Fastidious pioneering Australian board manufacturer from Sydney's Manly Beach; founder in 1956 of Gordon Woods Surfboards, the first company of its kind in the nation, and an industry leader until the late 1960s. "At the hub of the sport," Australian Outdoors magazine wrote in 1960, "is Gordon Woods who, with a combination of brilliant design, improvisation, and pure surfing knowledge, soon established himself as the leading designer-builder and the most progressive authority on surfboards in the country."
Woods was born (1925) and raised in Sydney, began riding waves using a canvas-topped canoe in 1939, and started to build surfboards commercially just after World War II. It was part-time work; Woods made about two boards a month, and sold them through Sydney-area lifeguard clubs. Australian surfers at the time all 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-foot balsa Malibu boards, which were infinitely more maneuverable than the toothpick.
Local surfers were amazed to see the Americans doing sharp turns and cutbacks; Woods quickly bought one of the Malibu boards, knowing that "everything we [in Australia] had done as surfers up to that point had just been made redundant," and set about trying to make copies to sell from his just-established surf shop in Bondi Beach. As balsa was unavailable, Woods and other Sydney board manufacturers were forced to improvise, and for the next two years made Malibu-like boards with timber frames and plywood covering.
In 1958, the three biggest Sydney-based board makers, with the energetic Woods leading the way, relocated to a new industrial park in north Sydney called Brookvale; other surfboard companies soon followed. Two years later Woods began producing his own polyurethane foam blanks, which replaced balsa as the board's core material. His shop and his reputation continued to grow; Woods Surfboards' team riders in 1963 included soon-to-be world champions Midget Farrelly and Nat Young.
Credit: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SURFING
Last week Gordon sadly left us and we give our respect and say goodbye to one of the Brookvale Six pioneers and legends of the surfing industry. We will be having a few Magic Sam's this week for you Gordon and we will always remember your craft and the great legacy you have left us. Cheers.