A fastidious pioneering Australian board manufacturer; founder in 1956 of Gordon Woods Surfboards, the first company of its kind in the nation and an industry leader until the 1960s. With a combination of brilliant design, improvisation and pure surfing knowledge Gordon soon established himself as a leading designer – builder and arguably the most progressive authority on surfboards in the country.
Woods began riding waves in a canvas-topped canoe in 1939 and started to build surfboards commercially just after World War 11. It was part-time work, building about two boards per month and selling them through Sydney area lifeguard clubs. Australian suffers at the time used hollow plywood ‘toothpicks’ which were usually about 14’ long.
A turning point for Australian surfing and Woods’s career came in 1956, when a team of visiting American surfer-lifeguards flew into Sydney with their 10’ balsa Malibu boards, which were far more manoeuvrable, enabling sharper turns and kick backs. Woods bought one of the Malibu boards and set about trying to make copies, to sell from his recently established surf shop on Bondi Beach.
In 1958 the three biggest board makers, with Woods leading the way, relocated to a new industrial park in Brookvale, with other surfboard companies soon following. Two years later Woods began producing his own polyurethane foam blanks, which replaced balsa as the board’s core material.
His shop and reputation continued to grow, Woods Surfboards’ team riders in 1963 included soon-to-be world champions, Midget Farrelly and Nat Young.
Woods left the board-making business in 1974 and went on to build yachts.