The name Michael Hynson conjures up images of a red hot regular foot surfer gliding effortlessly at St. Cape Francis in the movie Endless Summer. Mike’s association with the film is something that will always influence the way people perceive him, just as it has influenced the course of his life and career. However, to truly understand Mike is to dig beneath the Endless Summer aura. It is to understand the contributions he considers his most important to our sport. It is to understand his passion for shaping, his instrumental and incredibly influential work on surfboard research and design, and his place in our collective history on a scope that goes beyond his long past travels with Bruce Brown and Robert August.
Now in his 60’s, Mike has found a niche that allows him to continue to pursue his passions for shaping and R&D rigorously, and the work he is doing is creating a near tangible underground buzz in the North County San Diego surf community. With an incredibly well received line of progressive and inventive keel-finned fish and four-fin twinzers, Mike, for the first time in decades, has people talking about his work. Sean Mattison, manager and resident board expert for Surf Ride in Oceanside, calls Mike’s new endeavors “magic,” and another surfer, who wished to remain anonymous due to his associations with a shaper other than Mike, excitedly exclaimed, “I went out on a Hynson twinzer and tried not to like it. But after a few waves I realized this thing was just so good there was no way I could give it back! It goes like butter. The speed, and the float, and the lift you get in the tail, it’s just incredible!”
We decided it was time to sit down with Hynson to probe his past, but more importantly to shed light on his present contributions to the surfboard design process.
SURFERMAG.COM: Mike, what was it that got you started shaping back in the 60’s? What was it that got you going on that path?
MICHAEL HYNSON: Well, I tell the story like this: My first board that I shaped was a balsa and it was a plank that I had acquired down in Mission Beach that was just laying in this old man’s garden in his front yard. It was all water soaked and about 11 feet long. Anyway, I asked him what he was going to do with it and he told me “you can have it if you can get it out of here,” so one night I got a couple of my friends together and we went down and we dragged it out of the garden and then brought it down to the beach and dragged it on the beach all the way up to Bird Rock. We dragged it because it was so damn heavy. So, after that, we got it set up and I started shaping it in my friend’s garage. At the time, we knew Bob Turner and he was glassing boards down in Pacific Beach, so my plan was to take it down there to finish it. But on the blank, I started out using a draw knife, an ax, a skill saw, a variety of hand planers, and of course some sand paper. I just kept whittling it down. I kept the same shape from the plank, so it had a big square tail and a wide nose and when I got it down to about 7’11” I had to quit because it got so whittled down and thin that I thought there was nothing I could do to further improve it. I originally wanted it to be a 9 foot board, and you would think that from an 11 foot blank it would be a pretty reasonable request (laughs), but my imperfections and my inexperience got me down to 7’11” (laughs again). So after that, I pigmented the bottom this light blue with a white resin splash that we got on there by just flinging it all over the garage, and I glassed it and waxed the top so all the imperfections couldn’t be seen. When it was done it looked pretty good. I went down and I rode it and it seemed to work pretty well, and it was popular with the guys because it was so small.
SURFERMAG.COM: The board worked well?
Mike Hynson came out with his lower rails that had hard edges from nose to tail. Before that the whole concept of edge didn’t even exist. Longboards had none, and even the Brewer boards had only a tiny bit in the tail. By comparison, Hynson’s looked pretty ugly, so naturally everyone was going, “Shit, that thing’s never going to work.” But man, I’ll tell you what, it worked so much damn better than anything before that it was astounding.
MICHAEL HYNSON: Yea, it worked pretty well and I was pretty happy with it. But in the meantime, I also wanted to get a [Renolds] Yater board from Santa Barbara. At the time, we were going to Trestles quite a bit, so I got Renny [Yater] to make me what I called “The Trestles Special”. It had an olive green bottom on it and a white deck and it was about 9’6”. It was a really nice board. Yater’s boards in those days were really strong so if you lost it and it got washed in into the rocks it would be fine. The purpose of the two colors, the white deck and the green bottom, was because of the military. When they would come down to kick us out of there they would be able to kick everybody else out except for me. I would use the white deck to hide out in the whitewater. I would hide and float under the deck holding onto the rail and just stay out there and not respond to them, and eventually they would just go away. And at the time, instead of carrying our boards in and out of Trestles we would just stash them in the swamp. But the military knew that and a lot of people lost their boards that way because the soldiers would just come and take them. A lot off guys had boards that were really easy to see too, they had these big red and orange things, but my olive green bottom fit in perfect in the green swamp. I never had a problem (laughs).