Dick Brewer and Steve Morgan- Kapa'a, Kauai 1985
FREESURF MAGAZINE INTERVIEW VOL 14 #7
Two shapers getting together to collaborate after thirty years is not a common theme in the surfboard industry, but such is the case with legendary shaper Dick Brewer and veteran shaper Steve Morgan after parting ways in 1987. Morgan was first hired as a shaper for Dick Brewer Surfboards in 1979 and through a further combination of business partnerships, first with Gary Linden and later as sole partner with Dick Brewer, continued to shape under the Brewer label for the following eight years, a period which saw rapid change in surfboard design.
While the reunion serves to create a new surfboard line that incorporates the shaping talents of Brewer and Morgan, it also serves as a vehicle to honor the legacy of Dick Brewer as the innovator and father of the modern surfboard.
In 1967 Brewer created what was known as the “Mini Gun”, a board that would entirely change the nature of surfing. The mini gun was not only a shorter surf board but also entirely unique. Beginning with the outline, the board took on the narrower nose and tail dimensions of early big wave guns and applied these dimensions to a much shorter surfboard, hence the term “mini gun”. Far more radical though , Brewer used aerodynamic principles in his design in contrast to a reliance previously on boat hull design, that which had begun with Bob Simmons in the 40's and although further refined, remained the prevalent thought of surfboard design through the mid 60's.
Veteran surfboard shaper Steve Bahne gives a simple explanation of the application of Dick's innovation- “Dick Brewer brought surfboard design out of the dark ages when he started applying aerodynamic foils to surfboards. Essentially, the top side (lifting side) of an airplane wing was applied to the bottom side of the surfboard. In addition, the thickness flow of an airplane wing was applied to the surfboard profile and for the first time, the rocker in the bottom of a surfboard, including tail rocker and kick in the nose, was correlated to speed and performance.”
Gerry Lopez, in his book “Surf is where you find it”, clearly acknowledges that it was Brewer who almost single handily started the short board revolution as we know it. Lopez states “Following the first (mini-gun) that Brewer carved out for me in a moment of visionary ecstasy, none of us ever looked back. Surfing and surfboards would never be the same again. A border had been crossed and I was privileged and very lucky to be there when it happened”. Lopez goes on to say that “Dick Brewer will certainly go down in history as the greatest surfboard designer ever to live.”
FS: What is it that kicked off this idea to get together again and collaborate?
Morgan: The idea is not a new one, I had thought about it for years but what seemed to kick it off began one night on Molokai while talking “surf story” with my kids. Repeating these stories probably too many times, I think it was my daughter in law that finally said “You need to write down these stories”. I took it seriously and the very first story I wrote was about my time working with Brewer. I then sent the story to Dick and one thing lead to another. The flame was lit and here we are.
Brewer: Morgan has always been a Brewer shaper and our connection has a long history. The years that we worked together were really important years. Like the late 60's, at that time we saw another major progression of surfboard design, going from single fins to twins to thrusters and even quads.. Prior to going to California I had been working with Mark Richards on the twin fin. Mark was gracious enough to give me the credit for his design which resulted in a twin fin model that was much more maneuverable and could also handle larger surf. As we progressed forward, it didn't end with the thruster, I was also doing quite a bit of R& D with Gary Linden at that time with quads. Morgan wasn't just behind the scenes, he was involved at every level of development, always experimenting and exploring the boundaries of each new design.
Morgan: It's also important to recognize that Dick was the first to go on record in the development of the three fin surfboard.
Brewer: I actually created the three fin in 1969 and rode it myself in the masters division at Ala Moana in June of 1970. Reno Abellira is on record riding the same three fin model in October of 1970 which was covered by Drew Kampion in Surfer Magazine a few months later. The fin size that I was using is similar to the modern bonzer with a 6” rear fin and 2 ½ “ side fins.
FS: Who else was shaping at the Brewer shop during the time that you two worked together?
Morgan: In 1980-81 the shop in California had become the gathering place. The shapers there at that time besides Brewer and myself were Gary Linden, Owl Chapman and Sam Hawk, who was still around until 82. Eric Arakawa even did a short guest appearance shaping a few Brewers. That was the only year that I remember that both Dick and Owl spent the entire season in California. It s amazing that with that many chiefs under one roof, that we all got along as well as we did.
Brewer: There was a lot of energy in California at that time and the whole world seemed to be focused there. We really had some outstanding surfers riding for us, not just from California but from all over the world.
FS: What were some of the developments of Brewer Surfboards at that time.?
Morgan: Certainly multiple fins were changing things and the thruster became center stage. Dick had introduced a few new blanks for Clark Foam at that time which were pivotal to the change in surfboard design. Although probably never credited for it, I believe that Owl had a significant influence on the evolution of the modern surfboard. The blanks that Dick created were the first to have continuous rocker (both deck and bottom) and when Owl shaped his boards, he stayed true to the blank's design by keeping the deck line in a continuous arc . While this might seem like a small thing, it's not. This changes the way the foil, rocker and rail line all come together, even the flex characteristics are changed. Gary Linden took what Owl was doing and took it another step by recognizing that with multiple fins, the surfer was riding more from the tail of the board and that the volume displacement needed to be pushed further back. At first Linden really exaggerated this but in time this balanced out (possibly of my own influence) and really set a precedence for the industry. Adding to this were Dick's outlines, which in every era have set the benchmark.
FS: ( addressing Morgan) So what do you feel were your most significant contributions to Brewer Surfboards at that time.
Morgan: Probably two things, one being my California influence and the other in my intuitive ability to feel how a board would surf as I was shaping the board. Looking at Sam Hawk's shapes at that time, I saw that Sam was adding a little more volume and surface area to his boards and managed to do so without sacrificing the the basic integrity of the design. Taking on Sam's approach and stretching it a bit further, I created models that were unique to California and the east coast, yet were distinctly Brewers. Even the boards I shaped for Hawaii had a little more surface area, which came about because of my own need as a surfer.
Brewer : Adding to this, I would say that Morgan's contribution was in his level of detail. You could see this in every aspect of his life. Morgan gave quality and precision to my concepts.
FS: (Addressing Morgan) You also make a lot of long boards. Who were your long board shaping influences?
Morgan: Early on, Bill Caster and Gary Wooden of Challenger surfboards. As far as performance long boards go, I would say probably Billy Hamilton. We had relocated Brewer surfboards to Kauai in 1985 and Billy was shaping a few boards for the Brewer line at that time. He was the first long board shaper that I came across who was really foiling out his longboards. Making boards for Hanalei, they had to perform. And no doubt, Dick's influence in longboard design was influential on me as well. In fact the performance longboard that we are introducing into the Brewer Morgan line is directly from a template that Dick made for Butch Van Artsdalen in 1963. The nose dimensions of the original are narrower, but by simply turning the axis of the template and continuing the arc of the nose, we have used this template to create a modern performance nose rider. The outline is really gorgeous. It is really hard to believe that Dick created this in 63.
Brewer: The template that Morgan is referring to is from the original “Pipeliner” model. Actually, this was a board I made for myself in 1962 and was slightly modified in 63. Butch really loved the board, using it to surf Pipeline on a regular basis. From that point on the board became really popular. Gary Chapman was the first to really start down sizing his boards and in 1965 started surfing Ala Moana on a 8'6” Pipeliner. Two years later it was Gary who took the mini gun and really pushed it to the limit, surfing deep in the pit and really setting up a style of surfing that would impact an entire generation.
FS: So with the new line of Brewer Morgan Surfboards, what else can you tell us?
Brewer: When you look at the history of Brewer Surfboards, literally hundreds of known surfers have ridden my boards and contributed to the design elements that make a Brewer. Rail design, rocker, bottom contours, outlines, foil - every component of the board has been put to the test. Ultimately, it is the accumulation of these past six decades of proven and tested design that you will find in a Brewer Morgan.
Morgan: The tremendous legacy and history of Brewer Surfboards is unparalleled and the fact that I am a part of this, I am deeply honored. The goal of the Brewer Morgan line is to build a limited production surfboard that is really design oriented. By that I mean that the shape itself is the defining element of the board. I remember the first time I rode a Brewer, it was amazing, the distinction was obvious, no other board felt like a Brewer - The precision, the agility, the drive. And that’s just it, when the surfer is riding the board, he's not really thinking about dimensions, rocker or anything else, that's our job. With the surfer it just comes down to how the board feels. That pure essence of surfing is why we are making these boards, for the love of the surfboard and for the love of surfing.