Thomas Edward Blake was born in Wisconsin on March 8th 1902. He's remembered as an athlete, inventor and writer but most importantly as one of the most influential surfers in history.
Influenced by the late, great Duke Kahanamoku, swimming champion, Tom moved from his home in Wisconsin, to Hawaii where he became known for his innovative surfboard design but also, his advocacy of surfing as 'a way of life'.
A competitive waterman, Tom would often compete in paddle board races and in 1927, the same year that he pioneered surfing at Malibu, California, he built a replica Olo surfboard in Hawaii. The board was fifteen foot long, and was enormously heavy, so he drilled hundreds of holes through the deck to remove excess weight and sealed the ends of the holes with a wooden veneer.
This helped Tom to win many races and his passion for surfboard design was born with him striving to create lighter surfboards.
In a similar way to how aircraft wings were constructed, Tom began building boards with a frame and skin technique, thus, removing a vast amount of unnecessary weight. These boards were held together by brass screws and sealed with black pitch.
This design was then patented in 1931 and although technology, shape, construction and design has lept forward in the decades since, Tom's original design was used for many years on beaches around the world as a lifeguard rescue board, and produced commercially by several manufacturers (Thomas Rogers Company of Venice, CA, the Los Angeles Ladder Company and Catalina Equipment Company).
Having made such influential changes in surfboard design, it wasn't until 1935 that Tom conceived his most significant idea when searching for stability in directional changes while riding waves. The skeg, now commonly referred to as a fin was born into the world of surfing.
Tom attached an aluminium skeg salvaged from a speedboat onto the bottom of his cedar surfboard and encased it in a thin layer of wood for protection. At a foot long and 4 inches high, many surfers would struggle to recognise it as a fin, however it was this that allowed surfers to ride at a tighter angle across peeling waves and to begin to effectively turn surfboards.
88 years later, Kelly Slater's sustainable brand and Wavelength favourite, Outerknown celebrates and remembers Tom Blake's influence on surfing with their 'Tom Blake Waterman' T-shirt.
It commonly known that with all Outerknown products, quality, sustainability and credibility are key and this stunning T-shirt is no exception. Made from 100% organic cotton in the best factory in the world where people and planet come first.
Browse all Outerknown here
“Along the shore I wander, free,A beach comber at Waikiki,Where time worn souls who seek in vain,Hearts ease, in vagrant, wondering train.A beach comber from choice, am I,Content to let the world drift by,Its strife and envy, pomp and pride,I’ve tasted, and am satisfied.”Thomas Edward Blake1902-1994