THE HOLLOW SURFBOARD
Tom Blake was an accomplished waterman, champion swimmer, paddler and surfer. Blake was also an inventor and innovator and made major contributions to the sport of surf riding.
The most significant innovation to surfers at the time, was the Tom Blake Hollow Surfboard, first produced in the late 1920s - early 1930s. It was still a wood surfboard but because of the hollow construction, weight was reduced significantly making surfing more available to a larger spectrum of people.
Tom Blake studied the designs of the ancient Hawaiian Surfboard and combined those outline designs - shapes with his patented hollow construction to develop a series of hollow wood surfboards and hollow paddle boards.
From the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s, these Blake surfboards were all the rage and most surfers owned one of the Tom Blake Surfboards in one model or another. Some surfers still used these into the 1950s and fisherman used them as fishing platforms in Hawaii well into the 1970s.
With his invention of the hollow surfboard, Tom Blake made the single largest leap forward for the art of surfing in hundreds of years.
Besides Blake's major contribution of the hollow wood surfboard, he made numerous other contributions to water sports and safety.
Here's a sample of other Tom Blake inventions & innovations:
- 1929 Waterproof camera housing
- 1931 The first sailboard (never caught on; reinvented in the 1970s to become a hugely popular sport and olympic event).
- 1931 Patented & manufactured the first production surfboard.
- 1932 Collapsible surfboard- made of canvas & wood framing to be inflated.
- 1935 The skeg (which didn't catch on until the 1950s).
- 1935 Wrote & published the first book solely devoted to surfing.
- 1937 Patented the first 'torpedo' buoy and the rescue ring. Both became hugely popular in life rescue technique and are credited with saving countless lives.
There were probably thousands of Tom Blake Surfboards and paddle boards produced by four main manufactories:
- Robert Mitchell Manufacturing Company
- Los Angeles Ladder Company
- Catalina Equipment Company
- The Thomas Rogers Company.
Surf History Preservation Collection
P.O. Box 5637 Hilo, Hawaii 96720
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Different styles of early wood surfboards :
Ancient Hawaiian Olo Breadfruit
Ancient Hawaiian Alaia Koa
1890's Hawaiian Plank w/ metal
Waikiki Redwood Plank
Balsa, Redwood & Pine
Tom Blake 'Catalina' Hollow
Makaha Redwood Hot Curl
Hawaiian 'Aloha' bellyboard
Bob Shepherd Sunset Beach Balsa
Greg Noll Balsa
Pat Curren Balsa & Redwood Gun
Velzy - Jacobs Balsa Pig
Surfboards Hawaii Balsa Gun
Diffenderfer Chambered Balsa