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Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers

Craft, Creativity, and Cultural Heritage in Hawai'i, California, and Australia

Andrew Warren and Chris Gibson

Publication Year: 2014

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 the olo boards of ancient Hawaiian kahuna to the high-tech designs that represent the current state of the industry, Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers offers 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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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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...

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Chapter 1: Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers: A Historical Geography

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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...

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Chapter 2: A Pacific Story: Surfboard Making in the Wood Era

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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...

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Chapter 3: Foam Futures: Evolution of the Modern Surfboard Industry

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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...

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Chapter 4: Made by Hand: A Custom System of Production

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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...

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Chapter 5: Crafting Surfboards: Gender, Bodies, and Emotions

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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...

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Chapter 6: Global Stoke: The Commercialization of Surfing

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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...

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Chapter 7: Computer Shaping: Mechanized Surfboard Production

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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...

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Chapter 8: Surfboard Making: New (and Uncertain) Horizons

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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? ...


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pp. 243-254


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pp. 255-260


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pp. 261-275

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780824838294
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824838287

Publication Year: 2014


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Subject Headings

  • Surfboard industry -- Hawaii.
  • Surfboard industry -- California.
  • Surfboard industry -- Australia.
  • Surfboards -- Design and construction.
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