Vintage Surf meet 2019 coming soon !

Vintage Surf meet 2019 coming soon !
Free to take part
We buy interesting old boards 60s/70s/early 80s in good condition. Email . Also wanted - Surfing UK , British Surfer and Surf Insight magazines .
Above photo - copyright Rennie Ellis photographer archive

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Pacific Systems Homes from the late 30s / early 40s

This is one of those find of a lifetime boards, which amazingly enough had been in an attic in a Jersey house for decades, wrapped in an old blanket !!

When the board was new this is what the surf scene in California looked like ! Photo by Don James . San Onofre in 1939.

Tim who owns the board wants to find out how it got over to Jersey .He says - '' I wish I had some details of how it came to be on this little island many miles from where it was made. I'm still hoping to find the family of the gentleman who owned it and find out about him.  It turned up in a loft of an old gentleman who had passed away. His family were in the island clearing his house and a gas fitter was there to turn the gas off as there was no one in the house and it was going to be sold. The board was lying on the stairs and the gas fitter asked what they planned on doing with it. The family member said that none of them was interested in it and he could have it. He said that he couldn't take it but he would give them £20 and they accepted. He then contacted a surf shop to try and sell it and they contacted Jeremy who told myself and another friend Bob about an old wooden board for sale .

We talked and decided to go and see it and try and buy it together and ride it . The guy was asking £2000 and said that he had researched on the Internet and he needed new scuba diving gear . We were amazed when we saw it and tried to find out where he got it from but he wouldn't give us any information . It was orange and had fluff stuck to it from being in a loft wrapped in a blanket but in perfect condition. The guy had a bad attitude and when we told him it should be in the local museum he wasn't interested and just wanted to get as much money as possible. We couldn't pay his price and didn't like his attitude so left. Jeremy got in touch with the local museum but they weren't really interested in purchasing the board .

The following year out of the blue the guy rang Jeremy in a panic saying that his dog had taken a bite out of the board and he needed to sell it. It was my 40th year and my wife wanted to buy me something special for my birthday so after discussion with Jeremy and Bob they agreed that I could try and buy it. Jeremy and I went back to see the board and the dog had taken a small bite from right next to the PH logo. We tried again to find out where it came from but he still didn't want to tell us and I told him that if his dog continued to chew it that it would be worthless . I offered him just over a quarter of what he originally wanted and he accepted.

I took it home and carefully cleaned it up and a friend grafted a small piece of balsa into the tail. It hangs on my wall and my wife has instructions to donate it to the local museum when I die . From talking to people we think the gentleman was a doctor and a keen photographer who lived in California for a short time in the 1940's before returning to Jersey . The plan is to contact his family and find out how he got it to jersey and if he rode it here. I'm hoping that they might have some photographs but that is wishful thinking. I am also hoping to ride it one day and if I do I will document it and contact you.''

The board after restoration, pride of place in Tim's house , and below when he had just found it. You can see the marks in the varnish from it being wrapped in a blanket for so long. And the next photo during restoration with turps.

Swastika surfboards brochures 1930s

Tim and Jeremy with the board in Jersey

Pacific Systems Homes made the world's first mass produced surfboards, made in Los Angeles, California. The company started making boards in the 30s under the Swastika label , later changed to the Waikiki Surfboard co. . The story of these boards is an interesting one. -
Pacific Systems Homes was a huge company , America's largest home builder producing ready cut houses / prefabs on a large factory site in Los Angeles.
One of the owners of the company was William Butte, whose son Meyers became hooked on surfing in Hawaii in the 20s - and saw his father's factory as the perfect place to start a Californian surfboard company - since all the tools and machines needed were already on site . So in a small corner of the factory Swastika surfboards emerged , the first mass produced surfboards, made from redwood , balsa and pine strips.
Like with Tim's board, the main part of the boards were balsa for lightweight , with stronger rails and nose from redwood. The boards proved very popular with Californian surfers, and even sold well in Hawaii such was their quality of build. A typical board of the 30s was 10 ft x 23 ins. .
The Swastika  is an ancient symbol which means good fortune ; however when the good meaning of the symbol was destroyed forever by Hitler and the Nazi party , Meyers Butte renamed the boards Waikiki in around 1938 to avoid controversy . So Tim's board is 1938 at the earliest .
 More beautiful photos by Don James which include Pacific Systems Homes boards . Above - 1939 Malibu . Below - 1939 Venice pier, unknown rider.
Thanks very much to Tim for sharing his photos and story . The board has gone to a good home.


  1. One of the best stories you've had up for ages Al. Good karma in the end!!

  2. Matt hammersley20 May 2014 at 19:05

    Awesome story and board, shame the guy wanted cash over seeing it go to a good home! Glad its been saved! :)

  3. Great work as ever Al; there`s no doubt however that a lot of people don`t realise how much effort & research you put into this, or they would say so. Unsung hero comes to mind !

  4. Matt and Bear hunter - glad you enjoyed it . And thanks for leaving comments to let me know !