Larry Gordon, who revolutionised surfing when he created foam boards at his California company in the late 50s, has died. He was 76.
Gordon’s wife, Gayle Gordon, told Associated Press on Saturday that her husband died peacefully on New Year’s Day at his San Diego home after a lengthy illness.
A renowned figure in California’s surfing and skateboarding scenes, Gordon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago.
“Very few people get to have a business and a life in their passion,” his wife said. “He got to live a life in the sport that gave him great joy.”
The American surfing community took to social media to pay tribute to Gordon, whose polyurethane boards are credited with helping to popularise the sport at a time when existing wooden boards were heavy and hard to handle.
Gordon studied chemistry at San Diego State University and it was then that he started experimenting with foam materials at his father’s plastics factory.
In the late 1950s, Gordon and fellow surfer and friend Floyd Smith used polyurethane foam to build their own cutting edge boards. The demand for their foam surfboards forced the pair to move from Smith’s garage and start their first legitimate surf shop, Gordon & Smith Surfboards & Skateboards.
“It was hard to come by surfboards, and the ones out there were mostly made out of balsa wood and were heavy and hard to maneuver,” Gordon told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2007. “So we made a mold and blew foam to build our own boards.”
By the 1960s, Gordon & Smith Surfboards became a leading manufacturer in the surf industry, later branching out into skateboards and surf wear.
Smith sold his share of the company in 1971 after expanding the line into Australia. Gordon & Smith is now run by Gordon’s oldest daughter, Debbie Gordon.
“We still shape and glass surfboards about a mile from where his first factory was,” his daughter said. “The reason he made surfboards and the reason we keep making them is for the love of surfing and the stoke it brings in giving people the best ride of their life.”