Rory “The Dog” Russell for Lightning Bolt: Sagas of Shred

Surfing is a sport known for its colorful characters. Even against this crowded backdrop, though, Rory “The Dog” Russell stands out. As always, Matt Warshaw’s peerless Encyclopedia of Surfing puts it best: “Happy, hedonistic tuberiding specialist from the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii; Pipeline Masters winner in 1976 and 1977.”

Russell was a North Shore standout during the 1970s, and there are tons of pictures of him charging sizable Pipeline riding the unmistakable Lightning Bolt single fins that dominated the decade.

Rory Russell Pipeline 1975 Jeff Divine via The Surfer's Journal.jpg
Russell, about to get pitted at Pipe. Photo by Jeff Divine; via The Surfer’s Journal
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A young Rory Russell, more pup than Dog in this picture, waxing up. Pic via Lightning Bolt

The Lightning Bolt ad at the top of the page ran in the August 1982 issue of Surfer Magazine (Vol. 23, No. 8). For a good chunk of the Eighties Lightning Bolt ads occupied the coveted back cover on Surfer Magazine, and this time period yielded some pretty classic material, including the spot featured above.

The Lightning Bolt ad is a not so subtle play on Russell’s  nickname, “The Dog”, and his reputation as a ladies’ man. As unlikely as it might seem, the copy on the advertisement is every bit as good as the classic photo of Russell grinning in a sea of blondes.

“A roving ambassador and captain of Team Bolt, Rory Russell travels the world in search of the perfect wave and the ultimate lifestyle.

Aside from his surfing exploits, Rory is famous for his fun-loving attitude and is a widely proclaimed afficionado (sic) of beachwear and the casual lifestyle. Rory invited this very special group of friends to show his pick to click in Bolt for Gals Swimwear for the summer of ’82…

…and a hot one it is, thanks Rory.

As a general rule of thumb, anyone who can be described as a “widely proclaimed aficionado of beachwear and the casual lifestyle” has nothing more to prove to anyone. Ever. I don’t even know what being a casual lifestyle aficionado would entail, nor do I care. If you look closely, you’ll notice all the women in the ad are wearing matching Lightning Bolt necklaces, which is the cherry on top of the figurative sundae.

Thanks for checking out this installment of Sagas of Shred, and as always, swing back around next Thursday for more.

Chuck Vinson Lightning Bolt Single Fin

Greetings, Shredderz! Today we have a board that comes courtesy of another reader. Shout out to Dan for sharing the stoke of this incredible Chuck Vinson shape (you can check him out on Instagram here). I’ve written about Chuck Vinson before. The earlier post I wrote featured a Vinson-shaped single fin that was produced under his own name. Vinson also produced boards for Lightning Bolt during its heyday of the mid-1970s, when Bolt was not just the most famous surfboard label in the world, but the surfboard brand, period. Dan had this Chuck Vinson Lightning Bolt single fin shaped for him during the 1970s. Apparently Dan had Vinson shape him three boards, and this one remains.

As you can see, Dan’s Chuck Vinson Lightning Bolt has all the classic lines you would expect of a 70s single fin crafted to tackle powerful Hawaiian surf. Sadly, Lightning Bolt’s well-documented struggles with intellectual property meant that their signature logo was copied throughout the decade, but the board pictured above is the real deal.

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By far my favorite detail about the Chuck Vinson Lightning Bolt is the glass on fin, which is partially made out of wood.

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Wooden fins seem to have fallen out of favor recently — I’m not sure why, as you’ll still see the occasional glass on fiberglass examples — but it’s not for a lack of aesthetics!

I have actually seen another example of a Vinson board with a similar wooden fin. The example below was taken from a board Vinson made under the Santa Cruz label.

Santa Cruz Chuck Vinson Single Fin

Many thanks to Dan for sharing the photos of his incredible Chuck Vinson Lightning Bolt single fin. RIP to Mr Vinson, who sadly passed away last year. Thank you for reading, and if you have any other Chuck Vinson boards you’d like to share, please do get in touch.

Social Media Roundup (March 3)

Greetings, Shredderz! As always, here’s a selection of some of the rad boards that have caught my eye on various trips down the information super highway…

Luis Real strikes again! Pictured above is a super unusual Lightning Bolt / Gerry Lopez sting. For all of Bolt’s fame in the 70s, and the popularity of the sting during the same decade, you would think you would see more Bolts with sting outlines. The Lightning Bolt sting also has a cool Al Dove airbrush.

Here’s a beautiful Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt that he hand shaped for Rell Sun, giving the board some truly regal Hawaiian pedigree. The board’s owner, Kim McKenzie, was recently written up in a cool feature on Pilgrim Surf + Supply’s super neat blog. The board has a quasi-sting outline, and the upturned wings are very reminiscent of some Mark Richards stings I have seen.

While we’re on the topic of Lightning Bolt, Ian Cairns is selling some of his 1970s Tom Parrish-shaped Bolt single fins to help finance his new biography. Enjoy this timely quiver shot, which I have to imagine was taken on the North Shore of Oahu.

This is a mind-boggling board. Make sure you swipe through all the photos. I have never seen a flex tail on a Rick Surfboards shape before. Rick made some really neat transitional boards, including the famous Barry Kanaiaupuni Model. Not sure who the shaper might have been.

I don’t know that surfboards get any more classy — or classic, for that matter — than the Phil Edwards Honolulu. (Though the Hobie Phil Edwards comes close). Stay tuned…there may be a Deep Dive forthcoming on the subject.

Minimalist times.. #yatersurfboards ✌️

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I don’t know if this is a vintage picture or just a vintage board, but for all you California-philes out there, is there anything more timeless than a clean Renny Yater single fin? You can just barely make out the logo towards the nose, lurking beneath the wetsuit.

Vintage Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt Ad: Sagas of Shred

Thursday is a day of anticipation: with the weekend in striking distance, hope has a way of blossoming. And just in case Thursdays weren’t glorious enough already, here at Shred Sledz we have made considerable efforts to further ease your transition into weekends chock filled with waves, wax and warmth. Yes, that’s right: Thursday means it’s time for Sagas of Shred, your favorite peek into surfing’s past. Today’s entry features a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt ad from 1979. Lopez is famous for navigating gaping barrels at Pipe with aplomb, but he can also make pleated tracksuit bottoms look cool, which might be just as impressive.

The Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt ad pictured above also gives a peek into the strange world of Lightning Bolt’s infamously messy business arrangements. Lightning Bolt is still one of the most recognizable logos in surfing. However, thanks to poor management, the licensing of the Lightning Bolt logo and brand quickly became murky, at best. According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Lopez sold his share of the Lightning Bolt brand in 1980, less than a year after this ad was published.

You can see some of the cracks starting to form in the fine print of the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt ad. While the ad is advertising a product known as “Lightning Bolt Sport Jeans”, you’ll also notice in the lower left hand corner that there’s an address for a separate business under the same name, which is owned by a mysterious gentleman named S Peter Lebowitz. I wasn’t able to find any info about Lebowitz online. On the lower right hand side you can see that there’s a separate address for Star Bolt Surfboards. There isn’t much information about Star Bolt online, but Damion from Board Collector has an excellent overview of the mysterious brand. My guess is that at this point, Bolt had licensed out some of its apparel production to separate companies — a hint of the rapid over-expansion that would later cause headaches for the storied brand.

It’s a shame that Lightning Bolt came to such an ignominious end, but the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt ad above is a reminder that the brand’s heyday was — and is — timeless.

Tune in next week for another entry in Sagas of Shred!

California Surf Museum Fundraiser: Retro Lightning Bolt Pipeliner

The California Surf Museum held its 10th annual Gala Fundraiser on Saturday, October 28th. One of the guests of honor was none other than Gerry Lopez. As part of the fundraiser, a select group of top shapers created tributes to the Lightning Bolt Pipeliner as a way of celebrating Lopez’s career, and they ended up producing some beautiful vintage-inspired shapes. I’ve collected various posts about the boards and included them all below.

Ryan Lovelace

Well there she is 😍 7’6 Pipeliner replica (as best I could!) for the @casurfmuseum gala/auction next weekend. The deck is a full fabric inlay, with 6 gradating resin panels expanding out from the lightning bolt (also done in resin). The little hologram on the bottom certifies that it’s a registered Lightningbolt, and being given the opportunity to make one for this I figured I had to give it my best 🤙🏼 I do t build many boards start to finish anymore, but when I do I try to make them count!! Stoking thoroughly after working on this for the past few weeks after hours – I’ll post a slideshow of it next week for y’all if you’d like to see more! And of course if you wanna buy it, come check out the event at the @casurfmuseum on the 28th ✌🏻 #ryanlovelacesurfcraft

A post shared by Ryan Lovelace Surf | Craft (@ryanlovelace) on

I’ll be honest, 90% of the reason why I even wrote this post was to feature Lovelace’s Lightning Bolt Pipeliner. I don’t know Mr. Lovelace, nor have I had the opportunity to ride any of his shapes, but I am dying to get my grubby paws on one of his famous V Bowls models. I recommend listening to Lovelace’s guest appearance on this recent Surf Splendor Podcast. More importantly, though, click through the slide show in the Instagram posts above! The board is insane and Lovelace made the entire thing by hand for the event.

 

Vulcan Surfboards / Dane Hantz

The Vulcan imagining of the classic Pipeliner we built for last evenings @casurfmuseum Gala. The Pipeliner auctioned along with other fantastic boards by @timbessell @ryanlovelace @roryrussellbolt and @hollingsworthsurfboards for the benefit of the @casurfmuseum. Of course, @chriscote was a fantastic host for the auction and listening to him pitch the boards had me in hysterics😹. I want to thank my friends @birdsnyder for help with this incredible board, my good friend @boostubbs4061 for all your help and encouragement, @cinnamonbeachgrinder for the recognition and @christinekueneke for all the love and support. Thank you to my friends and family for being there to support me, @ava.alh @pilgyfish Tom and Jen Varga, Paul and kristi Ambrogio. NO ONE could ever confuse me as being the retro guy but I’m very proud to have taken a stab at this iconic surf craft. Thank you @lightningbolt1971 for the permission to do so. Who knows this may go down in their archival records as one of the few carbon fiber pipeliners. Heaps of gratitude to my buddies @colanaustralia for an absolutely tight and dazzling plain weave carbon you guys are absolute LEGENDS.

A post shared by VULCAN (@vulcansurf) on

This board is a trip! Hantz is a San Diego-based shaper with famously futuristic leanings, and to no one’s surprise, his version of a classic 1970s Lightning Bolt Pipeliner includes the use of space age materials. Personally, I love the carbon fiber accents, and I’m dying to know how it rides, too.

 

Rory Russell

I don’t think the fundraiser would have been complete without the presence of at least one original Bolt shaper, and Rory Russell delivered what looks to be a classic example of the iconic Lightning Bolt Pipeliner board. I love the simple black, yellow and red paint job. There’s nothing more to say about this one, and that’s exactly how it should be!

 

Craig Hollingsworth

Craig Hollingsworth is another shaper who has some history with the Lightning Bolt label, having led its revival in the late 1990s. Again, make sure you scroll through all the photos in the posts above. You’ll see that the iconic Bolt logo is actually made of red and blue ming shell leaf, according to the caption. The end result is a very cool and subtle sparkle effect, reminiscent of some of Renny Yater’s abalone shell inlay boards.

 

Tim Bessell

I had heard of Tim Bessell, and mostly knew of him as a San Diego-based shaper. However, I was unaware of the fact that Bessell had actually shaped boards under Lightning Bolt’s label during the 1970s. According to Stoked-n-Board, Bessell shaped for Bolt from 1976 to 1980 before returning to his native Southern California. I’d say Bessell’s Lightning Bolt Pipeliner replica is the most traditional of the bunch, with its classic red color, white pinlines, and hint of drop shadow around the Lightning Bolt logo.

 

Jon Wegener / Andy Davis

Last but not least is a Jon Wegener board with an Andy Davis hand-painted tribute to an iconic photo of Gerry Lopez standing tall in a Pipeline cavern. You will probably recognize Andy Davis’ artwork from a number of collaborations across the surfing world, such as with fine folks like Mollusk Surf Shop. Wegener is another well-regarded California shaper. Among other things, he is known for his finless paipo designs.

To Bolt, or Not to Bolt? 1970s Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt Single Fin

First, allow me to beg for forgiveness regarding the bad pun in the title of the post. I’d promise not to do it again, but I don’t want to waste whatever little credibility I have left!

More to the point, there is a fascinating example of a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt board that is currently for sale on eBay. I have posted pictures of the board below (pics are via the eBay listing).

While a genuine Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt board from the 1970s is a holy grail for many surfboard collectors, there’s one catch: it’s often difficult to establish the provenance of true Lopez handshapes. For example, there are the California Bolts, which, as their name suggests, were produced on the West Coast and not in Hawaii. The California Bolts often bear a Danny Brawner-designed laminate meant to approximate Lopez’s signature. The California Bolts were mostly shaped by Mickey Munoz and Terry Martin.

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Great example of a Mickey Munoz-shaped California Bolt. You can clearly see the rectangular shape around the “Gerry Lopez” signature, which is a laminate that was applied to the board. Click through for more pics of the board, which were originally posted by Island Trader Surf Shop. Their site also has a clear picture of Munoz’s signature.

In addition, I have heard from Randy Rarick, who is the authority on all things relating to Hawaiian surfboards and their creators, that Lopez only signed the blanks of his handshapes — never on top of the glass.

Still, I am a bit confused, given that there are some distinct qualities about the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt being sold on eBay, that matches up with some other boards that were recently sold at auction.

As you can see in the pictures above, “A Pure Source” has been written on either side of the Lightning Bolt laminate. You can also see a Gerry Lopez signature off to the far right in the second picture. Back in the 1970s, “A Pure Source” was the marketing slogan for Lightning Bolt. Based on Rarick’s guidelines — the fact the eBay board has a Lopez signature on top of the glass, and not the blank itself — one might say the board is not a handshape.

And yet there were two boards sold at recent US Vintage Surf Auctions that were advertised as Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolts.

Board #1: 1975 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt #180, Sold at USVSA (Link)

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Close up of the first USVSA board. You can see it has the same formatting with the signature. Pic via USVSA

The first USVSA board, pictured above, has the exact same signature formatting as the eBay board at the top of the page: you have “A Pure Source” written across the Bolt laminate, and then a Lopez signature off to the right, signed on the glass itself. The USVSA website dates the board to 1975, and it claims that it is a Lopez handshape. In addition, the USVSA site claims the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt is numbered #180.

Board #2: 1977 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt #404, Sold at USVSA (Link)

Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt USVSA 1.JPG

Are we noticing a pattern yet? Same “A Pure Source” logo and handwritten signature in the exact same placement as the other two boards featured in the post. USVSA dates this board to 1977. This time, there’s a closeup of the serial number. The board is #404, which is stamped on the stringer. USVSA board #2 has a wedge stringer, which is an unusual touch.

It should also be noted that both USVSA boards have fin boxes. Rarick also tells me that the vast majority of Lopez handshapes made in Hawaii had glass-on fins.

In conclusion, I’m confused about how to explain this curious trio of Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt surfboards. Based on Rarick’s context, I do not believe any of these three boards are Lopez handshapes. As a refresher, none are signed beneath the glass, and at least two have fin boxes (it’s unclear with the eBay board whether or not the fin is glassed on.)

Second, both USVSA boards commanded relatively low prices at their respective auctions. Board #1 sold for $2,700 and board #2 went for $2,400. Compare this to a 1972 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt (with a glass-on fin, and a unique “signature”, which is a whole different story) sold at USVSA for $4,225, which you can find here.

I guess I can’t figure out why Lopez would go through the trouble of hand signing these boards with “A Pure Source” and a signature on the deck if he didn’t shape them himself. As always, if you have any information, please let me know! If there’s one thing I enjoy more than making bad jokes in blog post titles, it’s hearing from readers.

Terry Fitzgerald for Lightning Bolt

Hawaii is, and will always be, the center of the surfing world. Even as globalization pushes surfing into new and interesting corners, like retro longboarding’s unlikely resurgence in Indonesia, Hawaii is not only the birthplace of surfing, but the very place where much of its history continues to be made.

The 1970s were a particularly fertile and fascinating time in surfing’s development. It was during this decade that Australians descended upon the North Shore of Oahu, raising eyebrows with their brash surfing and matching attitudes. While the “Bustin’ Down the Door” episode has rightfully earned its spot in surfing history, the arrival of top Australian pros on Hawaiian shores had another side effect: many fruitful collaborations between Aussies and their Hawaiian counterparts.

I wrote an earlier post about a board Terry Fitzgerald shaped for Dick Brewer, which you can find here. Mark Richards is another example of an Australian surfer / designer who found inspiration in the Hawaiian boards of the 1970s. MR still counts Ben Aipa and Dick Brewer among his influences. MR has written some great posts on the subject, and he continues to produce his version of an Aipa sting today! And if you prefer the reverse commute, Von Weirdos has a Hot Buttered surfboard shaped by Owl Chapman.

Today’s post, however, covers another Terry Fitzgerald board: a rare example of a Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt collaboration. The story behind the board comes courtesy of Gavin Scott, an Australian collector with a special interest in what he calls the “Aussie / Hawaiian cross-pollination.” During the early 1970s, Lightning Bolt founders Gerry Lopez and Jack Shipley invited Fitzgerald to do some shaping for the brand while he was spending the winter on the North Shore. Fitzgerald already had Hot Buttered up and running, but the way Fitz tells it, he took on the gig shaping for Lightning Bolt for some money on the side and to refine his designs. The board below is one of but four boards Fitzgerald shaped for his initial run at the Lightning Bolt shop.

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Terry Fitzgerald posing with one of the few surfboards he shaped for Lightning Bolt. Note the fluted wings in the tail, which TF attributes to Reno Abellira’s influence. Pic via Gavin Scott

The Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt board is filled with all kinds of beautiful details. I’m particularly drawn to the precise double-winged pintail and the striking white pin line on the bottom of the board:

Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt Surfboard 2
Close up of the fin. Check out the white pin line! Pic via Gavin Scott

The Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt board also has some interesting laminates. On the deck you can see the famous Bolt laminate. The bottom, though, has a Lightning Bolt logo that I have personally never seen before. The board’s owner tells me that the text Lightning Bolt logo along the stringer is something that Roy Stamm did with many of the boards he glassed.

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Unusual Lightning Bolt logo along the stringer on the bottom of the board. Apparently this was a common technique for Roy Stamm, who glassed the board. Pic via Gavin Scott

After purchasing the board, Gavin was able to get a certificate of authenticity from Terry Fitzgerald that details the board’s history. I have included a photo below:

Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt Surfboard 1
Certificate of Authenticity by Terry Fitzgerald for the board pictured above. TF goes all out on these certificates! Not only does Fitzgerald get deep into the design elements, he also provides great context on the state of surfing during the time the board was made. Pic via Gavin Scott

As you can see in the certificate of authenticity, the board was shaped in Hawaii in 1973. I love how TF goes through the various influences that informed the board’s final design, including a nod to Barry Kanaiaupuni’s radical stylings at Sunset Beach. The board truly is a product of Hawaiian and Australian influences, spanning Fitzgerald’s experiences from Narrabeen to Sunset. I love how comprehensive the certificate is, going as far as to credit Roy Stamm with the lovely glass job.

Randy Rarick also played a part in this board making its way back to Australia. Rarick was kind enough to share some back story on the board. Apparently Rarick found the Terry Fitzgerald Lightning Bolt on the West Side of Oahu and then turned it over to a friend. Eventually the board made its way to Gavin Scott, its current owner. Scott was responsible for getting the certificate of authenticity and the back story from Terry Fitzgerald. Many thanks to Gavin for making this post possible! You can also check out Gavin’s activity on the Vintage Surfboard Collectors Group on Facebook, where he is kind enough to share more of his incredible collection.

Photo at the top of the page taken by Jeff Divine.

Shred Sledz Presents: September 15 Grab Bag (Hawaii Edition)

Greetings, Shredderz! Welcome to the latest edition of the Grab Bag, where I’ll be featuring some of the more notable boards I have seen listed for sale over the past few weeks. Today’s entry has a distinct Hawaiian flavor , as all of the boards covered below are from famous labels that hail from the birthplace of surfing.

Lightning Bolt Rory Russell Twin Fin (eBay)

This thing is KILLER! First, it’s in excellent condition. Actually, let me back up: first and foremost, the board just looks awesome. Even if you didn’t know the first thing about Lightning Bolt or Rory Russell, this board makes you stop and look. Maybe that makes me shallow…or maybe I just have impeccable taste when it comes to vintage surf craft. I’m always a sucker for intricate details, and I love the Clark Foam and Rory Russell Model laminates on the tail. The board is 5’4″. Is this considered a fish? I never see the Rory Russell twin fins referred to as such, but they seem pretty fish-like to me. Bidding is already hovering near $700 with four more days to go. Pics above via the eBay listing.

Surfboards Hawaii Owl Chapman Gun (Craigslist)

I love the old school Surfboards Hawaii logo, which is one of my favorite surfboard labels ever. Apparently this board was shaped by none other than Owl Chapman, uncle to current North Shore pro Kalani Chapman, and all-round Oahu fixture. I asked the seller if there’s a signature anywhere on the board, but I haven’t heard back. I’m not sure when this board was made, but I am guessing very early 1970s, based on the shape of the pintail, what looks like an after-market leash plug, and the glass-on fin. I have never seen a straight up Surfboards Hawaii Owl Chapman surfboard before. The pairing makes sense, given Chapman’s association with Dick Brewer, and the fact Brewer founded Surfboards Hawaii in 1961. The board is 9′, the board is located in Los Angeles, California, and the seller is asking $900.

Dick Brewer Gun and 1970s Single Fin (Craigslist & eBay)

There are currently two great Dick Brewer boards for sale. The first, pictured above, is a 8′ x 19-1/2″ x 3″ gun with glass-on fins in a thruster setup that should be ideal for the upcoming winter. It is being sold in Orange County, California. You can find a link to the board here. The seller is asking $600. I think that price is extremely reasonable, given that the board looks to be in excellent condition.

You want a Dick Brewer signature? Great, then how about another one? It’s a little odd that Brewer signed the board twice, but either way, I feel confident in saying the board was shaped by Brewer himself.

There’s a 1970s Dick Brewer single fin available on eBay that also bears two Dick Brewer signatures. Pic above is via the listing, which you can find here. The seller is asking $1500 for the board. The 1970s single fin has a wonderful old school outline and glassed on fin. Unfortunately, the pics provided with the eBay listing are pretty poor, so I have omitted them from the post. Still, I encourage you to click through and check them out for yourself.

As for the price difference, the best I can offer is that Brewer prices can be all over the place. I think one should expect genuine 1970s Dick Brewer single fins to command higher prices than newer boards. The gun on Craigslist is clearly newer (I would guess mid-1990s or later) and in better condition, but I imagoine 1970s single fins have more cachet.

Lightning Bolt 1970s Single Fin by Darrell Beckmeier (Craigslist)

Darrell Beckmeier was a fixture at Lightning Bolt during the 1970s. There’s a beautiful example of one of his boards that currently listed for sale on Craigslist in Orange County. Pics above are via the listing. The board is 6’6″ x 19-1/2″ (no dimension listed for thickness). The seller is asking $750. I’m honestly not sure what to make of this price, and how Beckmeier’s boards compare in value to other Bolt shapers. Still, it doesn’t get any more classic than single-fin Bolts!

Mr Pipeline: Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt

Happy Monday to all you faithful Shredderz out there! I hope this week brings you a non-stop procession of tasty waves and interesting surf craft. I figure there is no better way to start the week than with the holy matrimony of Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Hawaiian legend Gerry Lopez. The Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt is perhaps the most famous vintage surfboard of all time, and for good reason. If the name Gerry Lopez rings a bell, it’s because you may recognize him from his role as Schwarzenegger’s sidekick Subotai in “Conan the Barbarian.”

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Gerry Lopez has one of the all-time greatest appearances by a pro surfer on film, guest starring as Subotai in “Conan the Barbarian.” Lopez is the mayor emeritus of Pipeline; his co-star in the film would go on to a decent political career himself.

Actually, that’s nobody’s first impression of Mr. Lopez, but it is an irresistible piece of surfing trivia. All jokes aside, surfing legends don’t get any larger than Gerry. For goodness sake, the dude’s nickname is Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez! Given his impeccable style, it’s a miracle they haven’t re-named the spot after Gerry himself:

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Gerry Lopez, styling at Pipe. It doesn’t get any better than this! Check out the Lightning Bolt board beneath his feet. Photo by Jeff Divine.
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Lopez at Pipeline in 1975. Photographer unknown; pic via Lightning Bolt
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Lopez (left) at the Hang Ten American Pro at Sunset Beach in 1974. Photo by Jeff Divine; pic via Encyclopedia of Surfing 

First, some background on the man and the marque. Lopez, along with business partner Jack Shipley, founded Lightning Bolt in 1970. (For more extensive background, see the Encyclopedia of Surfing’s entry on Lightning Bolt.) Lighting Bolt started with an unorthodox business model that was more akin to a collective than a real brand. According to the EoS, Bolt initially did not have a centralized factory where all of the production took place, and instead a variety of shapers – including Lopez and other notables like Reno Abellira, Tom Parrish, Tom Eberly, and Barry Kanaiaupuni – shaped at home and then brought their wares into the Lightning Bolt store, where the boards were sold to the public.

Lightning Bolt was ubiquitous during the 1970s, and even today it remains at the forefront of surfing’s consciousness. Unfortunately, Lightning Bolt’s history can also be read as a cautionary tale about the perils of poor brand management. Other brands and shapers shamelessly borrowed the distinctive logo, slapping it on boards that had nothing to do with Lightning Bolt.

Even “official” Lightning Bolt surfboards have a mixed history. Take, for example, the green and yellow board pictured above. The board was originally posted for sale on Craigslist in Los Angeles, where it was advertised as a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt surfboard. And as you can see in the second picture, there’s a clear “Gerry Lopez” laminate bearing the man’s name himself. So far so good, right?

Unfortunately, the board at the top of this post was unlikely to have been shaped by Gerry himself.

According to Randy Rarick, boards that bear the “Gerry Lopez” laminate – not to be confused with a signature – are “California Bolts” that were licensed to a variety of different businessmen around the world, including a factory in the San Diego area. Two shapers involved in the production of the California Bolts were Terry Martin and Mickey Munoz. For more context on California Bolts and the licensing of the Bolt name there is some good info on Boardcollector.com. Martin and Munoz are extremely well-respected, and for good reason; but there is a big difference between a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt and all the rest.

So, what does a genuine Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt look like, then?

Here’s an example of a 1970s Lopez board that was sold at the recent California Vintage Surf Auction. Note: this board has been restored. But it does contain a clear Lopez signature on the stringer, which at the very least is meant to refer to how these original Lopez boards would have looked:

Image via Surfer Magazine Forums

Surfboardline.com has an incredible selection of Lightning Bolt boards, where you can compare boards that have the Lopez laminate, like the green and yellow board above, versus boards where you can clearly see Lopez’s hand drawn signature beneath the glass. For an example of the latter, see the picture below:

Pic via Surfboardline.com

In summary, Lopez seemed to sign many of the boards he hand-shaped. And those that he did sign, he did under the glass, in all capital letters along the stringer. Lightning Bolt surfboards will always be collectible, and rightfully so, but there’s value in exploring the distinction between a board shaped by Gerry Lopez himself, and one that he assisted in designing.

The board at the top of this post has already been taken down (asking price was $650, for those who care about price points). Even though it’s not a “Lopez” board in the strictest sense, it’s still a wonderful piece of surfing history.

Lightning Bolt: Rory Russell

Obligatory Lightning Bolt post alert!

It’s a rule, really: if I come across any decent-looking Lightning Bolts of non-sketchy provenance, onto Shred Sledz they go. I have my own quibbles with the iconic label, starting with the insane prices ($1,000 for this board), the murky pedigree of many boards (and the numerous ripoffs you see floating around), and so on. But there isn’t a more recognizable surfboard brand out there, and in my quest to delight you all, my dear readers, I will continue to sling the goods.

This board, via Craigslist in Deerfield Beach, Florida, is a Rory Russell model twin fin. It’s got some sweet channels with airbrush, which you can see in the last pic. The owner claims it’s all original save for some ding repair, and while the board definitely doesn’t look like it has been abused too badly, it blessedly lacks the obvious sheen and plastic surgery look of full-on resto boards that I can’t get down with. I can go on about how old surfboards ought to look old, when we get these restorations that seem to be about fantasy fulfillment more than anything else, but I know Shred Sledz’s devoted readers are here for bitchin’ boards, and not some bellyaching. Anyway, this Lightning Bolt measures in at a nice compact 5′9″, and while it’ll cost you plenty, it never costs anything to look.

Check it out here.