Going back almost forty years, I am grateful to Gary Linden who at that time opened the door and convinced Greg Albertini to bring me on board as a shaper for Dick Brewer Surfboards. For most of the next decade I worked closely with Dick Brewer and from morning to night, Dick Brewer Surfboards was that in which my entire life centered around. And while this included extraordinary events and moments of significant discovery, like any endeavor, it also included the daily grind and ordinary ritual, those things that can deceive us and cause us to take our circumstances for granted. Looking back in history though, I realize, that at a young age I had won the shaping lottery. While most shapers just wanted a brief connection with Dick Brewer, for me this connection encompassed a significant portion of my life.
To this day, however, the accomplishments of Dick Brewer still remain under exposed. If the only thing Dick had done in his shaping career was create the “Mini Gun”, he would have already accomplished more than any other shaper in history. This one single design has impacted every surfboard since, whether it be short boards, long boards or big wave boards. But Dick didn’t stop there. In every generation Dick kept moving forward in design development, never looking back.
It is my attempt through this section of the website to show a glimpse of Dick’s accomplishments and give the reader a chronological sense of Brewer History.
Buzzy Trent 1972- "Surfboards Hawaii" Brewer shape with concave bottom
There is no era in surfing or in the history of the surfboard industry that compares to the 60’s. The beginning of the decade saw the commercialization of the surf industry peak with mass production and pop out boards. By the end of the decade, this same industry was turned upside down with the wholesale rejection of “pop” surfing. With the underground movement of experimental design making rapid headway, within a few years most of the big shops either closed or scaled down considerably. It was from this radical transformation in surfing that Dick Brewer Surfboards evolved and that in which Dick Brewer would become the most sought after shaper on the planet.
Dick's team riders during the 60's included Butch Van Artsdalen, Buzzy Trent, Buffalo Keaulana, David Nuuhiwa, Joey Cabell, Gerry Lopez, Reno Abellira, Jeff Hakman, Gary Chapman and Jock Sutherland
Dick Brewer, Fred Hemmings and Butch Van Artsdalen- 1963
Dick opens up “Surfboards Hawaii” in Haleiwa, the first surf shop on the North shore. Dick shares an apartment with his friend Walt Phillips and Donald Takayama has a shaping room downstairs. Inspired by shapers Bob Shepherd and Joe Quigg, within a couple of years Dick’s boards are in high demand
Dick Brewer builds a board for Buffalo Keaulana who wins the 1962 Makaha Championship on this board. In the winter of 62 Buzzy Trent and Butch Van Artsdalen start riding Brewer’s shapes. Buzzy rides a board with a concave bottom known as “The Concave”. Although Bob Simmons had experimented with concave bottoms, this becomes the first modern era concave bottom surfboard.
Butch Van Artsdalen starts riding the “Summer Semi” which would later be renamed “The Pipeliner” by Bing Surfboards. Gerry Lopez acknowledges that the Pipeliner was probably the first high performance longboard ever made.
Matson shipping goes on strike making it impossible to get surfboard materials in Hawaii. Brewer relocates temporarily to the California “Surfboards Hawaii" shop taking with him team rider Jeff Hakman. Brewer remains through the summer, returning to Hawaii after the strike is resolved. A dispute with John Price evolves when Price refuses to pay Brewer royalties for boards produced in California. At this point Brewer walks away from “Surfboards Hawaii”, the company that he started
Brewer temporarily returns to the mainland to shape for Hobie Alter, creating the "Dick Brewer Gun" for Hobie. Dick continues to build Dick Brewer Hobie guns in Hawaii and even personally glassing and sanding these boards at the shop in Wahiawa. That winter Jeff Hakman wins the first Duke riding a Brewer Hobie gun. Brewer requests R&D money to develop the “Summer Semi” and after being denied, leaves Hobie and goes on to shape for Harbour Surfboards, with Dick shaping two of the most popular Harbour models at that time- the "Trestles Special" and "The Cheater".
California stylist Steve Bigler on "The Cheater"
17 year old Jeff Hakman next to Duke Kahanamoku as Jeff claims his first place title at the Duke.
Gerry Lopez on the first Brewer Mini Gun- 1967
In 1966 Bing Surfboards actively pursues Brewer offering team sponsorship and money for R&D, thus begins the “Pipeliner” era.
In 1967 Brewer creates the Pintail lightweight for Bing Surfboards, the first surfboard with a hard tail edge going into soft rail. A transitional design known as “The Lotus” (which was first built by Brewer at Surfline) also finds its way into the Bing line up. As Brewer explains " I'd made a 9-foot 10-inch gun for David Nuuhiwa in the spring of '67, and David broke the nose off, so I redrew it at 7 feet 8 inches with a 17- inch nose on it and Randy Rarick reglassed it. I took that board out and rode it at Chun's - phenomenal roller coasters with that nose and the gun tail.
That board became the proto-type for the Lotus."
In late 67 Brewer separates from Bing and moves to Maui starting “Lahaina Surf Designs” (LSD) That winter both Reno Abellira and Gerry Lopez travel to Maui to get boards from Brewer. Following the inspiration of a chance meeting between Dick Brewer and Bob McTavish, Brewer creates the first "Mini Gun" for Gerry Lopez and as history reveals, this board comes to be recognized as the first modern short board. Although Gerry Lopez is the first to ride the “Mini gun”, it is Gary Chapman who really begins to push the design and test its limits. As Brewer states “Knowing that he had complete control of the surfboard, he would surf really deep in the pit. This set up a style of surfing for an entire generation”
In the summer of 68 Brewer relocates to Kauai and opens up Hanapepe surf shop. Both Reno and Lopez join Brewer. The advancements made at the Hanapepe shop include the modern surfboard fin and the first removable fin box in which Brewer later convinces Bahne to build. With Pakalas near by, tail designs and their effect are revealed to the surfing world. At the Hanapepe shop Dick builds a board for Jock Sutherland appropriately named "Purple Haze” which Jock surfs on and wins the Duke that year.
The Brewer Lei- 1968 also marks the year in which the infamous Brewer lei design was created by sixteen year old Jericho Poppler. First sketched out on a napkin, but as history would reveal, would become one of the most iconic symbols in the history of surfing.
Dick Brewer and Reno Abellira- 69
Brewer builds the infamous “Pocket Rocket” that year for Reno Abellira measuring at 6’7 in which Reno claims second place at the world contest at Rincon, Puerto Rico. The board turns heads as it is at least two feet shorter than any other board at the contest.
In 69 Brewer builds the “Flip Tip” model for Reno. As the name implies, this the the first surfboard created with a flipped nosed rocker, the natural evolution from Brewer's experience as a water skier.
Reno always on the most progressive Brewer design. In hand a rare Interisland Flip-Tip, Huntington pier-69
Reno- "Flip nose tri-fin"
From a collection of notes written by Steve Morgan in which he briefly acknowledges the mystical influence on Dick Brewer- "Seven voices"
Owl Chapman with an early Brewer tri fin
The 70’s ushered in a new era. The old system of surfboard building had completely collapsed and Dick Brewer’s designs had become the staple in which everyone was imitating. Experimentation had settled down a bit and an era of refinement was in force. For the first time the Surfer/ Shaper was really at the head of the helm. While this would seem to be a euphoric time, maybe not. With the rejection of “Pop culture surfing” also came a response in regard to the protectiveness of prime surf spots in which sometimes the results were even violent. Regardless the 70’s were an era in which Dick Brewer Surfboards dominated and no one came close.
In 1970 Brewer creates the first three fin surfboard. At first he creates this board for himself riding the board at the Ala Moana contest in the Seniors Division. The following year Reno and his other team riders follow suit. Working with Terry Fitzgerald that year (1970) Brewer creates the down rail surfboard and begins to thin the tail out for more control and quicker release.
Sam Hawk and Barry Kanaiaupuni on the cover of Surfing Magazine
Jeff Hakman on the cover of Surfer and Sam Hawk on the cover of Surfing Magazine
In 1974 Brewer revolutionizes surfboard blanks by creating the first foiled-continuous rocker blanks (plugs) for Clark Foam. These include the 7’4” B, 8’1” B, 9’2” B and a few years later the 6’3” B. The effect of these blanks on surfboard design is still seen today having a permanent impact on how we correlate rocker and foil.
Reno Abellira, setting up the track- 1972
Sam Hawk, Owl Chapman, Dick Brewer- 1972
Sam Hawk- 1973
Sam Hawk- Arriving to Hawaii in 67, by the early 70’s Sam was one the the most significant surfers of the era. As Matt Warsaw puts it “Sam Hawk was the perfect 70’s surfer, the missing link between the Mount Rushmore Hawaiians (Lopez, BK, Hakman, Reno) and the Bustin Down the Door guys like Shaun, Bugs and MR. Surf movies featuring Sam Hawk include Five Summer Stories, Oceans, Going Surfing and Super Session. Sam also went on to being a talented surfboard shaper, a protege of Dick Brewer. Other Brewer shaping protoges of that time included Gerry Lopez, Reno Abellira and Terry Fitzgerald.
Owl Chapman- 1973
Owl Chapman- Quoting Morgan “I remember seeing A Winters Tale at Point Loma High in 75. Owl did his hood ornament thing at Pipe and the whole place went crazy. Owl was a rock star then, still is”… Owl Chapman, legendary for his bravado in big waves as well as his sense of style in the water, without a doubt made his presence known. Also a shaping protege of Dick Brewer, Owl would go on to make some of surfings most treasured surfboards. In 1985 Surfing magazine recognized Owl as one of he greatest big wave surfers in history. Surf films featuring Owl include Morning of the Earth, Super Session, A Sea for Yourself, A Winter’s Tale, Red Hot Blue, The Cosmic Children, Adventures in Paradise, Island Magic and later films A surfing Odyssey and Surfers: The Movie. Owl continues to shape under the Brewer/ Chapman label and can still be found surfing the North Shore regularly.
Mark Richards- 1975
1975 marked a year of great accomplishment as well as tremendous tragedy. In 1975 eighteen year old year old Michael Ho takes second place at the Duke also appearing on the cover of Surfing Magazine. This is also the year that Mark Richards came to visit Brewer and take shaping lessons, the result being the creation of the modern twin fin, in which Richards freely gives Brewer the credit. The year was also very painful with Dick Brewer loosing his son Keoki in a tragic car accident on Maui.
Following the introduction of the polyurethane skateboard wheel, Brewer Skateboards is launched in 76. Team riders at that time included owner Greg Albertini, Bud Lamas and Scott Williams. Unique to any other skateboard manufacturer was the fact that the trucks and wheels were made in house. Dick Brewer's father, Charles Brewer, owned and ran a tool and dye shop in Bellflower Calif. and as a result designed and manufactured the trucks. It was Dick's brother Charles ll who created the polyurethane wheels. Dick's nephews Michael and Chuck were also involved in the production. It wasn't about just slapping a logo on a product, this was genuinely a passionate family operation. Also created in this setting were Brewer fin boxes and leash plugs as well as the Lexan Brewer fin.
For the second year in a row, Michael Ho appears on the cover of Surfer Magazine.
Mark Foo appears on the cover of Surfer Magazine
Brewer Skateboards 1976- Decks, Wheels and Trucks all bearing the name "Brewer"
Michael Ho- 76
For every action there is a reaction and such is the 80’s as the commercialization of the sport once again comes into full view. Replacing simple colors and black wetsuits are the bright pink hues of this era. Still, this is a remarkable period with the evolution of the short board and the replacement of single fins with multi fin boards. So deeply rooted are Brewer's designs into the psyche of every shaper at this point, it is easy to forget the source. This is probably one of the most challenging eras for Dick Brewer Surfboards. As Ian Cairns and Peter Townsend make there way up and down the California coast promoting the NSSA and later leading the world into the new professional circuit of surfing, it is a squeeky clean image they are looking for and a conclusion that one can easily come to is that Dick Brewer Surfboards doesn’t fit this mold. Maintaining a sensibility between commercial pursuit and the pure essence of surfboard design, Dick Brewer not only proves himself in this era but surpasses it in every way.
Gary Linden and Steve Morgan form a partnership taking over control of Dick Brewer Surfboards. Dick comes to California and takes a more active roll in the company at this time and taking a prominent role in the development of the thruster and quad surfboard designs. California becomes center stage with Owl also joining in on the action. Team riders that Brewer builds boards for in California include Max Madeiros, Mark Price, Byron Wong, Rick Rasmussen, David Barr, Danny Smith - just to name a few. In 1981 David Barr appears on the cover of Surfing Magazine riding a Brewer/ Linden.
In 1983 Brewer meets with Martin Baron, VP of Bic Sailboards and shortly after an agreement is made in which Bic opens up global distribution of Dick Brewer Sailboards. Designed by Dick Brewer the boards are built and managed by Steve Morgan. Shapers include Brewer, Morgan, Joe Blair and James Hovde
Dirk Brace (Mouse) -1986
In 1985 Steve Morgan and Gary Linden dissolve their partnership with Linden taking back ownership of the factory and Morgan taking control of the Dick Brewer Surfboard label. Brewer and Morgan become partners in which Morgan opens up the pathway for Brewer to take back complete control of his name and trademark. That same year Alex Cooke does his famous drop into outside Pipeline via helicopter. The event is filmed by Warren Bolster, and as a sideline, creates the best selling postcard ever in Hawaii entitled “The Biggest Wave”. Derrick Doerner and Alex Cooke make exceptional showings at the Eddie that year.
Dick Brewer Surfboards relocates to the island of Kauai where both Brewer and Morgan reside. Billy Hamilton shapes longboards that year for Dick Brewer surfboards. Kauai team riders include Titus and Alakai Kinimaka and Steve Carvalho. Two cover shots on Surfer magazine that year include Dirk Brace at Honolua on a Brewer/ Morgan and Mark Anderson at Malaeaa.
Mark Anderson, Malaaea- 86
Dick Brewer and Steve Morgan in front of the Kapaa shop- 85
Laird Hamilton- Evolution of "The Betsy"
The 90’s bring in the question- progressive or regressive? With the advent of the Slater Slipper, this is an era that totally fails the average surfer but nevertheless excels for the handful of athletes in which the quotient is all about minimal resistance. In a parallel universe, Dick Brewer continues to build big wave guns for some of the best surfers in the world but also redirects his energy into the world of tow in surfing. And it is here, that the idea of minimal resistance really has a place. Without the struggle of the paddle, the ultimate game is entirely based around performance of the board in which speed is already an assumed factor With test pilots like Laird Hamilton, Gerret McNamara, Derrick Doerner and Buzzy Kerboz, Brewer will take surfing to a place it has never been before.
One of the early chargers riding a Brewer at Teahupoo, Vateo Poto David becomes the number two surfer in the world that year
Brewer Shapes the “Betsy” that year for Laird Hamilton, the first modern tow board with full concave and a reduced fin setup. Originally a 7’3” eventually as short as 6’4”. Derrick Doerner and Buzzy Kerbox both join in taking tow in surfing to a new level.
Myles Padaca appears on the cover of Surfer Magazine
Myles Padaca- 95
Derrick Doerner- Mammoth Backyards
Laird Hamilton on the "Millennium Wave"- Aug 17, 2000
There are a select few things in surfing’s history that really stand out as defining moments. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring was Laird Hamilton’s wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti, on August 17th, 2000. Now named the "Millennium Wave", the backless monster that Hamilton towed into was, at the time, by far the heaviest wave ever surfed. And it changed things, to say the least. Laird’s Millennium Wave turned the surfing world on its head; it was a seemingly impossible wave made possible. Not only was it so much heavier than any thing else ridden before it, it was one of those moments that eventually lead to the kind of big wave surfing we see today. No matter your opinion of tow surfing or Laird Hamilton, the combination of the two sparked a movement that pushed the sport to greater heights that its ever been before. The ride itself lasted just a few seconds, but the ramifications of it have reverberated through today. “It was to the point where I almost said, ‘Don’t let go of the rope,'” said Darrick Doerner, the man driving the ski. “When I looked back, he was gone.” As Hamilton let go, the entire south Pacific folded over on itself, dwarfing his 220-pound frame. The wave exploded on the shallow reef that lies beneath Teahupoo, and a foam ball of massive proportions erupted. Everyone watching held their breath for what seemed like an eternity. Impossibly, Laird appeared out of the mist, casually rode off the back, and straight into history.
(From Inertia Magazine/ Alexander Haro)
Laird Hamilton on the cover of Surfer Magazine -Teahupoo
Garett McNamara on the cover of Surfing Magazine- Teahupoo
Bruce Irons wins the Eddie on a Brewer
In a field of 24 of the best big wave surfers in the world, including his brother (Andy Irons), Bruce's victory on the 20th anniversary of the Eddie, gave rise to the most satisfying and meaningful accomplishment of his career (not to mention that he got to take home $55,000) Bruce became the seventh surfer to win the event.
Bruce setting up outside for his final wave at the Eddie
and taking it all the way into the shore break
Brewer - Nickel Shell Tow Board- value= $225,000.
Garett McNamara appears on the cover of Surfer Magazine- Jaws
Brewer and McNamara work with Marc Newson, an industrial designer who works with space and aviation technology with the intent of creating an indestructible tow in board with perfect glide. Made from a nickel shell, ten boards in total are created each at the cost of $75,000, with each board now worth in the excess of $225,000
Dick Brewer is Honored at the Sacred Craft expo.The winner of the HIFT shape off is long time friend and shaper Pat Rawson
Dick Brewer is inducted into the Huntington Beach “Surfing Walk of Fame”
After a thirty year separation, Dick Brewer and Steve Morgan reunite
Maybe we have finally found what we have been searching for. Certainly the boundaries have been stretched beyond our imagination in this new era. The new millennium seems to offer a vivid glance into the future and at the same time seems to encompass and even value the collective soul of previous generations. Although commercialization of the sport is beyond anything ever anticipated, there are still accessible elements in surfing that exist entirely outside of this bubble. The mass produced “Made in China” (or Thailand) boards are out there for the masses, and the predictable algorithms of machine cut shapes are available for those who desire it's predictability , but the really good news is that the small underground guy, that still hand shapes his boards and still experiments, he is still around. As we have had the opportunity to do so much testing of design over the last five decades, there are so many different boards to choose from. But make no mistake, whether you are riding a log, fish or high performance board, or for that matter any other surfing craft, Dick Brewer’s fingerprints are still on that board. The surfing world owes Dick more than it will ever know.
Photo above: Garret McNamara, Jaws 2005