In a recent Surfer Magazine Matt Biolos explains who he believes to be the most influential surfboard shapers of all time. Read and soak up some surfboard crafting history from the mind of Mayhem.

As the founder of …Lost Surfboards, Matt Biolos has been at the forefront of board design for more than 20 years, and his high-performance crafts can be found under the feet of world champions and elite freesurfers alike. Photo: Ellis

“Tom Blake is the most influential surfboard designer of all time. In the 1920s and ’30s, his contributions and inventions to overcome the performance limitations of the surfboard were borderline Edisonian. With virtually no precedent to work from, he was the first to hollow out the solid wood boards of the time, reducing the weight by almost half, which allowed him to glide faster than anyone before. Soon after, looking for more control in steeper waves, Blake contemporaries like Wally Froiseth and Fran Heath started to shape the outlines and pull in the tails of their “Hot Curl” boards. Taking note, Blake then gave us the single greatest contribution ever made to the surfboard: he added a fin. Before Blake, the few surfers in the world seemed content to glide along in one direction on gentle, sloping waves. With reduced weight, a wider range of people could carry, paddle, and control a surfboard. And with a true fin on the tail, the first performance surfboard was created. The ability to turn, the quest for critical positioning, and the rumblings of a counterculture were born. On top of all that, Blake is also credited with the first-ever waterproof camera housing, and he was probably the first to make twin-fin and swallow-tailed surfboards.”
Tom Blake Photo: SURFER Archive

“Their bold combination of P.T. Barnum savvy and Henry Ford industrialism basically birthed the surf industry through manufacturing, merchandising, and marketing. Like Henry Ford and his motorcars, they didn’t invent the surfboard, but Dale Velzy and Hobie Alter did turn them into a viable business and make them available to everyone. They started a ripple that turned into a wave that is still rolling today. Alter (with partner Gordon Clark) is more responsible than anyone for the introduction and widespread use of foam and fiberglass surfboards. Separately and simultaneously, Alter and Velzy built massive factories and developed large-scale production lines, capable of cranking out hundreds of boards per week. They came up with the techniques, tools, and materials still used in nearly every board factory around the globe today. They opened retail shops along the coasts and developed wholesale businesses, allowing others to open shops and carry their boards globally. They hired team riders and built “team models,” and they created ads featuring these riders and models. For better or worse, they made the surfboard available to everyone and created the template for starting a surf company, which is still followed, over and over, around the world.”
Hobie Alter Photo: SURFER Archive | Dale Velzy Photo: Servais

“If you were to look for a point between the Gidget and Kelly Slater eras at which surfing made its greatest leap, none is more significant than when Australian shaper Bob McTavish built a series of competition boards for Nat Young leading into the 1966 World Championships. Working together with, and inspired by, Californian expat George Greenough and his flexible scooped-nose kneeboards, they hacked the lengths down dramatically, kicked up the nose rockers, and cut deep vee panels into the tails. This allowed Young and his large, powerful frame to turn more radically on a wave than ever seen before. Almost overnight, board lengths began to drop—along with a lot of psychedelics—and the Shortboard Revolution was on. Hawaiian shaper Dick Brewer immediately used these design concepts to create a whole new style of Hawaiian “guns” for surfers like Jeff Hakman, Gerry Lopez, and Reno Abellira, allowing them and others to almost instantly push performance levels in tube riding and radical maneuvers in large Hawaiian waves.”
Bob McTavish Photo: Stoner | George Greenough Photo: Witzig

“Where would we be without the Thruster? From the Campbell brothers’ Bonzers to many others attempting to add rear stabilizers to twin-fins, it’s no secret that people had put three fins on surfboards before. But Anderson’s “Thruster” was different. His combination of three like-sized fins clustered together had no real precedence. Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find an earlier example of his groundbreaking outline—the narrowish nose and bump-wing squash tail—to which he married his three-fin setup. Like the great Mark Richards, who won his four consecutive world titles on self-shaped twin-fins, it’s the surfing that Anderson did on his self-made craft that really hammered the message home. In one year, on self-designed, self-shaped equipment, Anderson won two of the world’s most prestigious surfing events: the Pipe Masters and Bells Beach, showing the design’s versatility. It was a performance and design leap as impactful (or maybe even more so) than anything before or since. Within a year, the twin-fin was all but forgotten. By the summer of ’83, nearly every stock board, in every surf shop, in every country looked like a copy of Anderson’s boards. Unfortunately for him, the name he gave his board model, “The Thruster,” was plagiarized by everyone and essentially became public domain.”
Simon Anderson Photo: Crawford

“While no singular design or manufacturing first can seemingly be credited to Al Merrick, the founder of Channel Islands Surfboards has been more influential to surfers and surfboard designers than any single person over the last quarter century. Merrick was already a skilled and accomplished board builder when Simon Anderson’s Thruster came along. With California prodigy Tom Curren, and a bevy of other talented surfers, he was able to jump on this design and take it to new heights. We were all watching, including Kelly Slater. Under Slater’s feet, Merrick refined this design and took the rest of us along with him as he pushed into a bold new realm of minimalistic, precise, high-performance surfboards. Kelly Slater is the most influential surfer of our time, and he has done the vast majority of his surfing on boards built by Al Merrick. You do the math.”
Al Merrick Photo: Motil

BOB SIMMONS *the wild card
“He developed rocker, foam sandwich construction, and multi-fins…in the ’40s! Bob Simmons’ star shone bright for too short a time. California in the post-World War II 1940s was a playground paradise. Armed with a knowledge of military hydrodynamics and postwar, new-age materials, Simmons used the time and space well, continuously driving and surfing up and down the uncrowded coastline, crafting and testing his futuristic designs. His unprecedented use of rocker, concave, “Styro” foam and wood-veneer sandwich constructions, as well as consistent work with multi-fin boards, is well documented. Combined with his untimely drowning in large La Jolla surf, his legend has grown to epic proportions among groups of cavalier craftsman and stalwart surfers alike. More than 60 years after its inventor’s death, the Mini-Simmons is now collectively known almost as a basket name for any extremely short, flattish plank with a parallel outline. The evangelistic tribe of maverick, underground, backyard, and garage shapers around the globe praising and preaching the mantra of Simmons continues to grow daily.”
Bob Simmons Photo: SURFER Archive