Tails of the Thruster: Sagas of Shred

Greetings, Shredderz! Buckle in for another scorcher of a vintage surf advertisement. As a quick reminder, I scan a different surf ad every Thursday evening (California time, of course) as part of the Sagas of Shred series. I have a fondness for ridiculous Eighties ads, but usually I can only get in about one or two jokes, max, before I realize that my affection for the ad isn’t ironic after all. I’ve seen different scans of this ad floating around the internet somewhere, although I can’t seem to find them. What you see here is a Simon Anderson / Nectar Surfboards ad that originally appeared in the May 1983 issue of Surfer Magazine (Vol 24, No 5). Anderson, of course, created the tri fin thruster design nearly forty years ago, and it remains the de facto fin setup for countless surfboards across the globe. I can only guess the magnitude of his invention hadn’t yet become apparent by the time he decided to pose for a half hearted Indiana Jones spoof. Nectar Surfboards, based out of San Diego, was the American licensee for Anderson’s boards. I don’t believe Simon shaped any of the US boards, but I’m not totally certain on that point. What’s interesting about this ad is that it also includes a closeup of some very cool and varied designs that were part of Nectar’s lineup at the time. From left to right there’s a standard Eighties bump squash tail; a wing round pin (not sure if that’s the precise term); and two swallow tail varieties. There’s also an interesting variety of fin sizes and shapes. You’ll notice some of the boards have smaller center trailing fins, whereas others have three fins of equal sizes. I’m not sure what to call the fins on the white and yellow board second from right, but they’re reminiscent of the trapezoidal fins currently found on some Vulcan Surfboards. This ad is definitely one of my favorites in terms of sheer ridiculousness, but, as is usually the case, it isn’t long before I find myself getting genuinely excited about the boards and the people that are featured.

Energy Surfboards Thruster by Frank Latta

Greetings, Shredderz! While I generally don’t write too much about thrusters, there’s no denying that Simon Anderson’s signature invention belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the most influential surfboard designs ever. Even now, a good thirty plus years after Anderson first popularized the tri-fin shortboard, the thruster remains the standard setup for high performance shortboards. While there is no disputing the incredible work being done by modern shapers like Matt Biolos and others, given Shred Sledz’s primary focus on vintage surfboards, it’s only right that we examine some thrusters from the Eighties. The very first thrusters were shaped under the Energy Surfboards label. Simon Anderson also partnered with San Diego label Nectar Surfboards to bring the thruster design to the United States. As much as I love the Nectar collaboration boards, the Aussie thrusters made under the Energy Surfboards marque will always be my favorites.

As countless other shapers have done over the years, Anderson enlisted help keep up with demand once his design hit the big time. He turned to well-regarded Sydney shaper Frank Latta. Latta was a standout competitive surfer during the dawn of contest surfing during the Sixties who drew praise from the likes of Midget Farrelly. Sadly, Latta passed away while surfing eight years ago, at the relatively early age of sixty three.

Frank Latta via Cronulla Surf Museum
Frank Latta ad via the Cronulla Surf Museum

There is currently an Energy Surfboards thruster from the Eighties, shaped by Frank Latta, that is listed for sale on eBay. You can find a link to the board here. I believe the board is being sold by well-known surfboard collector Buggs Arico, who runs Surfboardline.com. I have re-posted pics from the eBay listing below:

You can click on the photos above to enlarge. The board is in super clean condition, and it has a bunch of really rad touches. First, I believe it is from a later run of Energy Surfboards thruster boards, as it has a different Energy logo. Compare this to another Energy Surfboards thruster on Retro Surf Co, which is advertised as first generation. Note the triangle logo on the Retro Surf Co board, which doesn’t appear on the eBay / Frank Latta board featured above.

There are some great touches throughout. I love the simple but effective color on the bottom of the board (particularly with the white glass on fins, too). You can see the distinct Eighties outline in the board — the squash tail looks pretty severely squared off in the picture at the above left.

And this wouldn’t be a Shred Sledz post if I didn’t geek out on the logos. “The Original 3 Fin Thruster Concept and Design” laminate is all-time, even if, on closer inspection, it looks pretty crudely hand drawn and cut out. The black and white Frank Latta laminate underneath the Energy logo on the left is also very cool. I also like that it features Latta prominently, whereas a lot of other so-called ghost shapers often go unmentioned.

Right now the board is under $180, but this is sure to rise as there are still five days left in the auction. It’s not every day you see a clean example of an Energy Surfboards thruster, especially not in the States, where the Nectar / Anderson thrusters are far more commonplace. If you’re interested in bidding on the board check it out on eBay here.