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Retro Surfboards


What’s old is new again. Fashion and trends have a funny way of coming back around after a time. The surfing world is no different, with many surfers keen to invoke past surfing joys by buying “classic” or older-style retro surfboards. The word “retro” derives from the Latin retrospective, referring to a nostalgic (or critical) eye toward the past, which is a good description of the driving force behind the retro surfboard movement.

There is sometimes confusion about the terms “retro” and “vintage”. Retro surfboards are new boards made in the style of the time they are trying to replicate, whereas vintage boards are at least twenty years old. Retro surfboards are usually inspired by a particular era, such as the seventies, and have classic shapes, tints and pigments, and other features such as airbrushed murals that were typical of surfboards of the time.

Retro Surfboards

One outlet helping to bring back older styles of retro surfboards in new ways is Pipedream surfboards in Gold Coast, Australia. Started in 1975 by surfer Murray Bourton, it evolved into a dominant Gold Coast brand over the next thirty years and helped start the careers of some of today’s top Australian surfboard shapers. Murray has launched a label in his own name, Bourton Shapes, aimed at the performance end of modern short boards.

“I have been encouraged to re-launch the Pipedream brand with a limited edition of retro models depicting the various design phases we went through from the early seventies up to 2005,” says Murray. “What I will say at the outset, is that all my retro models are not exactly the same as the ones that I made thirty years ago. I have no problem with duplicating them, but I cannot see the purpose unless they are meant to be a wall hanging and conversation piece. We have learnt so much hydro-dynamically in the last thirty-five years, that I feel if these boards are to be surfed it would be prudent to apply some of these lessons so long as the basic DNA of the model is not lost.”

Murray explains that the retro surfboards are slightly modified for more performance, but still retain those ingredients which made them so successful. “Most modifications I have done on my retros are to basically loosen them up, since modern surfers have ambitions on the face of a wave their fathers never even thought of.”

The glass jobs are all finish coated and meticulously machine polished. Some are even glassed with resin tints. Murray has elected to use more modern fin systems in retro boards to give them a better chance of working for the customer. “Sometimes a fixed fin can be a death sentence for a board if it is the incorrect template.”

The range Murray has put together features the best design under the best team surfer of each decade from the early seventies to the early nineties.

[Source: http://www.pipedreamsurfboards.com/about/]

Early 1970s – The Guy Ormorod Single Flyer Swallow

This board became a favourite of Guy’s in the early seventies. Guy claimed the dropped wing gave him heaps more squirt and bight, livening it up significantly. Side fin boxes, that can have smaller stabilisers, lend a modern bight feeling – more like a tri fin than a thruster where all fins dominate. On this model, the centre fin is taller, and moved forward like the old single fins; it remains the alpha fin on which all emphasis is concentrated when turning.

Late 1970s – The Dominic Wybrow-Inspired Channel Twin Fin

This twin-fin board is chunky, wide, and short. It has a slightly rolled bottom, and the rocker is flat; both features consistent with the era. The design has not been modernised much because it is as loose as it needs to be, even for this time. The channels come out of the rail and the centre one fades out before the swallow, reducing the amount of board lock-up. A stabiliser centre fin has been added to give the board a little more versatility in bigger surf, otherwise this board is relatively unchanged.

Mid 1980s – Scat Pitcher Belly Channel Chisel Tail Thruster

Scat was in every contest in those days, and found the belly channels were more user-friendly in substandard surf where, in those days, most contests were held. Scat’s board was a low-nose entry, flat decked, with a chunky rail and a basic flat bottom. The chisel tail was popular at this time; with the aid of the hip, it was not too tight. The chisel gave the feel of a definitive corner at the very back, which allowed confident sudden changes in direction. This model employs the con-vee bottom, and the rails are lowered a little. The rails sit half in a vee and half in a concave, in theory giving more control and more bight. This board also has the traditional beak nose which basically puts a little more foam in the nose.

Latte 1980s – Chappy Jennings Channel Thruster

James (Chappy) Jennings was probably best known for his role in Kong’s Island; a film he starred in, alongside Rabbit and Gary Elkerton, where he was portrayed as the charging young grommet amongst the older and more established surfers.

This was the era of the channel bottom. Channel bottoms became a very accepted design in Queensland, particularly because of its long, hollow, clean point breaks – the perfect environment for them. If you like the point-surfs up our way, or you regularly surf in Indonesia, this model may have many functional usages for you.

Mid 1990s – Zane Harrison Triple Flyer Pintail

It could be argued that this era is a little too modern; however, surfboard design is moving so fast that designs like this could be lost forever, if not recorded. This model has a con-vee to give the tail a little more tip at high speeds. The plan shape is widish in the tail, but depletes at the tail-end with the use of flyers. This gives the board the capacity to sit down at high speeds if you surf more off the tail. In smaller waves, the wider tail width, at the 12-inch mark, gives the board enough plate to be thrusted and propelled in powerless waves. The rear box allows the fin to be shifted up to an inch further forward, creating an increasingly shorter arc, and more pivot that is necessary at lower speeds.

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