Paddle Boarding History

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Paddle Boarding History

The true pioneer of paddleboard construction was Thomas Edward Blake in the early 1930s. Subsequently, Blake built a replica of an olo surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiin kings in 1944. With this, he lightened his redwood replica by drilling it full of holes and then covering them. Thus, the first ever hollow board and modern paddleboard was born.

Two years later, by using this same board, Blake won the Pacific Coast Surfriding Championships. This event integrated both surfing and paddling. When Blake returned to Hawaii, he broke virtually any established paddling record available by setting half-mile and 100-yard records which stood until 1955.

Blake then went on to out-paddle California watermen Pete Peterson and Wally Burton in the first ever Catalina crossing race (29 miles in 5 hours, 53 minutes) in 1948. He did this by using a drastically chambered hollow-board which over the next decade he tirelessly promoted as a lifeguard rescue tool. For paddleboarding, the basic principles of Blake’s 1926 design remain relevant even today.

In the 1980s, paddleboarding experienced a renaissance after Los Angeles County lifeguard Rabbi Norm Shifren’s “Waterman Race” inspired surf journalist Craig Lockwood to start production on a high quality stock paddleboard -- known as the “Waterman.”

After the advent of the “Waterman,” L.A. surfboard shaper Joe Bark and San Diego shaper Mike Eaton began production of this paddleboard. They soon became two of the largest U.S. paddleboard makers and eventually produced nearly half of the estimated 3-400 paddleboards made each year in the U.S. Since then, paddleboarding has continued to gain popularity and production has increased as many folks enjoy the recreational enjoyment that paddleboating provides.

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