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A Paipo Interview with Skip Briggs

Wedge Pioneer

Skip Briggs Paipo Interview
December 31, 2009. Costa Mesa, California
Telephone interview by Rod Rodgers, Questions developed by Bob Green
R.I.P. June 19, 2017

1. Chuck Gardner mentioned that you were one of the first guys to ride Wedge on a bellyboard. When was this and what got you started on a bellyboard?
I started riding the waves in 1950, at 6 years old, bodysurfing and then mats. I started surfing Wedge in 1958. Started stand-up surfing about a year later on a Gordie. I was an all around surfer, riding everything. Bodysurfing was one of my favorites and then I really got into kneeboarding. Also liked bellyboarding but hitting some backwash screwed up my back.

One of the early riders at Wedge included Joe Quigg (a legendary surfer and surfboard manufacturer – see more info here http://www.legendarysurfers.com/surf/legends/ls14.shtml). Before Joe Quigg, earlier than him and one of the first was Carter Pyle, a body surfer – saw him destroy a bellyboard on a guy that dropped in on him. Pyle invented the P-Cat (a catamaran).
2. What were your first boards like? Who made them?
My first bellyboard was made of yucca, a wood kind of like balsa, but heavier, in 1959. Made the bellyboards for myself. Made all kinds of boards -- knee, belly and surf boards. The only boards I bought were the Gordie, a Joe Quigg, and then a Holden.

The bellyboard was 3’2” and shaped mostly like front end of a long board with a crescent like tail, some concave and twin fins. Sometimes I rode it as a kneeboard. Rode the bellyboards everywhere, but made them for Wedge.

Also sold lots of kneeboards, Alabama Kneeboards, probably 35 of them. Made a mold off Ron Romanosky’s spoon and started making spoons. Liked the way they hugged the wave because of the flex. The Porsche of surfboards. Really need a good wave, not a mushy wave. Rode the kneeboards from San Diego to Rincon: Tijuana Sloughs, Swamis, Trestles, Churches, you name it. Ron Romanosky broke the nose on one of the early boards. I used big Duck feet, the UDTs. [Update from Ron Romanosky: Romanosky severely broke his nose when one of the early mold-made spoons broke in half after a take-off, when its nose hit him square in the middle of his face."]
3. Did you have any early influences or did you have to work it out for yourself how to ride a bellyboard?
The guy with the yucca was one my early influences. Started surfing Newport Beach 17th St. (aka the “California Pipeline”) and 22nd St (also known as “Blackies”).
4. Besides Wedge, Newport is associated with the El Paipo and Newport Paipo boards. What was the story behind these boards? Were they always ridden as a kneeboard?
El Paipo worker, Mike Smith, also about 65. He was also a kneeboarder. I remember the El Paipo board company but not Newport Paipo.
5. What's it like riding Wedge?
Fantastic. No place like it. Favorite way to ride it was kneeboarding because you were a little higher off the wave and could still get in the tube – bad back so couldn’t bellyboard.
6. How long did you ride bellyboards for?
Stopped in the 1970s and turned to kneeboarding. Boogie boarded in the 1990s. The last time I bodysurfed was in 1999.
7. I've read a story about a guy nick-named Mackman riding Wedge in 1962 on a twin-finned wood paipo. Do you recall this guy?
No.
8. What can you tell us of Jack of Jack’s Surfboards?
I published a couple of issues of the “California Wave” bimonthly in 1976. Jack bought an advertisement. Jack has an incredible collection of bellyboards.
9.  Are you still surfing?
Can’t surf anymore – two artificial hips and herniated vertebra put an end to that.
10. Any other comments?
I made a surfing film in the early 70s, Wedge 74, with a soundtrack from the Who’s Who’s Next album. The film was shot with Super 8 using a custom underwater housing that I made. There is some good footage of Chuck Gardner.

I consider surfing a religion more than anything else. A contest is simply somebody’s opinion, but surfing really feels like God is with you.


Skip Briggs passed away on June 19, 2017.
The "King of the Wedge" will be released into the ocean on Sunday July 23, 2017.
The ceremony will begin at 6:30 pm.


Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews.


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Last updated on: 07/23/17