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An Interview with Mark Richards

Val Surf Bellyboards

Val Surf Paipo Interview
December 12, 2009. North Hollywood, California (USA)
Questions by Bob Green & Rod Rodgers
e-Mail Interview by Rod Rodgers

Val Surf History. History was made in 1962 when Bill Richards and his three sons, Mark, Kurt, and Eric opened a shop in the San Fernando Valley that was to be the very first inland surf and skateboard shop of the time. Now in our 46th year in business, Val Surf can pride ourselves as being the world's oldest and first surf-skate-snow shop that is still owned and operated by the same family. [from, Dec 2009.]

1. I’ve seen ads for Val Surf bellyboards in surf mags from the mid- and late-1960s. There were at least two models that Val Surf carried. When did Val Surf start producing or selling bellyboards?
Around 1965.
2. Who was shaping these boards? Can you tell me a bit about the design of these boards?
First foam ones were being made for us by Jeffrey Dale in Orange County and were simply a miniature single fin surfboard shape with color and an inlaid wood stringer.  Later we hooked up with a local company that had the capability of making hollow, super strong plastic boards called SKS where we introduced the twin fin.
3. Were these boards meant to be ridden prone or as kneeboards?
Basically prone.

Bottom half of a Val Surf advertisement from
Surfer Magazine (1969, July), 10(3). p. 49.

Top and bottom sides of an used, hollow fiberglass SKS bellyboard, 3'3" x 19"

4. What informed the design of these boards? What types of waves were these boards made for?
Small waves. Designed to take the place of inflatable rafts.
5. Any idea of how many of these boards was sold? Who was the market?
Probably not more than 500 and it was directed more at the beginning or novice surfer of the day.
6. Were there team riders for these bellyboards or did you rely on feedback from customers? Do you recall any guys who rode these boards well?
No team. We played around on them and could ride them pretty well at the beach breaks (Zuma/Santa Moncia).
7. Did you stock many other types of bellyboards
El Paipo.
8. Was there much evolution in the design of the Val Surf bellyboards?
No, those two shapes stayed the same until we let them go.
9. A 1969 ad features a more square ended style “plastic” SKS bellyboard. What do the initials SKS mean? Who made these boards? Can you tell us more about SKS?
Talked about these earlier and know that SKS stood for the initials of the two guys that we joined up with that had the plastic manufacturing background. Can’t remember their names. We had some problem with them taking on water and the machinery was very expensive and involved.
10. When did the market for bellyboards drop off?
Early 70’s .
11. Do you still stock any bellyboards?
No, not really. When body boards came out that had a serious negative impact on bellyboards.
12. Any other comments you would like to add would be appreciated.
That pretty much covers it although to this day we still get calls from surfers that have had these originals stored away and wonder what their worth. We have a few on display in our stores.

Val Surf branded bellyboard from the 1960s with a wood inlay

Other Information:

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Last updated on: 12/31/09