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The Tao of George

George Greenough. Photo: John Witzig
Greenough. Photo: Alby Falzon
Rincon. Photo: Joe Quigg
George Greenough, 1966
George Greenough. Photo: Alby Falzon

Near the beginning of Endless Summer, a Santa Barbara kneeboarder named George Greenough rides one of the finest-looking waves in the picture—a small but incredibly long peeler at a break called Sandspit. Filmmaker Bruce Brown offered the wave as a kind of novelty (“a short board and a long ride”) and moved on. Brown didn’t know it at the time, but what he'd captured at Sandspit was the shortboard revolution in its prenatal stage.

Greenough was both an inspiration and architect for the upcomi...

By the end of 1965, Greenough was riding like a visitor from ten years in surfing’s future. He did turns where his board tilted up 90 degrees, laid down figure-eight cutbacks, and spent more time in the tube—or “the green room,” in the going lingo— than the top 100 surfers in the world combined.