Marc Andreini got his start restoring and repairing surfboards in the 60's, part of a generation once removed from the "golden era" of California surf pioneers. One of those pioneers was Reynolds Yater, the man credited with starting Santa Barbara's first surf shop, shaping its first performance surfboards, and pioneering its surf spots as he fished along the coast.
Marc would eventually partner with Yater in the mid 70's. The two shared a similar work ethic: to say little and accomplish exactly what was promised. Marc developed into a world-class shaper, dedicating his time to continually perfecting and refining classic shapes and exploring the eccentricities of single fin designs. Most recently, Marc has continued to develop and explore "edge board" designs, a concept pioneered by George Greenough stemming from a boat builder's approach to hulls. From small fun shapes to big guns, Marc's a traditionalist with a modernist's love for tweaking and perfecting what is already perfect.
EXCERPTS FROM MARC'S INTERVIEW
WD: Where does Santa Barbara fit in surfing’s history?
MA: I believe that Santa Barbara introduced to the surfing world the whole idea of riding a long, down the line wave. [This] was unlike Southern California [which] was known primarily for beach breaks in the South Bay. And you had the small wave venue of Malibu, where you had hot dog surfing (which really was more of a late '50s endeavor). Prior to that it was trimming. Santa Barbara had winter point breaks with bigger down-the-line waves that required a lot more concentration and a much higher skill level.
WD: How did Rincon change how surfboards were designed?
MA: The thing that is unique about Rincon in California, it's the premier down the line point break that has size and some power. That created a board that needed a flat rocker and a narrow outline. It was a board that was built for speed. There's a huge difference between the boards that were used in Southern California. They were wide tail boards meant to help you turn in slow moving waves or short waves, they had a peak to them.
WD: Was different than what was being built in Southern California?
MA: Joe Quigg was really the guy that loved surfing Rincon. And they were all Malibu surfers, but he started making a pulled-in nose and a long teardrop outline with a pulled-in, small square tail, and a short speed fin on it. His ideal for a surfboard was to connect the indicator with the cove, which even today, is the greatest race track in California.
WD: How did the shortboard revolution begin?
MA: Well, in the transition era, from when we went from longboards to short boards, it all started with a short longboard. There were two styles of short longboards: the V-bottom, which has a wide tail which is really ideal for short peaky waves...they worked beautifully in beach break or a softer wave, or a short wave that's just coming towards the beach. But a point break that bends, it creates a whip, when you crack a whip, it actually accelerates as it comes around the corner. So you have a lot of power as the wave bends around the long point and, it creates a wave that has a lot of power at the base and a lot of snap and requires some serious down-the-line motion and a wide tail board isn't ideal for that. The Mini Gun - which was developed as a short pintail longboard (which was developed along with the wide tail V-bottom) - became the platform for surfing a down-the-line point wave like Rincon.
WD: Who is George Greenough?
MA: George Greenough, he is a stand alone figure that doesn't fit into any genealogy. He isn't influenced by anybody. He is a self-actualized human being who had his own vision of surfing. If he was influenced by anybody, it was Renny Yater and John Eichert. Because when he started surfing, he started on their equipment and what it mainly taught him was what he didn't like, because he didn't like the bulk of a long board and he didn't like the feel of a solid fin.
MA: John Eichert had a fin that was short and squared off and shallow and he put a big slit right near the bottom of the board which relieved the pressure and it helped it turn. It was more maneuverable than a regular solid fin. That influenced him and it started him on his path. Well, talking about George Greenough and that he is an independent thinker, essentially although there was experimentation with the narrow high aspect ratio fin, which is just narrower than it is deep, Jim Foley who is a legendary Santa Cruz designer had experimented with fins like that.
WD: Evolution of the fin and how Greenough influence it?
MA: It was a relatively unknown and untried idea, and George Greenough just simply looked at the ocean. He gets his ideas from nature, and the fastest swimming fish in the ocean is the tuna. And so he just very simply thought, "Well, why not use the outline of a tuna fish’s tail fin?" And he just took exactly that shape, glued it on his board and it immediately improved it by at least 90%. When he first made that fin for himself was 1964. He went to Australia that winter in 1965 and everybody was so impressed with his speed that when he returned one year later, 90% of all surfboards had a Greenough outline tuna fin...in one year.
WD: Do you remember what it was like to watch Greenough surf?
MA: Greenough for me is my personal greatest influence in style of surfing and equipment. That comes from me witnessing him surfing. When we surfed together at The Ranch I didn't go with him. I ended up at The Ranch on one of the great days of the year... I’m going to say it was 1966 because I don't think I had a driver's license yet. I was taken by a group of La Hoya people with my really close friend Margo Godfrey...I was the tour guide because they thought that I knew everything about The Ranch, because I told them that so they would take me [laughs].
I watched him ride his red spoon “Velo” in solid six-to-eight foot waves way up at the top of the point where we didn't ride our longboards. I was completely dumbfounded by the power and the speed of his surfing, and the explosion out of his turns.
It was unheard of, it was unknown. It was something that had never been seen or done and it's the combination of his board and the fin. Nobody had ever done it before.
WD: Who is Renny Yater?
MA: [laughs] Renny Yater is Phil Edwards’ idol. Renny Yater is...half of the people I know...is their idol.
Renny Yater is this guy that just embodies an aura of how a surfer should live and what it should look like. How you should go about it. How you should act. He has total self confidence, and no boasting, and no air of ego, he just lives the life. It's the real deal.
His influence is unspoken. It's all by example. I believe that Yater influenced surfing in Santa Barbra very specifically...If you think about the simple, clean approach...that's Renny. No excess, no fuss, no fluff. It's not about glamour, it's not about showiness, it's not about anything, it's about pure function. That's what he's about. It's getting the job done and doing it right.
I think it was really natural that we got along because we both had the same approach to work. You have a schedule and you always keep it and you go in and you get your work done, and you do a clean job and clean up after yourself. There's never any drama or issues. That's just how I work well he's the exactly the same way. It was a natural fit really.
WD: What was your relationship with Yater?
MA: I wish that I even knew how I ended up working for Renny... but I'm pretty sure I know. I was a six day a week guy. I worked six days a week. I built surfboards for a living. I had my own shop and then I did piece work for all the other guys in town. I was glassing and sanding for Channel Islands, and for John Bradbury, for Bob Duncan. Renny must have asked me to come do some laminating for him. I was the laminator there, I think I was 20 years old. I did piece work there for Renny and that's when I first met him because I knew of him of course. I was just a kid so we weren't friends. That's where I got to know him.
WD: Do you remember when you first met Renny?
MA: I was scared because he kept to himself, he wasn't a outgoing type of a person. He was a really big deal. Yater was one of the top surfers and board builders that there ever was, [even] then. He wasn't a guy that was hanging around with kids chatting them up. So we steered clear of him. I think it was really natural that we got along because we both had the same approach to work. You have a schedule and you always keep it and you go in and you get your work done, and you do a clean job and clean up after yourself. There's never any drama or issues. That's just how I work well [and] he's the exactly the same way. It was a natural fit really.
WD: How did Renny Yater influence surfing in Santa Barbara?
MA: When you think of Santa Barbara, you think of pintails and black wet suits, and hardcore surfers. That's what comes to mind. That all comes from Yater, minus the wetsuit. Because there weren't any wetsuits in the 60's and 50's when he was here. That all comes from Yater just plain and simple.
WD: What drove him to have access to do those kind of things?
MA: One of his hobbies was riding dirt bikes, cross country dirt bikes. Grubby Clark, (Gordon Clark) was one of his [riding] partners, one of his riding partners was Dick Metz. They would go on all kinds of excursions including all over Baja. They loved reading charts and looking for surf spots because they are diehard surfers. And on a motorcycle you can go places that you can't get to with a car. Then you had to figure out how to get back there once you've sorted it out. If you're in the ocean in a boat and you're a surfer, you're looking for waves, and if you're on land on a motorcycle where there's no roads, you're looking for waves. Any surfer would do it. He just did it first. [laughs].
WD: What was it like for Renny to discover new surf spots?
MA: I'm sure that a lot of people would want to know all about all the spots that Renny has discovered. I'm only going to tell you that I'm a very fortunate person that he's actually told me these stories when I'm really close to death, because he certainly never told me when I was younger. I'm not about to tell anybody anything about it because that's up to him if he wants to repeat it.
People would be amazed to know the places that he's actually discovered that are commonplace today. Some of the greatest spots in the world. He's really a pioneer of finding places and surfing them by himself. Then when they became discovered, he would move on to somewhere else.