McTavish Rincon Tracker

Somewhere between the 1966 World Titles performance by Nat Young on Sam and the 1967 McTavish/ Nat/Ted Spencer breakthrough at Honolua Bay on deep vee Plastic Machines, the shortboard revolution had begun. Bob McTavish shaped his dream board in January 1968 at the Morey Pope factory on ‘C Street’ in Ventura, California after spending time with Dick Brewer on Maui around the time of those Honolua Bay sessions. McTavish incorporated Brewer’s outline curves into his own design concept that featured a cut down length and a Greenough fin. But he had learnt from the spin-out experience at the Duke contest at Sunset earlier that winter, so the bottom shape had surrendered the deep vee.

“It came from working with Dick Brewer. So I took a Plastic Machine to Hawaii (bad move) in November/ December of 67 and spun out at Sunset Beach. I was famous for being the ‘Spin-out King’, and everyone said the shortboard revolution is a big phony. But then I gave that board away.

I hung out with Dick Brewer for a week in his Lahaina Surf Designs factory… so at that point, I sawed the tail off Gerry Lopez’s board. He got a new 9’6” and with Dick’s approval, cut the point off the tail making it 8’6” and Lopez said that was the board that started the shortboard revolution in Hawaii. I loved Brewer’s pointed nose templates so I went to California at the end of December, stayed at George Greenough’s house, and when I shaped my board at the beginning of January, I used a template sort of like Brewer’s. I hand sketched it on. It was a small square tail. That board was red hot!

And that was the first shortboard made in California. Sure there’d been odd shortboards everywhere, but this was the shortboard revolution, this was the intention to go short, and I was propagating the concept to everybody... It was my favourite board ever.”

This is a hefty call from a guy that has probably surfed thousands of boards in a lifetime that illustrates not so much perfection in design shape, but the shift in performance it brought for the time. As McTavish put it, 

“If I rode it today, I’m sure I can make much better surfboards. But for it’s time it was the most advanced surfboard going”.

The effect of the influence of the Brewer template was to introduce outline curve and to narrow the tail. Australian surfboard tails had not gotten anywhere near the 14-1/4” that the Rincon Tracker featured, with the flawed Plastic Machines typically 16 to 17-1/2” wide in the tail.

While clearly Greenough’s influence on McTavish and his resultant mission to cut board length down was massive, even before you consider the importance of the raked tuna fin to the package. Bob luckily had at the time resisted the urge to include a feature common to both Greenough and Brewer designs at the time: bottom roll. This again set the board apart from its contemporaries and for a period, it’s successors.

“In 1968 when I shaped this board there was another influence and that was George Greenough. I was living at his house and he was riding hulls: roll up forward, dead straight in the tail, edgy at the back. Brewer in Maui had rolled bottoms, edgy in the back. So there was an influence on me to put roll on. But I resisted pretty well, so there is a little bit of roll in this board, but not much fortunately. I must admit I regressed 6 months later and started shaping more roll, but by the middle of ‘69 we ditched the rolled bottoms”.

This design was a cornerstone of McTavish’s push of the shortboard revolution into California. McTavish wrote of this being the first board to consistently make it through Rincon’s challenging bowl section with only Renny Yater and Miki Dora having made it all the way down the point up until that time. McTavish left the board at Rincon: “Like an idiot I didn’t take it with me.”

McTavish Rincon Tracker Specifications

  • “7’10” x 21”

  • Narrow 14 1/4” tail

  • Hardly any vee 1/8” down from 1 1/2” on the Plastic Machines

  • Fairly flat bottom, nice flowing soft tail rocker, not much nose rocker. In that era, boards were very flat because we’d come from the longboard era and hadn’t gone off into big nose rockers yet (that came in the 70s.

  • Single Greenough Noosa fin

  • Dick Brewer’s pointed nose

  • Round egg rails”

Why this Board Worked

This was the McTavish shortboard concept, moved on from the deep vee which had failed to hold in the Duke Contest at Sunset, drawing on the Brewer lean line outline curve, but before incorporation of the displacement hull bottom, so it planed beautifully everywhere except on the tightest curves. It of course featured the inherent advantage of all shortboards as described by the creator:

“The superiority of planting your back foot over the engine in your board -the main planing zone and fin – and therefore being able to carve and drive powerfully. This board was a massive breakthrough. What it did was surfed ten times better than the Honolua board (it didn’t spin out for a start), it didn’t have a squarish template and a full nose and parallel template – it had curves. And every shortboard since has had a pointed nose and template curve instead of being parallel, the way they should be. So Brewer gave us that”.

What Would You Change?

“I’d add more nose rocker for more vertical performance, I’d harden the rails further forward, the rails are a bit softish and I’d eliminate every trace of roll in it possibly even introduce a little bit of concave through the back. And I’d want multiple fins now instead of single fins, I’d want 4 fins.”

The following story is an excerpt from The Surfboard Book: How Design Drives Performance by Sean McCagh. To learn more about surfboard design from the world's leading shapers (Simon Anderson, Dick Brewer, Steve Lis, Bob McTavish, and more), check out The Surfboard Book by Sean McCagh.

Photo credits: 1 + 2 Andrew Kidman, 3 John Witzig, 4-6 Lani Jensen