The History and Story Behind Dick Brewer
S U R F I N G L E G E N D
The BeginningRaised in the Long Beach and L. A. area, Dick Brewer came from two generations of engineers. Blessed with the brainpower, skill, and aptitude it takes to be a successful designer he would have been successful in any profession he chose. He chose surfing. Life and a deep sense of adventure took him to Hawaii and in 1959 Dick began on a journey that he would continue for the rest of his life. He founded Surfboards Hawaii in Hawaii in 1961 and never looked back.Dick Brewer’s love affair with surfing began in 1952, and he got his first surfboard in 1953, a 9’0″ balsa Woody Brown template that they called a “Double Ender.” He rode this board for years in all kinds of conditions, including waves up to 15 feet. Dick couldn’t get enough of the beach and the lifestyle associated with the surfing culture so after high school he attended Long Beach State to work towards an engineering degree, earning an income working as a tool and die maker for his Dad’s Tool and Die Company, Keith Black Racing Engines, and North American Aviation.
His True CallingDick joined the Air National Guard in 1958. The recruiter had told him he could finish the year out at Long Beach State when he joined. During this period of his life, Dick became interested in the design-side of the surf industry, wanting to shape his own boards. In 1959 Dick bought one of the first Walker blanks ever “blown” and shaped a 9’10” gun. Dick then took his first trip to Hawaii, and it was all over. After his trip to Hawaii, Dick went back to Long Beach State, but his heart just wasn’t into it anymore. In 1960, he returned to Hawaii and never looked back.
Dick Brewer had always been an excellent surfer and he quickly established himself in Hawaii as a big wave rider by charging big Waimea Bay and Sunset. Dick spent the early sixties taking-off shoulder to shoulder with the best surfers of the era. In the winter of 60/61, Dick opened Surfboards Hawaii in Haleiwa, selling Weber, Scholl and his own shapes. Dick Brewer had found his calling making boards.
In 1964, the Matson Shipping Lines strike stopped the flow of blanks and resin to Hawaii. No raw materials were available in Hawaii for building boards, so Dick went to California and started shaping from his operation in North County San Diego. He took Jeff Hakman (one of his team riders at that time) along with him and they spent the summer surfing and building surfboards.
Throughout the summer Price never paid Dick Brewer any royalties and at the end of the summer, just before returning to the north shore, Brewer asked Price for the royalties due him. Price said, “You own Surfboards Hawaii in Hawaii, I own it in California. I don’t owe you anything.”
Trials and Tribulations
Business relationships would become a recurrent problem for Dick throughout his life and without any formal contracts or agreements to fall back on, Dick decided to walk away from Surfboards Hawaii, going to work for Hobie Alter in 1965. This is where the Hobie “Dick Brewer Gun” evolved.
Dick put everything he knew about surfing and design into his boards. Hobie had hired Dick to shape big wave boards exclusively, paying him twice as much per board than he did any of his other shapers. In a small shop on a back street of Wahiawa Oahu, Dick built every Hobie Dick Brewer Model Gun. Shaping, glassing, sanding and glossing every board he built in Hawaii himself. In late ’65 he spent a few months in Dana Point doing production shaping, building just a few Brewer Models in California.
The year went well and after a prosperous summer for Hobie, Jeff Hakman won the “DUKE” on a Hobie Brewer Model. Soon after the contest, however, Brewer’s relationship with Hobie ended. Dick had requested a $10,000 R&D allowance from Hobie so he could develop a new model called “Summer Semis” and was turned down. Shortly after leaving Hobie, Brewer spent a few months shaping boards at Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach.
Needing to get back to Hawaii, Brewer decided to go to Kauai and set up shop in Hanapepe. Shortly after his arrival on Kauai, he was approached by Fred Schwartz and recruited to build Bing Pipeliners at Surfline for Bing Surfboards. The Bing Company really wanted Dick on their design team and they pursued him to the extent that Bing Copeland and Duke Boyd flew over to Hawaii to bring him into the family. As a gift of welcome, they presented him with a polished Skil 100 plainer that was later to become the “Sword of Hercules.” An appropriate gift to a man at the top of his craft. Thus became the Bing Pipeliner era.
Bing absorbed the entire Dick Brewer Surf Team, and life was beautiful for Dick Brewer. It was at Bing where Dick’s shapes evolve, culminating in the now classic “Mini-Gun” and “David Nuuhiwa Model.” After his successful era with Bing, Dick returned to Hawaii and founded companies in Wahaina Maui and Hanapepe Kauai. During this period he continued his work on the Mini-gun and continued to shape shorter boards. One notable board, he developed during this period he called the “flip-tip.” Ridden by Reno Abellira, the “flip-tip” was the sensation of the ’69 Huntington Beach contest.
Shortly after, Dick tried to strike up a relationship with Larry Gordon of G&S surfboards and went so far as to travel to California and teach his shapers how to create his designs. In fact, he even gave G&S his templates. But this new relationship came to an abrupt halt when Dick was denied reimbursement for some travel expenses he presented to G&S. The very next day Dick Brewer Surfboards was born.
Dick went back to Hanapepe, on the south side of Kauai, where he spent the better part of the next ten years in seclusion developing new shapes and designs with Gerry Lopez. Dick and Gerry would shape a new model and take it out to a little known Kauai surf spot near Hanapepe called “Pakalas” to test it out. Even though these underground shapes would eventually enter into and transform the surfing world, the 70’s also brought with them a tremendous amount of turmoil for Dick and it kept Dick Brewer Surfboards from taking off.
To make matters worse, in 1975 Dick lost his son Keoki in a tragic car accident. Struggling to understand why Keoki was taken from him, Dick’s marriage suffered and eventually ended in divorce. Once again faced with a crossroads, Dick Brewer put his trust in surfing. With his love of surfing firmly established and a newfound understanding of the power of meditation to guide him, Dick continued to grow as a shaper, producing some magical boards during this revolutionary era.
In the Mid-eighties Dick met his current wife Sherry. He gives her credit for bringing him out of his “depression” years. She brought meaning, romance, and excitement back into his life at a time when he was looking mostly inside himself for support. Shortly after, Dick took up windsurfing and added shaping and designing windsurfers to his repertoire.
Dick evolved into the Nineties with dual occupations. One being a real estate agent on Kauai, and the other continuing shaping Dick Brewer Surfboards to try to satisfy the demand on the North Shore. His boards were still setting the “cutting edge” trends with his subtle concave, and single/flat/double-barrel bottoms. Surfers all over the world longed for a Brewer.
Throughout the Nineties, Dick continued to innovate and advance his design skills working on the development of tow boards with Laird Hamilton, Derrick Doerner, and Buzzy Kerbox. Brewer continues to be heavily involved in the evolution of the sport, constantly shaping new tow boards with different foils and contours, and experimenting with different woods and materials. His tow boards use every bit of his expertise as a shaper and surfer because of the tremendous challenges associated with designing boards that have the right combination of strength, weight, and size necessary for tackling the immense waves ridden by the Hawaiian tow board crews.
A number of Brewer’s shapes can be seen in action in the book entitled “Jaws.” The book features Laird, Derrick and Buzzy riding some of the most awesome waves ever photographed at a Maui break called “Pe’ahi” (Hawaiian for “Jaws”). It is here where Brewer’s boards once again make history. The Hawaiian tow board crews are riding waves on his shapes that, up until just a couple of years ago, had been surfers dreams and nightmares.
As a testament to the innovation and style Brewer brings to surfing, he has found himself at the center of some major surf industry attention. In a recent Surfers Journal article (Volume 8) about Dick’s life, Jeff Hakman was quoted as saying, “I’ve got a three-year-old 9’6″ Brewer that’s a magic board… He’s still got the magic eye!” In that same article, Drew Kampion says, “Brewer’s shaping skills are in great demand today – by collectors, tow boarders, by longboarders and by some of the hottest of the kids. For instance, Myles Padaca has been a mainstay of feedback for the past 3 years, and now he’s rolling out Plumeria.”
A New Era
Plumeria Surfboards is Brewer’s newest surfing-related venture. The new company is offering a full line of brand new Brewer shapes and is manufacturing a cutting edge selection of surfing accessories and apparel. The Plumeria web-site features a full E-commerce suite and on-line catalog, making this a revolutionary opportunity for surfers worldwide to purchase a Brewer board. Plumeria products may be purchased worldwide via the Internet at http://www.plumeriasurfboards.com/ushop. The site was designed and is hosted by San Diego-based web developer On Edge INTER@CTIVE.
Recently Dick related the story of how the idea for Plumeria was sparked. The story took place on his last trip to Tahiti.
Dick was visiting one of the remote outer islands on a surfing expedition and fell into a conversation with one of the native men on the island. It turns out that this native was an oyster culturist and the conversation soon turned to pearls. Shortly after, Dick found himself viewing samples of the man’s prize pearls.
Deciding that he should bring one home for Sherry he picked out the one that stood out among all the rest and asked the man what he wanted for it. The man thought about it for just a moment and then disappeared into his beret, re-emerging a minute or so later with two battered, old Dick Brewer surfboards in tow. Displaying the weathered old boards to Dick, the man told him that the thing he wanted most was to replace these boards with two brand-new Brewers!
The Tahitian had surfed his boards so long on the remote island breaks that he feared that they would soon be unrideable. With true aloha, Dick and the oysterman shared their talents with each other and gave each other the gift of their soulful handiwork. Now Dick Brewer hopes to share his handiwork with surfers worldwide. If you’ve never ridden a Brewer, take a few minutes to check out his boards and get on one! Aloha!
Towsurfer.com: Tell us about the very first board you shaped and sold. That must have been a pretty good feeling.
What was it like charging Waimea and Sunset back in the early days with only a few other guys and especially with those very heavy long boards?
What made you decide to open up Surfboards Hawaii in Haleiwa and start shaping and selling your own boards?
In 1964 when the shipping lines strike stopped the flow of blanks and resin to Hawaii, that must have been a shock.
Tell us about your transition from Surfboards Hawaii to working with Hobbie Surfboards.
How instrumental was Jeff Hakman to you, your designs and the R&D that was needed?
During this period, we’re you mainly focusing on the big wave gun or shorter boards?
When Jeff Hakman won the “Duke” on a Hobie Brewer Model, that must have truly helped your marketing.
Tell us about your move to Hanapepe, on the South side of Kauai, where you spent the better part of 10 years developing new shapes and designs with Gerry Lopez.
Tell us about your transition into becoming a real estate agent in the early 90’s on Kauai, while still being on the “Cutting Edge” with your shaping.
How did you eventually merge into shaping tow boards?
You have been apart of the cutting edge of tow board shapes and designs since the beginning. When are we going to see the ultimate design?
What are some of the new tow models, shapes, and designs coming out as we speak?
Who are the guys that ride for you on your team with respect to big waves and towing?
Who are some of the guys that have supported your R&D with respect to tow boards and towsurfing?
Have we seen the best of Laird yet?
Tell us about Plumeria Surfboards Venture.
Why is it we see most of your Plumeria tow boards advertised in magazines with Garrett and not much with Laird? After all, Laird does represent your company and ride your boards.
There seems to be a little division amongst the tow surfers who want to compete and those that don’t. Without mentioning any obvious names, why do you think this is?
Tell us about the Garrett McNamara tow board design coming out for sale to anyone who wants to buy one.
What kinds of specific changes other than what are currently taking place, can we expect with tow boards in the next 12 month?
It must be exciting for you and your company to be apart of the whole tow-in surfing adventure. With all the R&D, you’re able to watch the entire progression unfold right before your eyes having the best surfers in the world riding your equipment.
How is your life today, this very moment?
Thanks Dick for this awesome opportunity to speak with you and learn more about your life and times-Aloha!