Three weeks ago, legendary surfboard shaper Dick Brewer died at his home on the island of Kauai. He was 85. In keeping with this newsletter’s Father’s Day theme, one could say that Brewer was a “father” to surfing in a couple of monumental ways; first, he was often referred to as the “father” of the modern performance longboard. Gerry Lopez even suggested that Brewer’s “Pipeliner” model (originally called the “Summer Semi”) was likely the first high performance longboard ever made.
Second, Dick Brewer
pioneered the high performance “mini-gun,” a precursor to the tow-in surfboard. Working with notable big wave guys like Laird Hamilton and Buzzy Kerbox, Brewer’s shaping achievements in the world of big wave surfing are unmatched. In Laird’s book, Force of Nature
(2008), he says that his favorite tow board was a Brewer. “The board was shaped by Dick Brewer. He’s like the genius of all shapers. He’s taught everybody.”
Buzzy Kerbox echoed similar sentiments about Brewer’s boards. In his book, Making Waves (2019), Kerbox says, “When I wanted a gun for Waimea in the late ‘80s that would help make me confident in huge waves, Dick was my only choice. His guns have ruled big wave lineups for decades.”
Brewer was born in Bemidji, Minnesota in 1936. Three years later, his family moved to California. He started surfing in ’53 and shaped his first surfboard six years later. At about that time, Brewer went to Hawaii for the first time; it was a trip that changed his life forever. Returning to California, he found himself on the Dewey Weber
surf team and enrolled in engineering school at Long Beach State. The year was 1959.
Brewer returned to California in 1964 to strengthen the presence of his Surfboards Hawaii
label on the mainland. But trouble with a business partner forced him to walk away from the very brand he had created. Dick landed a job at Hobie
in 1965 before moving to Harbour Surfboards in ’66 and then to Bing Surfboards in ’67. It was the beginning of the shortboard revolution, and Brewer was there to influence it.
Still shaping on the mainland, he did brief shaping stints at Greek Surfboards
, Plastic Fantastic, and Inter-Island Surfboards. But by ‘68, Brewer was ready to once again venture out on his own. While shaping for Plastic Fantastic, 16 year-old Jericho Poppler sketched the first Brewer “lei” logo design on a napkin. That simple drawing became the iconic symbol of Dick Brewer Surfboards for decades to come. Jericho, who was working at George’s Surf Shop in Huntington Beach at the time, went on to become a championship surfer and one of the original full-time female professional surfers.
Brewer moved back to Hawaii again in ’69; this time for good. With his new logo design in hand and five more years of shaping experience behind him, he founded Dick Brewer Surfboards
. From the mid-‘70s through the late ‘80s, he all but dropped out of the surf scene, yet continued to shape performance longboards, big wave guns, sailboards and tow boards.
"Surfing would not be where it is today had it not been for RB. He was the father of the modern day surfboard, ushering in the era from long boards, to the transition of the shortboard in the late 60’s to the early 70’s. His big wave guns spanned multiple eras and no other designer has contributed as much to surfboard design as Dick Brewer.” – Randy Rarick, renowned surfer, shaper, and restoration specialist.
“Dick was a mystery, even to himself. His curious mind was never at rest. He could be so charismatic and engaging, while at other times saying, “I do my best work alone’…as in get out of my shaping room!” – Chuck Brewer, Dick’s nephew and president of Dick Brewer Surfboards.
Dick Brewer shaped performance surfboards for 60 years, and in so doing, helped shape the surf lifestyle for generations. To honor Dick and his extraordinary life, the Brewer family is planning paddle-outs for late July and early August…dates and details will be posted on Instagram Dick Brewer.
Until next time,