1978 was a renaissance for beach and youth culture. Punk had killed corporate arena rock and ushered in one of the most creative decades of pop music and surfing was emerging out of single fin cruising into a ultra competitive and highly experimental phase. The tales told in corporate surfing magazines would have you believe that performance surfing would take off with Mark Richards reintroduction of the twin fin and culminate with Simon Anderson’s three fin thruster.
However, there was an entire mini surfboard movement beginning in Orange county during all of it that was Australian in origin and would include legendary Australian shaper, Orange county local shaper Greg Pautsch, and many of the original surf team and founders at Quiksilver. It could be said that McCoy coming to the United States would become a seminal but lost page in performance surfing history.
Months earlier Geoff McCoy was one of the worlds leading shapers and enjoying the success of his long years of surfboard, influence, refinement and creation. He had come to the U.S. to visit one of his team riders Jeff Hackman to see about starting McCoy surfboards in the United States. A mutual friend recommended respected local shaper Greg Pautsch and a short time later McCoy U.S.A. was born.
Like the New Wave music movement which exploded with it’s steady back beat and fast guitar… McCoy would hit the ground running. His designs were fresh, the wider and thicker shapes of his boards more functional, and his resolved personality infectious to a hot group of budding young pro surfers
Though separate companies, there was a kinship between the crew of the fledgling new surf company Quiksilver</a> and the McCoy factory. Many of those involved with Quiksilver were talented surfers who were also McCoy team riders. As Greg Pautsch remembers it was like an extended family. ” we surfed together, looked out for each other and encouraged each other. “ The McCoy boys were gaining a reputation as some of the hottest surfers in the world and the McCoy factory was producing some of the most functional surf craft.
Danny Kwok, Jeff Hackman, Preston Murray, Cheyne Horan, Damian Hardman, Nicky Wood, Richard Woolcott, Larry Blair and Pam Burridge were just a few of the influential pros and there was a host of non professional surfing talent getting hooked on boards being produced by Geoff and Greg out of the McCoy factory. The hottest international label of the time, coupled with one of the hottest surfer crews, made a great combination for high energy surfing.
During this time McCoy began to refine a design he had been working on for his team rider Cheyne Horan to compete with the twin fins now being ridden on the pro tour. Cheyne and Geoff were staunch single fin advocates and wanted to remain with that design and set out to create a single fin that would go rail to rail more like a twin, while still retaining the stability, drive and smoothness inherent in the single.
The surfboard McCoy came up with would be called the Lazor Zap. Unlike previous boards in surfing history or being ridden on the pro tour, It would have wider tail and narrow nose. It would be a tail driven design as opposed to the Twin fins and singles fins of the era that had wider noses, narrower tails and were ridden more in the center of the surfboard. Cheyne Horan would go on to be runner up to the world title four years, win most of the major contest of the era at least once, and use the now proven design to beat even some of the early thrusters.
The design would further prove itself in 1981 when Simon Anderson drew out a McCoy inspired outline, put three fins on it, win three major contest, and give birth to what would become the modern performance short board.
In just a few short years surfboards would change and most boards would now be built using the McCoy type templates of wide tail and narrow nose with Simon’s three fin concept. McCoy would go back to Australia to continue running his business there, and Greg Pautsch, having been personally trained by Geoff would remain in the trenches shaping hundreds if not thousands of Geoff’s unique Lazor Zap styled surfboards and continue growing McCoy U.S.A.
Greg was also a single fin advocate, but times were changing and he was shaping more three fins which had take over as the most popular surfboard design. He was becoming a good board builder in his own right with his own unique style, ideas, and reputation. When asked, he will always give McCoy credit for teaching him much of what he knows about shaping surfboards and instilling a certain philosophy that remains to this day.
If you look at one of Greg’s beautifully shaped contemporary designs, it’s obvious he has developed his own unique style, while still retaining the McCoy influence. He is quite and humble. Honest and unassuming. A true craftsman in every sense of the word and a surf board builder, who like his mentor, still holds to the old way of making a functional custom surfboard that surfers will enjoy and ride for years.
From the time Greg began shaping in his garage in the mid sixties, throughout his time working with Geoff McCoy, and until the the present time… he has seen almost all the major phases the art of surfing has had to offer. The surfing industry itself never shaped Greg’s philosophy on building surfboards. Instead, he learned his craft and added his own unique style to the mix quietly. His integrity intact.
The story of Geoff McCoy and McCoy surfboards in the U.S.A. with Greg Pautsch could never be fully told in an article. It would likely take and entire book. It’s been a story left out of mainstream surf industry writing. That page that didn’t fit neatly into the advertising campaigns or hype. A unique, artful, and worthy page that until now had remained a lost page.