Surfs Up! – Patent US2531946A

It’s that time of year when, Covid permitting, lots of people hit the beach for relaxation, to admire the scenery and watch as I am at the present time some magnificent surfing! Having tried with little success to standing on a board, even paddle boarding is a challenge for me, the sight of people shooting along leaves me in awe.

The origins of what most of us would consider surfing are in the Polynesian islands, particularly Hawaii and used tree bark such as from coconut trees. I suppose it must have looked like a fun idea, so someone just tried and they were right!

It is mentioned in the journals of Captain James Cook who visited Hawaii a couple of times, the first more successful than the second but we won’t hold that against them. It is hard to imagine a blunt Yorkshireman taking to the adventure of ‘flying’ on a wooden plank along the surf. Wood clearly floats but having also watched people move logs the traditional way down a river in Canada, I can imagine they were not too stable, so it is assumed that people also tried hollowed out canoes or used the curvature of the bark to best advantage.

In any event, having done some research I discovered that the ‘art’ of surfing really got moving in a 1950’s cultural way when an inventor George B. D. Parker designed and patented (US2531946) a surfboard of hollow shell construction which apparently offers better stability for some at least. The result is that the sport of surfing has blossomed to now be contested at Olympic levels. Others shortened boards, drilled holes in them and covered them and tried different woods but a hollow shell combined stability with a light weight – easier to carry especially when wet!

Some innovations can seem simple at the time but are revolutionary over time. Simplicity shouldn’t detract from novelty and inventive steps. In a world dominated by high technology, it should be remembered that blue skies innovations may not emerge from sophisticated research but from someone in a garage with an idea!

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