Geometry and Flow

Diamonds, hexagons, swirls, pinlines: M Nii’s t-shirts for Spring 2014 go back to that period between 1959 and 1967 – between the plain balsa world of Gidget and the far out psychedelia of the Summer of Love – when foam and fiberglass became the materials of choice for surfboards, and surfboard makers and glassers went nuts with colors, designs, panels, pinlines – far out shapes, geometries.

Surfboards were unadorned through the first half of the 20th Century, because surfboards were made of Hawaiian koa, then mainland redwood, spruce and cedar, then Ecuadorian balsa after World War II – why hide all that lovely grain under color?

In the 1959 movie Gidget, the surfers are shaping balsa boards on the beach and riding them in the surf. By the early 1960s, balsa had gone the way of the dodo and now plastics were the go. But foam blanks were plain white and not grainy and beautiful, and surfers began using tints, pinlines and geometric shapes to decorate surfboards.

Some of this was art, and some was commerce. As the surfing sensation exploded, the surfboard business became big business, and surfboard makers were smart enough to sell the sizzle and the steak. Dale Velzy used a diamond logo in the 1950s and others copied that but into the 1960s, Hobie, Weber, Noll, Harbour, G&S and two dozen other manufacturers used diamonds, hexagons, angles and circles to sell to the squares.