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Tom Blake Redesigns the Sport

Tom Blake, 1931
Tom Blake, right, 1930s
Tom Blake, 1924
Tom Blake blueprint, 1931
Tom Blake, left. Photo: Doc Ball

Wisconsin-born Tom Blake had been riding waves for less than five years when he won the Pacific Coast Championships, but he was already closing in on Duke Kahanamoku as the most influential early-modern surfer. While the gracious and sociable Kahanamoku provided surfing with its emotional center, Blake, restless and nearly humorless, became the sport’s great innovator. He redesigned the surfboard. He changed the way surfers looked. He transformed wave-riding into something broader and more co...

Others would inject surfing with humor, and prurience, and a few more lifestyle essentials. Tom Blake was different. Among his many contributions to the sport was the idea that a surfing life could provide relief and comfort to those who felt broken.