A TOAST TO THE MAD GENIUS WHO BROUGHT SPEED TO THE SURFBOARD
The history of our sport is filled with tinkering oddballs who’ve spent big chunks of their lives making the surfboard a better tool. God bless each and every one of them. Where would we be without them? Sliding around on alaias, I suppose. The horror.
Today, when he would have turned 99 years old, we celebrate Bob Simmons, one of our most cherished tinkerers, and a man whose legacy ought not be defined by poor surfers poorly surfing on mini-Simmons boards all summer. While the short-ish, wide, thin, bellied-out mini-Simmons are a nod to his designs from seventy years ago, virtually every part of your surfboard that touches the water was modernized in Simmons’ Santa Monica garage in the early postwar years.
In those mid-40s, Simmons, nose buried deeply in Lindsay Lord’s obscure book Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls, began to rethink everything about surfboards–all in the name of speed. Most surfers at the time rode long, skinny, hollow “cigar boards” popularized by Tom Blake, or thick, heavy-as-shit solid boards made from planks of redwood and balsa. Simmons–who didn’t learn to surf until he was 20 years old– was dissatisfied by both. Simmons decided that ol’ Lord’s ideas about improving boat hull design would translate well to surfboards.
He was right.