Soul Surf Blog

Here at Soul Surf, we get to see a lot of awesome boards and memorabilia. The history and stories behind these boards is always fascinating. This blog is purely to share these stories, and our love of all things surfing.

George Greenough - pure genius

Sharene Tailford - Friday, September 19, 2014

George Greenough, known for his innovation in surfboard design, film and photography, is considered one of the most influential surfers of his time.

Born in California, after open heart surgery at the age of 10, George turned his interest to the waves. After a short stint as shortboarder in the 50's, he switched to mat-riding and kneeboarding. His passion soon turned to designing kneeboards,  and although his boards were spectacular in design and performance, he only ever made them for himself and his close friends. Seeing a genuine Greenough board in person is extremely rare. You can go through an entire life time without every laying eyes on one yourself. In the mid 60's he designed the sub-five-foot flexible fibreglass "spoon" kneeboard. This innovative shape, together with his radical fin design, enabled him to get speed down the line, and change directions unlike anything that had ever been seen before. His excellence in design and mastery of fibreglass forever changed the surfboard design industry at the time, and started what was to be later known as the shortboard revolution.

Having visited Australia often in the 60's, George eventually committed to his love affair with our shores, and now resides in Byron Bay, NSW. During the mid to late 60's, he continued his passion for everything surfing, and after constructing some home made, waterproof camera equipment, he delved into the world of surf photography and film. His 1966 image of Russell Hughes is said to be the first known shot of a surfer within the green room. His masterpiece movie, The innermost limits of pure fun, was and still is today one of the most incredible, iconic surf movies ever produced, which for the first time took viewers directly into the tube.

The following article is from the 1969 Surfing World Volume 12, No.5 magazine. Simply titled "Greenough", it does not mention who the author is, but who ever it was captured the moment in time well, describing George exactly as we would all have imagined him to be:

"George Greenough does on a belly board what everyone else is trying to do. He does things with the waves and his board that I have never seen done before. I think he is the most exciting surfer I have ever watched and is just as interesting to talk with. Greenough is out here once again to ride some waves and shoot some footage for a movie he is making. The movie unlike most surfing films will be shot around the tube and most of the photography will be done by Greenough from his small board while riding inside the curl. He has already started his shooting and if the remainder of his film will be anything like the start it will be a remarkable film. His footage so far was shot inside the curl at Lennox Head. The stills from the film look fantastic, one in particular which shows a view from 15 feet inside a clean top to bottom curl and through the opening you can see blue sky and a few white clouds.

Greenough's equipment is just as unusual as the photographs he takes. Possessing a practical ingenuity George turns old pieces of machinery and plumbing into highly functional gear. His fluid head tripods, and super strong, super light, water-proof camera cases have to be seen to be believed. Greenough is not the type of fellow that you can say belongs to one group or another. He is an individualist in every imaginable way.

However one word we can think of does come close to describing every aspect of the man - and his attitude toward living.

The word is RADICAL -

In the face of conformity - and truly doing his own thing - stands GEORGE GREENOUGH."

Bobby Brown - remembering a surfing legend

Sharene Tailford - Monday, September 08, 2014

Bobby Brown surfboards are indeed one of the most sought after pieces of surfing history in Australia. Bobby Brown was a natural surfing talent of the 1960's. Hailing from Cronulla, the surfing enigma, at the age of 17, made it to the Men's Open Final of the World Titles held in Manly in 1964. He went on to making the finals of the 1966 Nationals at Coolangatta, and the 1967 Nationals at Bells Beach. Having featured in Bob Evans 1963 film the Young Wave Hunters, and Paul Witzig's 1967 film Hot Generation, Bobby's potential as a world surfing champion was stamped into the history books. His life and promising surfing career was tragically cut short in August 1967 by a senseless act in a Sydney pub, two months before his 21st birthday. Forty seven years have now passed, and today, we remember the surfing legend by presenting a story that was run in Surfing World Vol.9 No.4 1967 magazine. This story outlines Bobby's opinion and his part in the sport of surfing, in his own words ...

Below is the story as is appeared in Surfing World's Vol.9 No.4 1967 magazine

"In August this year Bobby Brown died. His death represents a great loss to surfing in Australia, for this quiet guy had been a top competitor in Australian surfing competition since its inception. One of the last contributions that he made to surfing in Australia was to outline his opinion and his part in the sport. The following article reached Surfing World shortly after his untimely death. We are proud to present it as a tribute to a fine Australian surfer.

When I first started to surf, long boards were on the way out and the short, plywood boards were on the way in. There were many different shapes of driftwood floating around the main surfing beaches in Sydney at this time and, in the year 1956, these short, balsa wood surfboards were the rage. Every Surf Life Saving Club had at least six to ten short surfboards by 1957. This, then, was the start that made surfboard riding one of the world's biggest sports.

I was eight years old when I was taken in by the sea. At first sight, I knew this was my home. After a year of struggle, working after school in a surf shop called "Ferris Surfboards" and as a newspaper boy, I finally had enough money for my first board. It was four foot six inches long with a ten inch back section. They called these boards 'Bellyboards' because of their short length. For a normal size person, these boards are similar to a rubber surf plane. For me, it was a full size board for, at the time, I weighed four stone two pounds.

In the year 1958, the Surf Life Saving Club had their first short board contest. My brother, John, won the senior event and I won the junior. Looking back, you may be inclined to say it was a fixed contest, but it wasn't. Contests, then, were very sporty and friendly, judged by the S.L.S.C. Association.

At this time there were about four manufacturers producing surfboards in Sydney. Since then, the business of building surfboards has more than trebled itself, now producing hundreds of boards per week. I feel that the major contests have influenced the public and helped to make surf riding what it is today.

Surf riding is more than just a sport to me. It is now my way of life. The way I can help the sport and achieve new and better ideas is in the building of a better board striving most of all for control of the wave.

Looking back to the first time I shakily stood up on a board, then recalling the moments now of near perfection of control,these parts are without a doubt, the best times a surfer, or should I say, a keen surfer, can recall. I can still remember the day I first stood up on my board and so can a thousand other guys. This memory we share and surfing gives you this feeling of wanting to share with someone else the memory of waves past and the hope of surf riding experiences to come.

In the years I have spent surfing, I have learned many things ... one of the most important is the knowledge that every wave is different. Size, shape, thickness and length, put together, makes the shape of the wave. Therefore, I definitely believe no two waves are ever exactly the same. This also applies to the riding of the wave; no two surfers will ride a wave exactly in the same way. This might sound a bit confusing but the surfer should bear in mind this statement when out surfing. Surfing can be made easier and is being made easier. By looking around at your local suffers, this point can be proven. Even average riders cannot ride an old style board as well as a new, light, well-shaped board and board shapers are continually working and trying out new shaping designs to make board riding not only easier but more fun.

Surf knowledge is very important to surf riding. For an example, the take-off. If a surfer realised that the wave could be foaming differently, due to a backwash or fullness of wave before taking off, then the take-off movements would be done in a different manner. This would give a better chance for his take-off and would lessen the chances of his losing his board.

Over the years there have been many different guesses in the design of the surfboard. The manufacturers are still guessing. I have just realised now, after having the opportunity to shape my own model board, that there's only one way to try out a new design and that is by trial and error. I am working now for Gordon and Smith surfboards on Taren Point Road, Caringbah, and I am always trying something new. First of all, I design a board for myself, manufacture it and ride it. If I find it is good, then I give my mates a go and if my idea works, then it is incorporated into my Bobby Brown model. If it doesn't work, then it's back to the drawing board. This is the only way to get a better board, to experiment and try out different ideas. This is also why boards are always changing and becoming better all the time.

Since I have started designing boards, I have found a lot of mistakes to do with the boards. For instance, the first thing I noticed was the plan of the rail shape. When I first started riding, it was on a bellyboard, with a ten inch back section; then I changed boards with a two to four inch back section. By narrowing down the back section, you change the complete outside shape on the board, giving more of a curve to the outside rail shape. This disturbs the overall speed of the board and gives more possibility of a dropout. With the wider back section, you have a straighter planning surface and will be able to pick up more speed on the wave, giving a stable ride, due to the wide back. Also, allowing a decrease in length. These boards can be used in big surf, as well as small surf in Australian conditions.

I have been surfing for just 13 years now. I've met a lot of people in the surfboard game and done a fair amount of good for the sport, as any keen surfer would try to do.

I feel contest surfing is one thing surfers should take more notice of. Try to make it more interesting with you yourself taking a very keen attitude to all contests.

Bob Brown"