George Greenough was the engineer behind the surfing revolution in the late 1960s. While still in high school, in the late 50s, he had an unorthodox approach to riding a wave. His ability to envision a surfboard that had ability beyond anyone’s imagination would revolutionize a once obscure sport. In addition, he would capture the sport on film that would capture it’s essence in an unprecedented way.
As a teenager, Greenough would begin as a standup board rider. However, he switched to kneeboards and matts because he liked being closer to the water. This would motivate him to make his own balsa kneeboards in his high school workshop class. Eventually he would design a swept back fin designed after a tuna that would give the board more thrust.
Events would shape up in 1964 when Greenough would visit Austrailia. While there he befriended Bob McTavish and Nat Young. They were both professional surfers and shapers in their own right. A year later Greenough would develop his sub-five foot flexible kneeboard: The Spoon. The board would have a flexible 11 inch fin that would give the board the capability to carve up waves in a way that was never seen. Bob McTavish would take Greenough’s fin and apply it to a thin longboard called “Magic Sam”. Nat Young would win the 1966 World Surfing Championship riding “Magic Sam”.
George Greenough’s fin and shortboard concept changed surfing over night. Now surfers had the capability to totally engage with the wave. They could ride down the face and turn back up to the top. Riding tubes would become common place. Within about two years shortboards had replaced longboards. Greenough would continue to develop his fins but he had little interest in developing new boards. He liked knee boards and matts and had really no interest in riding standup boards.
George Greenough would also advance the sport of surfing through film. In 1969 he would mount a 16mm camera on the nose of his spoon and film the surfer’s point of view. The point of view shots in his movie The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun were unprecedented. The movie would inspire the creation of a whole new generation of surfers.