Surprisingly enough the paddle board has been around for a long time – since the early nineteen hundreds. Thomas Edward Blake is credited as the pioneer in its construction. In 1926, Blake built a replica of the previously ignored olo surfboard (traditionally made from wiliwili wood) ridden by ancient Hawaiian kings. He lightened his redwood replica by drilling it full of holes and then covering them, creating the first ever hollow board. Thus the the first modern paddle board was created. Two years later,in 1928 using this same 16 ft (4.9 m), 120 lb (54 kg) board, Blake won the first ever Mainland surf contest, the Pacific Coast Surf riding Championships, an event integrating both surfing and paddling. Blake’s love for the paddle board was shown back in Hawaii where he would go on to break virtually every established paddling record available. He set half-mile and 100-yard records that stood until 1955.
Using his ~60 pound, drastically modified chambered hollow-board in 1932 Blake out-paddled top California watermen Pete Peterson and Wally Burton in the first ever Inflatable paddle board Mainland to Catalina crossing race (29 miles in 5 hours, 53 minutes). He avidly promoted his creation over the next decade as a lifeguarding rescue tool and Blake-influenced hollow boards (called “cigar boards” by reporters and later “kook boxes” by surfers) would be used in roughly equal proportion to solid plank boards for both paddling and surfing until the late 1930s Hot Curl innovations led wave-riding in a new direction. The fundamentals of Blake’s 1926 design remain relevant even today – only the advancements in materials technologies have made boards much lighter and more versatile in design.
The sport experienced a rebirth in the early 1980s after Los Angeles County lifeguard Rabbi Norm Shifren’s “Waterman Race”. This 22 mile race from Point Dume to Malibu inspired surf journalist Craig Lockwood to begin production on a high quality stock board -known as the “Waterman.” This design remains a popular choice today. Surfboard shapers, Joe Bark from L.A. and Mike Eaton from San Diego began production of paddle boards shortly after the historic race, and soon became two of the largest U.S. makers. Eventually the two began producing nearly half all of the estimated boards made each year in the U.S. today.