It’s Friday, the 11th of November 1966. There is a North-West swell with two to four foot waves arriving at a point-break arena that locals call “Stables,” about a quarter mile north of California Street in Ventura, California. It’s the first day of a three-day invitational professional surfing contest offering a $5,000 cash purse and it’s called the “Morey-Pope Professional Invitational Championships.”.
An audience of about two thousand has gathered, paying $1 each to enter the closed-off beach area and see the performances of fifty top surfers invited from around the world to have their skills tested in the disciplines of trimming and noseriding.
The judging system is objective and utilizes a stop watch to determine the length of time on the wave and cumulative length of time on the nose. No points, nothing to do with style, simply time.
Money is the prize for the second time in the history of the sport. It’s the hottest promotion in the sport and brain-child of Inventor Tom Morey and partner Peter Pope. The contest is designed to address the need for objective judging in the sport. It is brilliantly designed to appeal to the masses and demonstrate the best skills of surfing in its best form. Also, and more importantly, objective judging is a judging system required by the Olympic Committee to qualify a sport for the Olympic Games. The future was envisioned but little did anyone know what would develop to stifle its progress.
Day one: Time for length of ride serves to demonstrate a competitor’s ability to master the whole wave from the point of take-off to the beach. Ten waves are timed. The clock runs from the time the contestant stands up on his surfboard to the moment he pulls out of the wave. Day two: Noseriding for time pushes the competitor’s skills at maneuvering the surfboard from the front end (the nose area) of their surfboard, which is measured at 25% of the overall surfboard length. The third and final day, combines both accumulated nose time and wave time.
Each of the fifty champion competitors has the intent of pushing nose-time to the extreme in hopes of showing off their most spectacular poses to get the most sensational photos ops in the magazines. There is no overall surfboard length limitation. This rule (25% nose area with no length limitation) promoted experimentation among many of the invited contest surfers and their design surfboard design team, leading to wild imaginations that abounded! Some very strange devices appeared for the initial contest in 1965: Mike Doyle had a 2″x4″x8′ wood plank rosined to the tail to gain over-all length and a greater associated 25% nose area. A 10 pound bar-bell was duct taped to the tail of another surfboard, and yet another had a brick rosined to the tail – both inventions were hoping to keep the tail weighed down. Nose shapes varied from flat bottom to concave, narrow to wide, flat rocker to lots of rocker. A cross “Wing” was attached to one fin, while another fin had a funnel running through it.
The second contest had its share of oddities too but they seemed more thought out. Designers learned from the first contest that a surfboard could not just be long to gain nose area and more nose time. Surfboards had to turn as well as nose ride to maintain position in the pocket of the wave, where the nose gains the most lift. What became clear was that surfboard designs were advancing in many different directions. Designers were experimenting to find the common denominator that enabled the surfboard to maneuver from the nose and in so doing, were discovering other surfboard functionalities. This may have been one of the most revolutionary times in the development of surfboard designs, inadvertently promoting short-board designs that revolutionized the sports for the following decade facing the challenge of big waves and the adventure of finding them around the world.
Perched like casual Gods on the front end of their surfboards, striking ethereal poses in effortless motion, the best competitors clocked incredible distances. The entire audience would watch, mesmerized, as the length of each nose ride increased, surpassing the previous record. The entire audience was captivated watching a single rider and timing their test of skill. They kept a tally while they gambled on who would win.
Highly ranked contest surfer and surfboard designer, Bob Purvey had designed his surfboards under his mentor and the tutelage of world famous surfboard maker and designer, Dewey Weber and his shaper, Harold “Iggy” Igg, for three years prior to endorsing his new sponsor, Con Surfboards, in the beginning of 1966.
Purvey came up with his unique conceptual design and the essence of what typically goes into a noserider shape today. It had an extremely wide nose, long and deep concave underneath it and a kicked up tail. Purvey states, “It’s a combination of the Dewey Weber “Performer” tail and the Tom Blake concave nose. The extreme wide nose was my unique concept. Con’s best shaper, Gary Seaman, put it all together. I could have rode the nose on a tongue depressor, which is what The Ugly shape kind of looked like but the details in The Ugly shape made nose riding a heck of lot easier and enabled me to stay on the nose a lot longer.”