Bob Simmons, Gnarled Genius

Surfing was an empirical pursuit for Simmons. He never daydreamed about Waikiki, or strummed a ukulele, or wore a Hawaiian shirt. He just wanted a better, faster board, and to that end he attacked furiously with numbers and formulae.

Surfboard design rocketed forward in the postwar years. It was a group effort, but Bob Simmons, a knobby misanthropic engineer from Pasadena, was the person who got things started. Simmons was strange, brilliant, and experimental, permanently ungroomed, and often angry—he once answered some bullying by a group of Palos Verde Cove locals by splitting open the decks of their hollow boards with an ax...

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