Star Systems Fins Ad from the 1980s: Sagas of Shred

Shredderz, I’m afraid I have reached the point of no return. I am speaking about the precise moment in time when one finds oneself flipping through an old issue of Surfer Magazine, and then stops short in order to take a closer look at an advertisement for a fin box system that has been defunct for about 30 years.

Pictured above is an ad for the old Star Systems fin box, which had its peak during the 1980s. I’m not sure why, but Star Systems fins — often called star fins, though this is not to be confused with Cheyne Horan’s design — predominantly appeared on twin fins from the late 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays Star Systems fins mainly infuriate collectors looking for replacement fins so they can ride their 80s twinnies. Star Systems pre-dated the invention of the thruster, but for some reason, they didn’t seem to stick around long enough to compete with the likes of FCS and co, when removable fins became standard on most shortboards. Star Systems was one of the first attempts to create what we now take for granted as the modern removable fin system, but it’s far from being a household name.

At some point, Star Systems was closely associated with Gordon & Smith Surfboards. I’m not sure if G&S purchased Star Systems, but you’ll often see 80s G&S boards sporting the funky fin boxes. The ad pictured above is from 1979. From the looks of the advertisement, Star Systems was a separate company from Gordon & Smith at least during its early days.

Finally, here’s a great video from The Fin Project that features Larry Allenson talking through some of the unique mechanics of the Star Systems fin setup:

Thanks again for reading Sagas of Shred! We’ll be back in a week with some more surf history odds and ends.

G&S Hot Curl Transitional Shape

Greetings, Shredderz! By now loyal readers will know that the Shreditorial Staff has a fascination with the funky shapes produced during the Transition Era of the late 1960s. Today’s post features a particularly lovely board: the Gordon & Smith Hot Curl. As you can see in the photograph above, one of the G&S Hot Curl’s best features is an incredibly detailed floral graphic that appears on the deck.

The board pictured above is currently listed for sale on eBay with a starting price of $750. There is no reserve for the board, and given its impeccable condition, I would say this is a reasonable price (though auctions always tend to heat up towards the end). You can find a link to the board here. All pics above are via the eBay listing.

The G&S Hot Curl has an earlier iteration that was a more traditional noserider than the one pictured above. Stoked-n-Board is an incredible resource and I will sing its praises until the apocalypse, but their listing claims the Gordon & Smith Hot Curl measured in at lengths between 9’0″ and 9’5″. The board pictured above is 7’8″, and its outline, plus the W.A.V.E. Set fin box, clearly indicate that it was shaped during the late 1960s, by the time the shortboard revolution was in full swing.

I’m not sure whether or not the G&S Hot Curl is considered a proper displacement hull. The outline is similar to modern day hulls you’ll see, but I would hazard a guess and say that a real determination can’t be made without more detailed knowledge of the board’s bottom.

The floral logo doesn’t appear on all Gordon & Smith Hot Curl models, either. For example, here’s a beaut that appeared on a Jamboards thread that has the G&S Hot Curl logos and a similar shape, but not the crazy floral graphic from the example above. I do love the matching purple airbrush on the deck and the grape soda colored W.A.V.E. Set fin, though!

If you’re in the market for a beautiful G&S Hot Curl model, or merely in desperate need of some hipster surf street cred, check out the board on eBay here.

Australia via San Diego: Midget Farrelly and Gordon & Smith

Shred Sledz is (proudly) made in California. And given HQ’s location in the Golden State (AKA my living room), it’s no surprise that the blog focuses primarily on American and Hawaiian surfboard shapers. Today I’m excited to lend a little more Aussie influence to this modest seppo-centric blog. We’ll be exploring the history and contributions of one of Australia’s earliest surf stars: none other than the late, great Bernard “Midget” Farrelly. In particular, today’s post focuses on a rare surfboard model: a collaboration between Midget Farrelly and Gordon & Smith, the famed San Diego-based US board maker.

Midget Farrelly
Farrelly, putting it on a rail. Photo by Dick Graham, taken from his book “The Ride: 1960s and 1970s, A Photo Essay”

 

Farrelly won the inaugural World Surfing Championship in 1964. The event was held at Manly Beach, located in Farrelly’s hometown of Sydney. A few years later, Farrelly was an active contributor to the experimental surfboard designs of the Transition Era.

To this day there remains a heated debate over the origins of the vee bottom surfboard design. Bob McTavish, another Australian surfer and shaper, is widely credited with having invented the design in 1967. Farrelly, on the other hand, claims that he was the inventor of the vee bottom. He offers the picture below as proof. Farrelly claims the white board in the picture below was about 8′ x 22″ – a good deal shorter than the boards being ridden by his contemporaries – and that the picture was taken in 1967 at the Windansea vs. Australia contest in Palm Beach. Farrelly contends that McTavish did not even glimpse a vee bottom board until November of 1967, which later inspired McTavish to do his own take on the design. The Encyclopedia of Surfing, on the other hand, credits McTavish with having begun work on the vee bottom in March of 1967. McTavish says he was shaping vee bottoms at the Keyo factory in mid-1967. If you want to read more about Midget’s side of the story, I recommend going to his website. Sadly, Midget passed away last year from stomach cancer.

Midget Farrelly
Photo by Dick Graham; photo via Farrelly Surfboards

 

While the origin of the vee bottom may be contested, I think we can all agree on one thing: transition boards – and vee bottoms in particular – are very, very cool.

Pictured at the top of this post is a Midget Farrelly / Gordon & Smith design that is currently up for sale on Craigslist in Monterey, California. It’s 7′10″ in length, but no other dimensions are offered up. The price is $1200 – steep, but this is a rare surfboard, and it looks to be in good condition, other than an obvious repair on the nose. I have included more pics below:

Gordon & Smith agreed to distribute Farrelly’s boards in the United States, and this is a clear example of the partnership. In the very first picture you can see the logo reads “Farrelly by Gordon and Smith Surfboards USA”.

However, it’s unclear to me exactly what model this is. Gordon & Smith – it’s interesting to note that the logo on the board reads “Gordon and Smith”, and doesn’t contain the customary ampersand – produced a Midget Farrelly Stringerless model. Stoked-n-Board has the Farrelly Stringerless model as having been produced between 1967 and 1969, which means it pre-dates the creation of the vee bottom. Here’s an example of a G&S Farrelly Stringerless model, and you can see that it is longer and more of a traditional longboard shape than the board listed at the top. It’s listed at 9′6″, and Surf Research actually dates the board to 1966, a full year earlier than Stoked-n-Board. Either way, it’s clear that the board below is a different model from the one at the top of the post – it’s longer, it has a fuller nose, and it has a different logo.

image

Photo via surfresearch.com.au

Here’s a close up of the G&S Farrelly Stringerless logo (from a different board).

image

Pic via Surfers Japan

And here’s an old print ad for the G&S Farrelly Stringerless model. Note that this is clearly more of a standard longboard / noserider design – pre-Transition Era, I’m guessing. Note that this version of the logo has numbering. I’ve seen Stringerless logos without numbers.

image

G&S has another old ad up on their website, which shows the Farrelly Stringerless design alongside a Skip Frye and a Mike Hynson design.

image

Photo via G&S

In conclusion, I don’t believe the board at the top of this post is a G&S Farrelly Stringerless model. Instead, I think it’s a slightly later G&S Farrelly V Bottom. See the ad below, taken from G&S’ website. If you look closely you can see the second board from the left is called the “Midget Farrelly V Bottom” model. I believe this is the same model as the board at the top of the post. And while the Farrelly V Bottom does not have a stringer, it should not be confused with the Farrelly Stringerless model, which is a longer board.

image

Photo via G&S

I’ve found pictures of the Farrelly V Bottom model elsewhere online, and here are a few examples. In this one below you’ll note that it has a tunnel fin, which I believe was added afterwards.

image

Photo via Gbase

This board below – which I found floating around on Pinterest – looks like an exact match to the one at the top of the page. It has similar deck patches, logo placement, and of course the overall outline. The picture below also gives a better idea of the vee in the tail, which is of course one of the defining characteristics of the board.

image

The board for sale can be found here on Craigslist (Update: Link has been removed). The seller also looks to be getting rid of some other gems, including a Morey Pope Tracker and a mystery David Nuuhiwa model. None of the boards are cheap, but they look well cared for. I’m wondering if these weren’t all at some point part of a larger collection in the Monterey area that was sold off a few years ago.

Finally, while we are on the topic of Australian surfing luminaries, I cannot recommend surfresearch.com.au enough. This article on 1967 and the creation of the vee bottom is incredibly thorough and detailed, and a real treat for anyone who’s interested in the topic. The same can be said for surfresearch.com.au’s entry for Farrelly himself, which is a fitting tribute for a true legend of the sport.

Holy Matrimony: Skip Frye and Gordon & Smith

Skip Frye is undoubtedly one of the greatest living surfboard shapers in the world. Good luck if you’re looking to get your grubby mitts on one of his boards. He’s notoriously picky about choosing his clientele. This scarcity, combined with his sterling reputation, means that mere mortals like myself have to look on the second market for Frye’s boards. They command a premium and they disappear from Craigslist nearly instantaneously.

The board pictured here is an unusual example of a Frye shape with Gordon & Smith branding on it. It’s available on Craigslist in New Jersey – far from Frye’s homebase of San Diego – listed at a predictably steep $1200.

What’s interesting about this board is that it is NOT the famous Skip Frye signature model that G&S produced started in 1966. Island Trader Surf – a rad shop in Florida that sells some really nice vintage boards – has a picture of a G&S Frye signature model, and you can see the board is quite different than the one pictured above:

You’ll also notice that the Skip Frye models have a small but important distinction: beneath Skip Frye’s famous wings logo, you can see a small “model”, which denotes a signature model, as opposed to a board that Frye had shaped for the G&S label.

Photos courtesy Island Trader Surf Shop

Frye left G&S in 1976 to start his own label, which he continues to shape under today. However, one thing I learned is that Frye actually returned to Gordon & Smith from 1981 to 1985. The seller on the Craigslist ad mentions that the board is from this era. It’s a cool find for sure.

The board measures 9′8″ and it’s got a neat pintail in the back. But c’mon, the real appeal is that it’s a Skip Frye board, and it’s actually for sale! You can check out the listing here.

Vintage Gordon & Smith Noserider

If you’re in the Boca Raton area, check out this vintage unrestored 1960s Gordon & Smith longboard on Craigslist. The poster claims the board is from 1964, and a quick eyeball test indicates to me that this could be the case (e.g., look at the glassed on fin, the rake of the fin, and the outline).

G&S is about as venerable as California surfboard brands get. The first thing that stands out to be is the green logo on the board. My guess is that the logo was originally a black one that faded over time to its current color. You can see other examples of discoloration on the board as well. Stoked-n-Board’s entry for G&S indicates that the logo dates from this era, too. (Note: S-n-B’s entry has a typo. The logo is labeled as ‘Figure 38′, but the matching description for ‘Figure 39′ is clearly the one in question, and it is listed as being used for boards from 1964.) The nose is a totally different color, and you can see two bands around the logo where the deck was somehow shielded from the sun. I’m wondering if some details of the board weren’t removed at some point – maybe design elements that were laminated onto the fiberglass exterior. For example, here’s a Swaylocks thread that has a board with similar bands across the deck, which could have easily been removed from this example here.

This thing isn’t in great condition, and for $900, that might be a non-starter. Surfboard Shack has a G&S noserider listed for sale for $1,000 that is in much better condition (though I wouldn’t be surprised if the board is actually out of stock). But as we like to say here at Shred Sledz HQ, it’s always free to look!

Here’s a link to where you can find the board on Craigslist.