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Brief History of the Mid-Length

Brief History of the Mid-Length
In the mid 1960’s big, heavy longboards were still the cutting edge of surfboard design and technology. If the waves were small, you rode a big heavy longboard. If the waves were huge, you rode a big heavy longboard. Because back then, they weren’t thought of as “big, heavy longboards” they were simply surfboards.

Imagine paddling out at Waimea or Honolua Bay on the heaviest longboard that we could construct nowadays. That’s a lot of water, a lot of power, and a whole lot of board to try to navigate. It might seem like a fool’s errand today, but due to the constraints of surfboard design, that’s exactly what surfers were doing in the mid-60’s.

After a frustrating trip to Hawaii, Australian shaper Bob McTavish knew there had to be a better way to harness the incredible power of these bigger waves. In January of 1968, Bob left Hawaii and flew to California. All great innovation is driven by pain, and the pain of his recent surf trip to Maui inspired him to shape the very first 7’10” Rincon Tracker.
“Bob McTavish shaped his dream board in January 1968 at the Morey Pope factory on ‘C Street’ in Ventura, California after spending time with Dick Brewer on Maui around the time of those Honolua Bay sessions. McTavish incorporated Brewer’s outline curves into his own design concept that featured a cut down length and a Greenough fin.” -Liquid Salt Mag

Most consider McTavish’s 7’10 Rincon Tracker to be the first widely publicized “mid-length”, although at the time it was considered a shortboard. It didn’t take long for the entire industry to chase the new trend of shaping and riding smaller and smaller surfboards.

A mere 4 years later, in 1972, Jim Blears and David Nuuhiwa finished first and second, respectively, at the Surfing World Championships in San Diego… riding twin fin fish shortboards.

Shortboards were here, and they were here to stay.

As I’m writing this, it's the Spring of 2023 meaning the equivalent timeline would mean the very first 7’10 was shaped in January 2019 and by now, the industry would already have moved onto shaping 6’0 Twin Fin Fishes. That’s a lot of design advancement in a few short years.

Mid-sized surfboards didn’t disappear from the scene entirely—but they were mostly seen as a stepping stone to get from the traditional longboards to the new realm of fast & loose shorter boards, and quickly fell out of vogue as all eyes were on the shorties.

With all of that design progress in just a few short years, it only makes sense that we would eventually need to circle back around and revisit this brief portion of surfboard design and see what else we—as a collective surf community—could uncover.

Our own history with the mid-length starts in 2010. That is the oldest photo that I could find in our archives of an early Joy model.

This 7'4" Joy, if I remember correctly, was for our Japanese distributor.

The Joy was the foundation of our entire mid-length range. (Much in the way the Lumberjack has been the foundation for most of our Noseriders & Longboards).

Our depth of experience and the diversity of our mid-length models has expanded considerably since 2010.

We have a whole lot more to say about Mid-Sized Surfboards.  This short history is part of our upcoming revised & expanded Almond's Guide to Essential Mid-Lengths

What's Next?