Richie West: The Santa Barbara Era


If you were around the Ventura/Santa Barbara area from 1969 through 1973, and had even a passing interest in stubby/hull surfing, Richie West was a one of your heroes. 

Much like Skip Frye down in San Diego, he was an icon without mystery. Richie built leading edge boards at Wilderness and surfed the Santa Barbara coast. That was it. He was either wearing a wetsuit or breathing through a respirator, every day of the week.  If Rincon had a ripple over 2 feet, he was out at the Rivermouth. If you went by the Wilderness shop, Mike or Peter may or may not have been there...but Richie was, covered in dust and anxious for you to leave so he could get back to work.

His surfing was so far ahead of it's time, it was like he was wearing a leash. Wrap around cutbacks and deep tube rides that ended in a swim were commonplace. Any opportunity to stuff himself into the pocket was taken, without regard for the outcome. Again, like he was wearing a leash...but he wasn't. He was willing to pay the price to push his surfing forward.

Watch how many times he gets eaten at the Poison Oak Point sequence in Crystal Voyager. Then think about the gnarly rocks along the edge of the break there...


 His boards were beat-to-shit, but he didn't care...

The 5'10'' stubby in this picture was his daily rider, and he kept it going for years with repair after repair.

I was going through a stack of old photos a couple of days ago, and came across this shot I took of him at the Rivermouth in 1972...

He's in perfect trim, on the perfect place on his board, in the perfect part of the wave. It's a seemingly simple moment, but it speaks volumes of his holistic surfing talent.

The irony of this photo is that Skip Frye was out this day, and that's when I realized how similar their souls were. Two of the hardest core surfers ever of all time.

He left Santa Barbara for Australia in 1973. Here's his current web page.

More From Hansen

One doesn't normally word-associate "Hansen Surfboards" with "progressive," but the North San Diego County builder was quietly pushing the limits throughout the longboard and transition eras.

Here's a longboard with a fin set many inches further forward than the norm. (Maybe this was a paddle board?)

Mike Doyle with a board that foreshadowed the Ben Aipa Stinger by several years.

Glue Line/Tapered Stringers

At the end of the longboard era, Hansen used two outer glue lines and a tapered half-stringer to good effect. The front half of the board was flexible when trimming forward, and the glue lines gave their boards a distinct look.

Modern Hansen re-issues.

In addition to nose flexibility, the tapered half-stringer also lightened the nose...a key to more maneuverability on last-gen longboards.

Another way to use tapered stringers is to put the wood forward, and let the tail flex. (This is more of a shortboard-specific approach, where nose weight isn't a problem.)

Here are two beautiful examples, shaped by Spencer Kellogg...


Stringerless Sunday

Technically, this board isn't stringerless...but in practice, it is!

Glue line stringers were fairly common during the transition era. Blank manufacturers cut the raw blank in half, the glued it back together with resin, sans wood.

The benefits of glue line blanks were practical (they gave shapers a reference point during the shaping process) and aesthetic (the finished boards seemed more stylish than 'Plain Jane' stringerless.) In the water, they were light and springy like stringerless boards...and were equally fragile as well.

This example is an early V bottom from Harbour...

They kept the Rapier model name from the longboard era...

7'5'' x 22"


Another example from the UK, 1968...


Early Carbon Fiber Spoon

This was one of the earliest carbon fiber spoons. Not sure of the date. Maybe 1980?

I'm laying up the bottom of a mold I made for was the same length as George's, but about an inch wider.

I was using high temperature epoxy that George had custom ordered for use on his spoons. It needed a lot of warmth to even be workable, so I could laminate in the midday sun without any worries.

The boat in the background was the original Greenough hull. 13 feet, as I recall...