The following article was written for Surfers Journal after George Greenough approached Geoff several times. After completion due to circumstances; it was decided to not send it to Surfers Journal. So much time and effort has gone into it we decided to publish it on our own web site.
Article for Surfers Journal
This is an interview with the elusive and sometimes controversial Geoff McCoy obtained by his contemporary George Greenough.
Geoff McCoy moved to Byron Bay in the mid 1980’s after his total disillusionment with Business and the Competitive Surfing World. In the intervening years he has continue to Design and Build Surfboards which many say are the most practical and fun boards which they have ridden, and this after quite a few were considering giving up Surfing completely. I’ve also heard that when Geoff talks to people about ordering a Board they are totally blown away by the depth of knowledge that this man has on his chosen field. He never rushes the order goes into the smallest details about the Surfer, his ability and what he is looking to achieve. He also asks them quite a lot of questions about what they have been riding and why they are looking to change direction. For most, this is the first time that they have not been steam rolled into buying a Board which actually had very little to do with them and everything about the shop person who was trying to push their Product.
Greenough: Geoff why do you often refuse to give interviews?
McCoy: I do give interviews George but in the past they have not always written what I have spoken so I am a little wary.
Greenough: Why have you decided to do the interview with me.
McCoy: We are on the same page; coming from the same awareness, you get where I am coming from and what I am saying.
I have decided to do this interview to point out my perspective on the massive changes that have taken place during my involvement in surfing, as my experiential field and to the World in general, which I personally find disappointing. I’ll start in the beginning.
Surfing was not always considered favorably, it was in fact frowned upon by most mainstream folk.
In the mid to late 50’s ~ 60’s, you were considered to be irresponsible and a drop out for being a surfer, an outcast in society, very few people understood the attraction, the power and freedom of Surfing and with it the addiction to the ocean, the waves it produced and the endless quest to
Once you experienced and related to these over powering natural forces, you were hooked regardless of all the good advice you were given; surfing became a passion and then a life style!
Greenough: If that was the case were there many people in the water Surfing in those days?
McCoy: No, there were not a lot of surfers in those early years and more often than not you surfed by yourself, with a mate or only a handful of other surfers.
In hindsight this was the “Golden Era” the burgeoning of the amazing life style, which Surfing provided.
Since those early years, there has been a consistent increase in the number of people that go surfing, as you know particularly where we live, it is difficult to even have a Surf due to the numbers of people in the water, all contending for the waves. Surfing has risen to become a major Sport all over the world and has now been accepted by those that in the early days frowned on us.
Greenough: What do you see was the cause of the change in Attitude?
McCoy: In one word “Money”! Along the way ‘Entrepreneurs’ the greedy selfish few, the new breed of ‘Businessman or woman’ realized they could make and sell products to sell to these people called Surfers and even to people who did not Surf but wanted to be seen as ‘cool’. They have Surf shops in places in Australia that are hundreds of kilometers from the Surf.
These business people observed an opportunity and went in hard, much the same as in all other areas of business.
This was the new way to make money, it has permeated all sports and recreations, in fact all areas of our lives, from housing through food and clothing. If we want to be
really intense about this, it, this insatiable greed and desire for more and more is what is directly responsible for the Climatic and Socio Economic situations, which we
are now facing today. However right here we will stick to Surfing and the changes, which we have observed.
Greenough: How did this come about?
McCoy: By promoting Surfing on an international level, by selecting who and what their Marketing Research targeted they, Big Business, could control the trends, decide who would win the contests, what equipment they would use and what they would wear.
The irony is that a large percentage of these entrepreneurs were not even real Surfers, they were what we used to call “Fringe Dwellers” masquerading as Surfers and using the image of Surfing to cash in and make huge amounts of money with no real consideration for real Surfing on any level.
In the developing years, of my business I admit I was responsible for volunteering my image and position to these take over and control Surfing parasites, I ignorantly helped them establish an image that ultimately lead to their complete dominance over Pro Surfing; which they have until now used as a weapon for complete control.
This is what we have seen right up until now; these days Pro Surfing has become little more than a promotional event with little care for the participating contestants who have become identities being used for the marketing of products at any cost with no thought for the health and well being of the contestants. We have seen many great Surfers rise, loose themselves in the hype and Drug, Alcohol and Party lifestyle which has gone along with this, only to be discarded and thrown aside when their ‘image’ has been tarnished.
There have only been a few, in the very early days that were in any way helped by their friends, not the Big Companies.
This is evident in hospitals and rehab clinics around the world. Once again this is not only in the domain of professional Surfers but is commonplace in all forms of sport. Yes, it is a long way from the humble beginnings of Surfing.
Greenough: So where are the real Surfers, the ones that just love to Surf like in the old days?
McCoy: Real Surfers still exist you are one of them George. Their numbers are few, living the humble self-indulgent surfing life style away from all the mainstream limelight, just doing their thing; totally embracing the surfing life style, living and loving the purity that real surfing is. It is of course now much harder than it was as now making money is the Number 1 priority for everyone, in times past, having a good life and happy family were the priorities, this picture has changed in only 1 lifetime. We now look at Gross National Profit, not Gross National Happiness. There has been a research book written about it, it’s called, The Happiness Manifesto, I think we all need to be reading this at school instead of how to get a job that pays us the most money we can acquire. We would then have time, once again for Surfing. LOL!
Greenough: What changed your attitude from big business to a lifestyle business?
McCoy: That’s a Big Question in a few words.
Once I realized that the companies were standardizing the surfboard into a class with no room for creative and individual design I decided to pull away from the Pro image controlled Surfing / design format and put my energy and experience into shaping and designing boards for the masses, the recreational Surfers who had been completely over looked by the hysteria of Pro Surfing; who were ridiculously asking low to moderate ability Surfers to ride the same equipment as the Pro’s.
When this influence of Pro Surfing was at its peak I was also trying to ride anorexic, dysfunctional boards with frustration being the only outcome.
I was on the verge of quitting Surfing completely.
My experiences as an insider as to what was really happening and the motivation behind the Big Companies, the way they maneuvered and manipulated everyone for their own greed driven gains not to mention the fact that I had also been used by them had me totally disillusioned.
I was talking to my sister Anne about how I felt and she suggested to me “Why don’t you make a board that you think would be more practical?” my response was “they will only laugh at me and write me off”, she said “ So
what, build one for yourself anyway” So I did the first Nugget design in 1994.
It was a 6’ 6” x 20 1/2” x 2 7/8” and I started riding it and people were saying that board goes really well for you, could you make one for me.
This was beginning of a whole new experience for me.
It was like starting all over again, it took me about 5 years of hard work to come up with the ability to adjust.
I realized it was necessary to develop new formulae and a practical working graph to be able to accommodate a complete range of Designs to suit a vast range of Lengths, Widths, Thicknesses, Rockers as well as Plan Shape Adjustments that would accommodate the varied weights, needs, abilities and performances of Surfers to provide a complete range of the Nugget Designs that would be suitable for all.
It was during this period that after each phase of shaping
I felt like I had just written another Symphony; it really was physically draining and very confronting, as it seemed to be endless. It was also during this period that my Designing Skills and overall Knowledge of an Object on a Wave had increased dramatically; it was a whole new World of Enlightenment for me, which made all the effort very worthwhile, it was a feeling of a greater understanding of my life’s work, I felt like I had fulfilled an ambition which gave me amazing satisfaction.
I now understand When, Where, Why and How it All Works.
At the time that I did this the Big Companies were asking
Surfers of 90 ~ 110kgs to ride boards that were totally wrong in every aspect.
If you reflect back, in the early years, when equipment was more diversified and still carried volume, there was a greater percentage of bigger guys on the Pro Circuit, as
the boards reduced in Volume, so did the size of the Pro Surfer. It made many long term surfers just quit and walk away believing they could no longer Surf.
I saw how wrong it was and decided to shape and build boards that could accommodate heavier Surfers and put the “Fun” back into Surfing for these neglected Surfers.
I cannot tell you how many phone calls, emails and letters I have received over the years telling me how stoked they were with the boards I had made for them and how it had given them the chance to enjoy and have “Fun” again in their Surfing.
Greenough: How was this received by the Industry?
McCoy: There have been many ignorant brain washed fools that have tried to howl me down over the years saying my designs were dysfunctional and too thick…but if these no knowledge fools could read the correspondence
I have received over the years, they may never offer their ignorant opinions ever again.
Fins and Boards
Another observation, which I have made in recent times, is that due to the introduction of the Fin Systems, the Surfboard and Fin have become 2 separate identities.
These days the Customer buys a Board and then selects a Fin or Fins to use in that Board even though they may have little or no knowledge as to what effect the Fins will actually have on that Boards performance.
From my view the Fin or Fins are integral to the way that Board will perform. The Fin/s must be balanced to enhance the Board’s performance; this balance can only be achieved with knowledge, understanding and a practical assessment.
If the Fin/s are not in harmony then the result is poor performance.
I believe that it is the duty of the Board Designer to nominate the Fin/s required to obtain maximum function and performance from their designs; it is for this reason that I prefer to glass all of my Multi Fins onto the Board which prevents people from guessing and imagining that they know where to place the Fin/s and inhibiting the Boards performance.
My Single Fins come with a Fin Box, I have done this so that the Fin can be removed and repositioned to assist the Boards performance in a wider range of wave sizes and conditions.
I speak with the Customer and explain exactly why, when and how Fin movement is required.
I believe that you George bought 2 major Design Aspects to Australia. The short Kneeboard and refined performance Fin Designs.
The Kneeboard, which you were riding at the time, influenced all of us to reduce the size of the regular stand-up of that era. You have continued to pursue and refine your Fin designs over many years, experimenting and refining, gaining excellent practical knowledge along the way, which has influenced and benefited all of us.
Unfortunately in recent years Commercialism has overrun Knowledge and many Designers are accepting anything which is new, without actually having the depth of understanding and insight to know if the Fin/s they are using are in harmony with their Boards.
Could you please share your observations and insights and explain how important it is to have the correct balance between Surfboard and Fin/s.
Greenough: Well Geoff I have decided to ask you some questions on this and get your observations.
Greenough: You use a different Plan Fin on your Nugget Single Fin, Why is it different?
McCoy: After many years of researching and practical application and testing countless different shapes to use
as Fins I now understand how different Shapes effect the performance of a Surfboard in terms of Drive, Hold, Stability and Maneuverability.
I believe that it is necessary to have the Fin harmonizing with the Surfboard to obtain optimum performance. If the Fin is not adequate and in tune with the Board it will not allow optimum performance. The reason I have developed and use the Gull Wing Fin in my Wide Tail Designs is its Function. The Forward Knuckle and Raked Tip
provide greater Hold and Drive.
The breaking wave has the function of drawing up and over, the water flow is around the Board moving from Rail to Rail; the knuckle of the Fin captures the motion and is constantly being pulled against the wall of the wave; this function assists the Wide Tail to hold stopping the Tail from slipping or drifting out, allowing the thicker wider tail to utilize its advantages of greater speed and maneuverability.
The length of the Tip area and its Depth in the water is more effective as it provides more leverage. This allows the width of the fin’s Plan Shape to be reduced, which in turn makes turning the Board from rail to rail much easier as there is less resistance.
In summary, this Fin Design improves Hold, Drive and maneuverability for my Wide Tail Designs, which makes the combination a complete package.
Greenough: What do you think the future of your Wide Tail designs is?
McCoy: I have been designing and shaping this style of Board since 1994 and during this time the concept has steadily increased in demand as people have become aware of their performance advantages. It has been a word of mouth situation where one person would get a Nugget and then one by one their friends and then people that saw them on the Boards would also order them. The result has been mind boggling and very satisfying for me.
These Designs are based on practicality and common sense and are extremely functional.
They are easy to paddle, very stable, responsive and versatile in a wide range of wave conditions and sizes.
I have no doubt that these designs will continue to grow in popularity for a long time into the future.
Now that people are realizing that the Boards being promoted through the media for the Pro Circuit style of Surfing is not actually the style of Board that is best for the average Surfer. These Boards are far too reactive, difficult to paddle and also hard to catch waves on.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of Retro Designed Boards. Why?
These Boards are wider, thicker easy to paddle, stable to ride and less reactive. It is for these reasons that they have become popular again and are ‘killing off’ the modern Surfboard designed for the Pros. These Boards are only for the elite Surfer; it is dysfunctional in its application for the average surfer. My Nugget Designs can be adapted to suit all abilities from the Beginner to the Elite performer. These Boards have now stood the test of time in waves from 1’-70’, in an extremely wide range of wave conditions. The Design is actually Futuristic, and Practical; just ask anyone that rides one.
Greenough: What about Big Guns in the 10’-12’ range for Paddle In Big Wave Riding and would the Design work for this field?
McCoy: I have adapted the Nugget Designs to suit Big Waves, which they do with amazing results.
The Design Concept of my Nugget is to have more area in the back half of the Board; this changes depending on what size waves the Board will be used in. Obviously if you have a small wave Board at: 6’x21 1/2” x 17”t x 14”n x 2 7/8”, for waves up to solid 5’. To go for waves 5’-10’, you would need to adjust the dimensions, say 7’ x 19 ¾” x 15 ½”t x 12 ½” n x 2 7/8”. For waves 10’-12, 8’ x 19 ½” x 15”t x 12”n x 3”. For waves 12’-15’, 9’ x 20” x 14”tx 11”n x3 ¼”. For waves 15’-20’, 10’ x 20 ½” x 13”t x 10”n x 3 ¼”.
As the Boards become longer the concept of more area in the back half of the Board remains even though the dimensions reduce to accommodate the increased speed and surface tension of the wave, which in turn allows the Surfer to retain control of the Board to be used in Paddle In Surfing; where the length and volume are essential ingredients.
This formula does not apply to Tow in Surfing as there is no need for length and volume as there is no paddling required. However, the same Nugget Design Concept of more area in the back half of the Board has proven to be practical and functional in waves up to 70’ plus, in a wide range of conditions.
Greenough: It’s interesting that in the last 5-6 years the typical style of Contest Board that the Corporates ‘Love’ is not as popular as it used to be. People are opening their eyes and seeing that there are other shapes out there. Do you think this will be an ongoing trend?
McCoy: Since the introduction of Pro Surfing it has been controlled by what we will call the “Big Companies” ‘This has allowed them to dictate to Surfing, not just the Clothes that they will wear but also more detrimentally, the Design of the Boards that should be ridden by all Surfers, which has been disastrous for all of Surfing.
What I am talking about here is the clever ploy of using the ability of the elite Pro Surfer to sell their products to the masses regardless of whether they have the ability to ride this type of equipment or not.
Of course time has demonstrated this to us.
This has been an extremely expensive and frustrating exercise for many Surfers. The bigger and heavier Surfer and the less skilled in particular.
The re emergence of Retro Designs has bought back Area and Volume to the masses which has finally allowed Surfers to have fun again due to the fact that these features provide paddle power and stability; the basic requirements for the Surfer who has less than Elite Surfer ability.
These Retro Designs have taken the control of Surfing away from the Dictators; the Designs allow Surfers to experience suitable, practical equipment and to realize what had been happening; to see that they had been duped into buying equipment that would not serve them and to become angry that they had been manipulated, this in turn has resulted in the decline in power of the “Big Companies”. People are no longer listening to the relentless propaganda machines; they have broken the hold and now prefer to judge for themselves and chose what equipment best suits their personal needs.
In my opinion this is a much healthier position for Surfing.
Finally after so many years of listening to advice on equipment, which did not serve them, Surfers have woken from the dream and are now able to see clearly that they need to be on equipment that suits them and their own needs.
I trust that now that this realization has happened that we will not once again be duped into going back to the old ways and allowing Big Companies to manipulate us for their own financial gains; that Surfing and Surfers will once again have the freedom, which has always been the essence of the Surf Culture and why we all love and enjoy it so much. It is for these reasons that I have continued to Design and Shape practical equipment even though these Big Companies and also the Surfing Media have tried to suppress and deride me for years. I have to admit that I am feeling very satisfied by this change in Surfing which can only result in a better Surfing World for all to enjoy.
Greenough: I hear you are writing a book about your lifetime in Surfing.
McCoy: Yes, I have been asked so many times over the years why I haven’t written a book. Finally I have decided it is time. I have been working on it for the last 12 months and what my main motivation is, is to tell the History of Surfing from my inside knowledge. I have read so many things over the years that are not even close to the truth. While I have been doing the research for the book with my sister who is actually co-authoring it with me we have come up with so many blatant untruths that it has made me look at not only the History of Surfing in a new light but in fact the History of the World. I figure that if they have changed the History of Surfing to this degree the History of the World must also be way off line. In any case I will have a go at correcting and enlightening this one area which I do know about, the rest of the World, I will leave for the moment, LOL.
Greenough: When will the book be out?
McCoy: We are planning early 2015 for my Biography and then we will start on my Design Book. The Design Book will cover a vast array of Design Functions that will explain how water reacts on Design Features depending on the various Shapes of the Object that is in the water. I do have most of this documented already so I anticipate it coming out towards the end of 2015.