1800's - 1963
Early 20th century surfboards served one function: to simply catch a wave. They were called “Planks,” and were hardly more than pieces of wood. Plank boards were primarily made out of redwood or pine and weighed upwards of 80 lbs. Their shapes varied but performance characteristics like rocker, skegs, and rails were lightyears mostly nonexistent. You could angle a plank board across the face of a wave but that was about the maximum extent of it’s maneuverability.
The 1930s were revolutionary for surfboard design. This can be attributed to the incorporation of “balsa” wood and the fixed fin into the design. Balsa cut the weight of the average surfboard in half. The rails were still constructed from redwood but the center of the board was constructed with balsa. The combination of lighter and more stable boards offered the surfer more speed and maneuverability.
By the late 1940s and early 50s advances in technology during World War II led to fiberglass and polyurethane foam being incorporated into surfboards. In 1949, Bob Simmons crafted a board with a styrofoam core, encased in a thin layer of plywood, with balsa wood rails and was coated with fiberglass.
The "Surfing Lifestyle" began to emerge with broader adoption by pop culture, but the sport was still in its relative infancy. It wouldn't be until the mid 60's that more radical maneuvers were being attempted and surfboards became shorter.