By Toni McAllister
San Diego has its share of surf and skate legends, and Larry Gordon is one of them. Thursday, Gordon and the local company he helped found were memorialized.
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“This morning we celebrated 60 years of Gordon & Smith — one of the largest and most successful surf and skateboard companies in the U.S. — with the dedication of a memorial bench in Pacific Beach to honor the man who started it all — Larry Gordon,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted Thursday.
Gordon passed away Jan. 1, 2016 at age 76, but his story and his company forever live on in San Diego.
Gordon’s journey began in the 1950s, when he and fellow surfer Floyd Smith started building their own polyurethane foam surfboards in Smith’s Pacific Beach garage. It was a pioneering moment born out of necessity: There were no new surfboards available within 50 miles, and most were shaped from heavy balsa wood that became easily waterlogged.
It wasn’t long before the homemade Gordon and Smith boards caught the eye of other surfers. By the winter of 1959, the demand for their foam rides forced a move from Smith’s garage into their first legitimate surf shop in San Diego, a business that would help propel the multi-billion dollar surf industry.
By the 1970s, Gordon & Smith had become the world’s largest surfboard manufacturer. Early in the decade, Smith sold his part of the business in order to pursue other interests, but the G&S brand continued to skyrocket and by the end of the 70s the once-small surf shop had also become one of the most succuessful skateboard companies.
G&S is still a family business, now run by the brother-sister team of Eric and Debbie Gordon, and it’s still based in San Diego.
“The reason we keep making (boards) is for the love of surfing and the stoke it brings in giving people the best ride of their life,” Debbie told The Guardian following her dad’s passing.
As far as Larry Gordon’s favorite San Diego surf spot, it was Tourmaline Canyon … not far from where his new park bench now sits.
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