Gordon & Smith Surfboards (1959)
Larry Gordon was born in 1939 and moved with his family from Waukegan, Illinois to San Diego, California when he was three. He grew up in nearby Pacific Beach and started surfing when he was in high school. His career as a surfboard designer/builder began somewhat unwittingly in 1956 when he stripped the glass from a balsa board he owned, reshaped it to his liking and then re-glassed it. Now, more than 45 years later, Larry Gordon has had a hand in building or selling an estimated 100,000 Gordon & Smith surfboards.
In the summer of 1959, when Gordon was a chemistry major at San Diego State College, he and his friend Floyd Smith built a mold, bought the necessary chemicals (from Gordon Plastics, his dad's family business) and started blowing foam blanks in Smiths's garage--and Gordon & Smith Surfboards was born. This was just three years after Dave Sweet introduced the first commercially built surfboards made from polyurethane foam blanks.
By 1961, Gordon & Smith had become the most popular surfboard brand in the San Diego area. The name became widespread in the '60s and '70s as some of the world's best surfers became G&S team riders, designers or shapers. Mike Hynson's Red Fin, the Skip Frye model and the QuarterSpeed were three popular models that come to mind from the '60s, and the G & S Modern Machine--first introduced in 1974--was the precursor to today's fun board. Greats like Hynson, Frye, Dale Dobson, Billy Hamilton, Butch Van Artsdalen and Barry Kanaiaupuni rode at one time or another for the G & S team, and a host of other well-known names have shaped for the label, including Hynson, Frye, Rusty Priesendorfer and Mike Eaton.
An interesting distinction the Gordon & Smith name has earned in the surfing world is that of inventor of the surfer t-shirt; if nothing else, it makes a great story. Floyd had once taken a silk-screening class and apparently had some sound marketing instincts, because in 1961 he invited local surfers to bring in their t-shirts, on which the G & S logo was screened--for free. Surf journalist Paul Holmes--who served as editor of Surfer Magazine from 1981 through 1989--wrote that surfer t-shirts were "symbols of the casual and free-spirited surfing lifestyle." By 2002, an estimated 300 million surfer t-shirts were produced worldwide on an annual basis. Talk about a contribution to the world of fashion!
Floyd Smith moved to Australia in 1965 to start G & S Australia, while Larry stayed in San Diego to manage Gordon & Smith Surfboards, which at the time was cranking out some 4,000 boards per year. Then in 1971, Smith sold his interest in the business, ending the 12-year partnership. But the name has continued to flourish under Larry Gordon, withstanding the test of time. In the last 30 years, the company has not only produced surfboards, but skateboards, bodyboards and popular surf and skate apparel as well. Gordon & Smith Surfboards managed to lead the transition from balsa to foam, then through the shortboard revolution, and into today's "almost anything goes" environment. The G & S line now includes classic longboards, performance longboards, shortboards, fun shapes, and fish. Check out the complete line at www.gordonandsmith.com.