Greetings, Shredderz! We are starting off 2019 with a bang. Featured here is a lovely Creative Freedom / John Bradbury Hydro Foam epoxy surfboard, which was shaped likely during the Eighties. For more on Bradbury, feel free to check out the Shred Sledz Deep Dive here. John Bradbury was a highly esteemed Santa Barbara shaper before his untimely passing in the late Nineties. One prominent part of Bradbury’s legacy is his role as an early advocate for alternative materials, particularly epoxy boards. All of the Creative Freedom / John Bradbury epoxy boards I have seen have very clear and prominent Hydro Foam laminates.
Naturally, when someone reached out with pics of a Creative Freedom John Bradbury Hydro Foam board, I was very interested. Many thanks to Brianna for generously sharing photos of the board you see featured here!
Click the photos above to enlarge. As you can see, Brianna’s board is an absolute doozy. A good thirty years after it was shaped it’s still in great condition. I have noticed that the Hydro Foam boards I have seen tend to hold up very well, although it’s also a small sample size. This Creative Freedom John Bradbury board has the neon you’d expect from an Eighties thruster, but it also isn’t quite as over the top as, say, a T&C Surf Designs stick from the same time frame.
Despite what I said in the previous paragraph, it’s interesting to note the fin setup. The Bradbury board isn’t quite a thruster — I’d say it’s more of a twin fin with a small center trailing fin. The trailing fin is pushed pretty far back towards the tail as well. I haven’t see any other examples quite like this one.
The Bradbury Creative Freedom board has Aleeda laminates underneath the glass on both the deck and the bottom. Aleeda was a wetsuit brand that I believe has gone out of business. The Aleeda laminates make me think the board might have been shaped for a Bradbury team rider or someone else who was sponsored, but I can’t be certain.
Finally, it’s worth noting Clyde Beatty’s involvement in creating the board, as you can see in the photo above. Beatty is a shaper and a glasser who was involved in the Santa Barbara surf scene. In addition, Beatty was another proponent of alternative materials in board building. I’m not sure if Beatty was involved in Hydro Foam specifically, but I was able to find a link that indicates Beatty helped develop some epoxy resins. As you can see in the photo above, it looks like SP115 refers to the laminating system used in conjunction with the Hydro Foam blanks.
The majority of Hydro Foam surfboards I have seen were shaped by Bradbury under his Creative Freedom label. I have also seen a few shaped by Pat Rawson during his time at Local Motion, like the one you see below.
Many thanks again to Brianna for sharing pictures of this gorgeous John Bradbury Creative Freedom surfboard. As always, hit me up if you have pictures of a killer board you’d like to share with the rest of the Shred Sledz community! Finally, here’s another example of a Bradbury Hydro Foam board:
An overview and history of Creative Freedom and John Bradbury’s surfboards
Shred Sledz may have a silly name, but we’d like to think we’re (somewhat) serious about making an effort to help preserve surf culture. Then again, the blog’s name does have an ironic ‘z’ in it, so who can be sure? One thing is certain, though: Shred Sledz has a keen interest in examining lesser-known chapters of California’s rich surfing history, and in particular, the craftsmen who have helped make it all possible. One such underground shaper is Creative Freedom’s John Bradbury. Bradbury might not be a household name, partly due to his untimely passing in 1999. Nonetheless, Bradbury is still respected by some of the most famous board builders in the world. Among others, shapers like Al Merrick, Renny Yater, Marc Andreini, Wayne Rich and Bruce Fowler have all expressed admiration for Bradbury and his designs.
Bradbury was an early proponent of EPS / epoxy surfboards. In 1985 Pottz won a World Tour contest on a Bradbury design. The success of this collaboration led to Bradbury supplying boards to other top pros Cheyne Horan and Brad Gerlach.
More than three decades later, as companies like Firewire continue to incorporate alternate materials into their designs, Bradbury’s approach looks downright prescient.
While Bradbury is rightfully known for his early forays into epoxy surfboards, this post will focus on the boards he made during the earlier parts of his career. The pictures of the boards in the post below came from a Shred Sledz reader who has been quietly collecting Bradbury’s designs over the years. (Side note: If you have any interesting boards or stories you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to reach out!)
Creative Freedom John Bradbury Board #1: “Double Logo” 7’10” x 19-1/8″ x 3″ Single Fin (Date Unknown)
It’s unclear when this board was shaped. My guess is sometime during the 70s. The fin box looks like a Bahne Fins Unlimited box, which I believe were not popularized until the late 1960s. In addition, the outline looks similar to many of the single fin guns and mini-guns being made during this era. This logo was created by Michael Drury, who also did the updated version (see below).
Creative Freedom John Bradbury Board #2: “Compass Logo” 7’6″ x 20-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ Single Fin (Approx. 1969)
Stoked-n-Board continues to be one of the finest online resources on vintage surfboards. Predictably, S-n-B’s entry on Creative Freedom / John Bradbury is worth a read. However, after discussing the boards in this post with their owner, I’m not sure that the dates corresponding to the logos in S-n-B’s entry are correct. See below for an example of a Creative Freedom surfboard with a “compass logo”. Despite what is listed on Stoked-n-Board, the compass logo was actually the first logo ever designed for Creative Freedom. The board below is also numbered #199, which pegs it as a pretty early shape.
See below for more pictures of the board in question. Note the prominent S-Deck with the domed tail.
The tail in particular is pretty funky looking, as you can see in the pictures:
And here’s a side shot, which gives you a clear idea of the S-Deck and the rocker.
Fountain of Youth Surfboards shaper Bruce Fowler graciously took some time to read this blog post and offer some additional information on the board above. There is no tail rocker present in the Compass Logo board, which was likely shaped in 1969. According to Fowler, the more modern designs of shapers like Dick Brewer, Mike Diffenderfer, and Mike Hynson forced the Santa Barbara crew to adapt. Brewer, Diff, and Hynson’s boards featured beak noses, full down rails, and natural rocker in the tail. These advancements were later incorporated into Bradbury, Yater, et al’s designs.
There’s one other data point that supports the 1969 date for the compass logo board, and it comes from Kirk Putnam. Putnam posted a picture of a very similar looking compass logo Creative Freedom board, which Putnam dates to 1969 as well:
Creative Freedom John Bradbury Board #3: 1970s Single Fin 6’8″ x 19-1/8″ x 3-1/4″
At some point Bradbury tweaked his logo to include two surfers on the wave (maybe as a more accurate depiction of the crowds at Rincon?) The same collector owns a single fin sporting the two surfers logo.
I believe the logo with the two surfers is more recent than both the single surfer logo, as well as the nautical logo. The board bears many of the hallmarks of a traditional 1970s single fin. It has a beaked nose, a removable fin box, and beefy rails (3-1/4″!).
The 70s single fin also has a Bradbury signature on the board, addressed to Lewis. You can barely make out the “J. Bradbury” below.
At some point, Bradbury appears to have ditched the Creative Freedom brand altogether. Stoked-n-Board estimates the switch happened in the 1980s, and Bradbury continued to use the new logo until his passing in 1999. Here is an example of the modern Bradbury logo, taken from a board that was listed for sale on Craigslist a few months ago:
Bradbury was also recognized by the Boardroom Show’s “Icons of Foam” series back in 2009. Marc Andreini turned in the winning tribute board. I believe Andreini’s tribute board is a thruster, but I’m not certain. I took this photo myself at the Boardroom Show in Santa Cruz last fall.
Creative Freedom John Bradbury shapes continue to have a cult following, particularly in and around Bradbury’s hometown of Santa Barbara. While Bradbury’s career as a shaper might have been cut short by his untimely passing, there is no doubt about the extent of his contributions to the sport of surfing.
Many thanks to Jesse McNamara for much of the information in this post!