surfboard, molding greatness from slabs of foam and wood. In December, he was
inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.
At the surf festival during the recent Mavericks Invitational big wave contest at Half Moon Bay, hundreds of fans swarmed Smith as he demonstrated his old-school shaping skills. Frosty Hesson, the real-life surf mentor portrayed in the movie "Chasing Mavericks," sought out Smith at the event.
"Both had the highest respect for each other," recalled friend Robbie Jeremica, who helped at the demonstration. "Floyd is the most humble man. People just glom on to him. He really loves kids and will spend hours showing them how to shape. He wants to get every kid out there at the beach, surfing and shaping."
At their home on 6 acres in the country, his wife, Sherry Smith, created a "surf room" for Floyd's collection of memorabilia. It's packed with beautiful boards including a 10-foot, 100-pound Hawaiian plank board like those used by the original surfers.
"It took a special wave to ride a board that heavy," Floyd said. "You had to be a real good waterman to ride it."
Posters and photos of famous surfers line the walls. A large collection of surf books fills a bookcase.
"To me, Floyd is like no one out there," said Sherry Smith, who met him in church. They married in 1978.
"There's a resurgence in interest (in his work)," she said. "The early people are passing away. He has so much history."
A native of San Diego, Smith made his first board in 1955 when he was still a teen. In 1961, he founded Gordon and Smith Surfboards with partner Larry Gordon after making boards for a few years in Gordon's garage.
By the mid-1960s, Smith was a major influence in surfing in both the United States and Australia, where he worked for many years.
Mike Hynson, star of "The Endless Summer," the seminal 1966 surf safari film, rode Gordon and Smith boards. So did several of the top pro surfers of that era including Skip Frye, Dale Dobson, Billy Hamilton, Butch Van Artsdalen, Barry Kanaiaupuni and Australian legend Bobby Brown.
Today's surfers owe their speed and grace to some of the innovations Smith and Gordon brought to the sport. They helped spearhead the board evolution from balsa to foam. Their innovative Hot Curl surfboard bridged the gap between longboards and shortboards (Gordon and Smith boards are still being made by the company).
Smith still makes his boards pretty much the way he's always done it. He treasures the 40-pound planks of 10-foot balsa from Ecuador that he has stashed.
"Balsa wood has become too hard to get," said Smith, noting the decline in tropical forests. "It takes a lot of skill to work it."
A wooden custom board with inlays takes more than 40 hours to complete, he said. Foam boards can be finished in 10 hours, but require a special temperature-controlled environment.
Smith doesn't get to the beach often these days, but the pull is still there.
Recently, he visited Santa Cruz with his two sons and four grandsons _ "three generations, all in the water at the same time," he said.
He's spent more of his life making boards than riding them, but he still feels the same joy gliding over waves that he did when he was a teen.
"It's like nothing else in the world," he said. "It feels so good. You want to do it over and over again. It never gets old."
(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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