floats you and you can actually surf some pretty big waves on it!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 at 10:08am

I had about ten of those old 90s boards under the house gathering dust. I ended up slicing them up and making a series of short wide boards. (Two boards sliced up and glued to together and reshaped to make one new board) I’m not losing any sleep about those old boards though. They were horrible to ride.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 1:34pm

The blue single on the link has the same graphic around the leggie plug, and the same spray pattern. Double flyer pin, it's a beauty. Seen McCoy's with that tail & they are amazing too.

Must've been a great time of design. Refined short singles, refined twins at the top of their game & then throw those early thrusters (which are fantastic boards, truly groundbreaking) into the mix. If only I was 10 years older...

carverj's picture
carverj's picture
carverj commented Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019 at 3:23pm

Got to love council pick up as scored a local knowledge kirra single-fin for free in my street.
Steve ‘Zorro’ Goddard was shaper in late 70s early 80s
Email me: [email protected] if you want to score it from me before I take it out and fall in love

Anthony Radford's picture
Anthony Radford's picture
Anthony Radford commented Thursday, 24 Oct 2019 at 9:07am

I've got a Solness single (highlight brand) with a small Gardon and Smith logo on it that I don't know if I should spend some money on or not??

I bought it for $300 and it measures around 5'11"

Does anyone have any ideas? I'm about 95 Kgs so I think it's too small for me even though it is about 3" thick.

I can't work out how to attach photos to this so is anyone would like to see photos send me an e mail to [email protected]

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 2:00pm

Harrison's board is finished:

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 4:09pm

Nice board. Haggled down to 20 bucks. Bad look. I hate flippers.

onetimeonly

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 4:10pm

And collectors. Ride it.

onetimeonly

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 26 Oct 2019 at 10:09am

Flipping collectors would be worse.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 25 Oct 2019 at 4:37pm

They are meant to be ridden.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 6 Nov 2019 at 9:04am

The tale of the story board continues, with the discerning Joel Tudor casting his eye over Harrison's board:

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 2:54pm

Hey Stu hows that edge board going for you?

simba

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 2:56pm

All I ride these days. Phil put me in contact with George G and I had a rambling chat with him about edge design, so I might put together a ride review.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 7 Nov 2019 at 4:01pm

look forward to it

simba