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Surfboard as Woodcraft

Waikiki, 1937
Santa Monica, 1930s
Pacific Systems Homes surfboard
Pete Peterson. Photo: Don James
DIY hollow surfboard

Hawaii invented surfing, and Waikiki remained by far the easiest and most agreeable place in the world to ride waves. Yet by the 1930s, Southern California was uniquely qualified to begin reinventing the sport. America’s capitalist-consumer culture had already transformed Los Angeles from an adobe village outpost into America’s most innovative and forward-looking big city. Now, it would turn its attention for the first time to surfing.

The first commercially made surfboards were built, stored...

The Pacific System surfboards were stunning, made of redwood, mahagony, and balsa; each one, with its contrasting and perfectly interlocked pieces, looked as if it had been pulled from Frank Lloyd Wright’s sketch pad.