Thursday, December 8, 2011
Tom Blake, the World's most influential surfer.
The world's most influential surfer was born in land locked Wisconsin, 1902. He wasn't the face of surfing like Duke Kahanomku. In many ways the Duke was the front man. No not Blake, Blake didn't court the public. Blake was the brains, spirit and passion of surfing. This is the man who took 14 foot solid redwood boards that weighed 1500 pounds, that were ridden straight to the beach and invented wave riding. By making the boards from hollow construction (though initially he simply drilled thousands of holes and then slapped a wooden veneer over them to make the board water tight) he enabled boards to turn and also to be carried single handedly to more inaccessible places (he was after all the first man to surf Malibu, which in itself is an amazing story as Rhoda May Ringe refused to let the state build a highway there, losing her millions in the law courts and even resorting to employing armed guards who dynamited the states construction efforts).
Not that building hollow boards was the end of his contribution. He then realised that a skeg, to use the language of the time was needed to give the board, pivot and drive. Throw in the invention of hollow paddleboards, the first ever sailboards (a.k.a windsurfers), the invention of water proof housing, patenting the first commercially available surfboards, he also wrote the first book devoted to surfing, oh and did I say that he invented vital lifeguarding aids such as the torpedo tube and the rescue ring. He practically invented the surfing, windsurfing and paddle boarding and then all the things needed on the beach to make it safe.
When not doing this, he broke and held the World Ten Mile Swimming Record, he won the first ever Pacific Coast Surfing Championship and inevitably won many prestigious paddleboard races....And none of these things make him the greatest , but make no mistake they make him great.
He was a Beatnik before there were Beatniks, he lived Kerouac's "On the Road" before Kerouac was born (He was born in 1922). His Mum died whilst he was in diapers, he met the Duke in a Cinema in his home town and then he turned to the road, train jumping and bumming his way around the States before finding SoCal and then in turn Hawaii. He liked his big waves, he loved tandem surfing the smaller waves, his passion was surfing under full moons. He dedicated himself to his sport, with rigorous physical training, a strict vegetarian diet and a passion which verges on transcendental. He virtually invented the sport, lived and breathed it, improved it and passed it on in a better state than he found it. Respect.
Posted by Edward Lockyer at 2:41 PM