George Greenough was born in Santa Barbara, California in 1941. He was raised in a Montecito mansion with popular surf breaks Rincon to the south and Hollister Ranch to the north. He started surfing in the mid-50s but rather than traditional standup surfing, Greenough switched to knee-boarding because the surfboards of the era were too cumbersome.
“I made this six-footer while I was still in high school. I had tried conventional length standup boards, but I hated the way they felt,” explains Greenough, on why he made the switch to shorter boards. “So I built a standard board, only I made it three-and-a-half-foot shorter. It was before I had done any experimenting with high aspect ratio fins. I wish I had ridden this board with a narrow fin, because it probably would have been a ripper.”
In 1962, George made his first solid balsa spoon kneeboard. It was made for power turns in the most critical part of the wave. It had an “S” shape from the spoon in the nose that ran down to the tail. He eventually designed the first flexible, high ratio fin that was based on the tail fin of a tuna. The improvement of the speed and handling of his board was so successful it influenced all of his future designs.
“My first flexible spoon kneeboard started taking shape in 1965. I’d ridden the solid balsa spoon for three years, and I’d been using flexible fins for longer than that so I decided to make an entire board that flexed like my fin. Fish moved when they swam so why not make a whole board that moved when it rode waves?” He used his balsa spoon as a mold to lay a fiberglass shell over it. Then he laminated some leftover foam cutoffs onto that shell and shaped a spoon nose. This was the first of his fiberglass spoons.
George, with his revolutionary designed kneeboards and radical fins, performed surfing maneuvers that had never been seen before. He could take off deep in the pocket, come flying out to make a top turn, and then return back deep to the pocket. He was the first to perfect riding in the barrel of a wave with ease.
In 1965, while George Greenough was in Australia, he was riding one of his flex kneeboards with its new fin design which inspired his friend Bob McTavish to make lighter boards with Greenough fins.
George Greenough kneeboards are still ahead of their time and not yet accepted in surf culture, but the influence of his style of surfing and his innovative dolphin-flex fin, was the basis for the short board revolution.