Tom Blake Surfboards: A Classic 1940s Rogers and Blake Mahogany Paddle Board

Tom Blake Surfboards in Surfing History

Thomas Edward Blake (1902-94) was a pivotal figure in surfing history, and possibly the most influential individual in the history of wooden surfboards. He was an accomplished swimmer and surfer whose experiences with ancient Hawaiian surfer culture blended with his background in Malibu water sports to produce unprecedented surfboard designs. In the 1920s and 30s, Blakes's experiments and innovations resulted in lighter paddleboards and surfboards, as well as alternative construction techniques, the introduction of the fin, and a basic leash. Tom Blake surfboards and the designs they influenced are credited from advancing surfing from its Polynesian origins to a national ocean sport in the US.

Blake's significant contributions began in 1927 when he and Sam Reid pioneered surfing in Malibu, California, while at the same time working on a replica Olo surfboard in Hawaii. This massive fifteen-foot board, weighing approximately 150 pounds, underwent extensive modifications by drilling hundreds of holes through the deck to reduce weight, a technique that enabled Blake to win numerous paddleboard races. His experimentation progressed to chambering solid boards, carving out internal sections, and eventually developing a skin and frame construction method, revolutionizing the industry with significantly lighter boards, as light as 40 pounds. Although construction techniques have evolved over the years since Blake patented his design in 1931, his original concepts endured for decades, used globally as lifeguard rescue boards and commercially produced by various manufacturers.

Blake's pushed surfboard innovation further in 1935 when he added an aluminum skeg salvaged from a speedboat to the bottom of his cedar surfboard, encasing it in wood for protection. This precursor to the surfboard fin was a modest one-foot-long, four-inch-high addition provided Tom Blake surfboards with directional stability, enabling surfers to navigate tighter angles on waves and initiate turns effectively. Blake's relentless quest to improve surfboard design forever altered surfing, and modern surfboard shapers owe a significant debt of gratitude to his pioneering spirit and innovative techniques.

Tom Black Rogers Co. Mahogany Paddle Board circa 1940

This hollow paddleboard circa 1940 in the Surf n' Wear classic surfboards collection was designed by Tom Blake in partnership with The Thomas Rogers Company of Venice, California, which also manufactured airplane wings. Blake patented his designs, which were produced by the Rogers Company, and exhibited similar design attributes with airplane wings. Most significantly this design approach reduced the weight of solid-wood surfboards, making surfing accessible to a broader audience. This board has a hollow structure with a ribbed interior, reinforced transversely. Blake, in close collaboration with Rogers, oversaw the production of some of the earliest commercially manufactured surfboards and paddleboards. Lifeguards and racers mostly used paddleboards, which they also used for leisure surfing.  You can just picture it, gliding across the waves in Malibu...

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