Behind every great movement is someone generally unheralded but deeply respected. John “Ike” Eichert is a surfboard shaper, an innovator, and a polymath. In his home town of Montecito, using a small shed that served as his first shop, Ike worked on surfboards and his friend’s hotrods.
He focused on innovation, creating the V-Slot fin; a modified D-fin with a notch taken out to reduce cavitation and allow flex. He also created one of the first removable fin systems, and developed a radical tail channel which allowed the board to bank harder on rail. He also created a hollow fin designed to increase buoyancy; which, on occasion, may have doubled as a wine flask. Using a fish scale drawn behind a George Greenough’s Boston Whaler, Ike would measure the board’s resistance to test his innovations.
Greenough and Ike became friends in elementary school, and grew up together. When George needed tips on fiberglassing, he went to Ike. The template for George’s first kneeboard was drawn on tar paper spread on Ike’s shop floor. Its rails were made with trimmings lifted from Ike’s waste bin. Ike was the uncredited shooter who, (using a buddy's shoulder as a tripod), captured the footage of George riding his spoon at the Sandbar (Sandspit), seen in the opening of Endless Summer.
It would take a few years before the general surfing population caught on to Ike's advancements. In the meantime, Ike shaped under the Yater label from 1966 - 1969.
But Ike could never sit still. He didn’t see surfboard building as a life’s work. Instead, Ike became a commercial crab fisherman in Kodiak Alaska before moving to boat building full time. He holds two patents for a boat cleaning process. Today, original Ike boards are highly coveted among collectors.
EXCERPTS FROM IKE'S INTERVIEW
WD: When did you get started shaping?
IKE: I started my own shop in '57. The first board I built was at Tucker's mom's tool shed. She was nice enough to let me use it. When we start drag racing in '58, it doubled as a car club place.
WD: Do you remember when you first met Renny Yater?
IKE: Renny came to town in '59 and rented a little tiny-- it was a World War Two stop-over building for the soldiers going north and south. He was primarily a lobster fisherman and he had a lobster skiff. When Renny came to town, I definitely felt threatened, because I knew he knew what he was doing. I knew he knew how to glass. I was an amateur glasser. I knew he had some shaping experience prior to getting there.
WD: How do you know George Greenough?
IKE: I've got some some funny stories about George in grammar school. George wasn't a real coordinated athletic kid and whenever you chose up teams, George would be the last guy standing there that nobody wanted to pick.
One of my stories about George, this is probably about third or fourth grade. And Wednesday was music day and on music day everybody bring-- Could have been Tuesday, I don't remember--but on music day, everybody would bring their trombone or their violin or whatever it was that the music teacher that would come from town to teach on that day.
George comes in one day with a trombone case, it could be a violin case, I don't remember exactly. But it wasn't music day and he gets me and says, "Take a look at this." So he opens it up and he's got bolt cutters. Grammar school kid with bolt cutters. [laughs] What the heck is this all about? He figured out some way to get the bolt cutters over and cut a hole in the chain link fence so you can get out of Montecito Union and over into Manning Park, over that bushed tree line area. George and I did it one day, and I got to feeling real guilty about it. I said, "I'm not going to be doing that anymore." And he'd do it on a regular basis.
WD: What was it like to work with Renny?
IKE: I actually went to work for Renny in the winter of '60, '61. He was quiet, really didn't talk much in those days at all. He was very, very quiet. Not angry or anything, just very methodical about what he said and did, and just very little conversation.
WD: Can you talk about experimentation?
IKE: This is how screwy I was about experimenting. George Greenough, who hung out at the shop a lot, had a Boston Whaler down at the harbor. What we do is we take a fish scale that went up to 100 lbs. We would tow the board behind the Boston Whaler, and we had what they called a dip tube that gave you the speed of the boat exactly. Two knots, three knots, four knots, and we'd measure the resistance of the board with nobody on it. Then we'd put a person on it that weighed a hundred-- And always the same weight person, 180 lbs, that was me, and how much resistance it had at 180 lbs.
Then I'd go back to the shop with this fluke tail board, and I filled in the flukes with paraffin. Just warm it up and put the paraffin in there and mold it towards the shape of a regular board. Then go back down and test it behind the Boston Whaler. We ended up with more resistance with the flukes close up as opposed to the flukes open. That began a whole new way of thinking about what tails do.
WD: What was the genesis of the Greenough Spoon?
I designed on a piece of tar paper which was readily available, because we used it on the floors. I cut out a shape and said, "Here", and he grabbed some scrap foam from the scrap foam barrel there in the shop and off he went and stuck it together and with instructions of what to do. How to shape the outside first, leave it solid, glass the outside with four layers of 10 ounce. Flip it over, grind out the inside then glass the inside and then put the fin on.