Greetings, Shredderz! Earlier this month someone listed a lovely Greg Noll longboard for sale. See below for some photos from the original listing. For better or for worse, most Greg Noll surfboards nowadays are presented as collector’s items, a depiction that has more in common with cars and watches than other wave riding vehicles. It’s nice to see an example of a Greg Noll board as is.
It’s a bit faded, of course, but I much prefer the scuffs and imperfections of these boards to their fully restored counterparts. I don’t dislike restored boards, to be clear, but I have a thing for originals that have survived the years.
I know very little about Noll’s boards, such as who he employed as production shapers. Greg Noll Surfboards was based in the South Bay of Los Angeles, which was the ground zero for American surfboard production for many years.
This particular Greg Noll board, with its beautiful craftsmanship and the clear amount of “give a shit” that went into making it, leads me to think about the state of board building here in California. I don’t begrudge labels producing boards overseas, and the market has made it abundantly clear that most people aren’t willing to pay a premium for American made goods, whether it’s smartphones, cars or surfboards. But is the price of all this progress a piece of our very souls? I recently visited a ding repair guy here in Santa Cruz whose shop is a short walk from the water, an arrangement that seems like a glitch in coastal California’s real estate landscape. Sadly, the days of surfboard factories within viewing distance of the Pacific Ocean seem numbered. The math — whether it’s escalating property values, stagnant wages for manufacturing jobs, or the savings associated with overseas production — points to an inevitable shift away from local board building. As much as I think progress and innovation are critical, it’s disheartening to think of a future where surf communities are disconnected from the vital practice of board building.
I wish I had some solutions to offer, but I don’t. In the meantime I’ll do my best to support local shapers and people who take the time and effort to build boards by hand. Things change, even to the point where they are unrecognizable to many, but as long as there’s an ocean surfing will never die, and there’s some comfort in that.