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Product Pictures Surfcraft History

PEARSON UNLIMITED honors the history of water craft development by reflecting the classic lines of yesteryear in surfcraft design. Our line follows the traditions of over 250 years, yet we take advantage of today's modern technology. We hope that the following summary provides a window to America's surfcraft history.


It is believed that the name "dory" was first mentioned in a book titled "Captain Urey's Travels" published in 1726. It defined a double-ended boat, flat-bottomed, with flared or rounded sides and a V transom. America's birth of the dory design can be traced to Essex County, Massachusetts, in the 1750's. Simeon Lowell, the founder of the famous Lowell's Boat Shop on the Merrimac River north bank, designed a craft called a "wherry". This boat became the first safe surf boat because of its flat bottom. In 1840 in Swampscott, Massachusetts, a father and son who used Lowell's wherry for fishing, began producing these surf boats, but added one modification -- rounded sides. This design was named the "Swampscott Dory" and is considered the earliest type recognizable as a surf dory. Even after the later development of an easily driven and sail-adaptable boat called the Banks Dory (so named because hundreds used it to fish the fertile Grand Banks area), many preferred the Surf Dory for its ability to cut through large surf when docking on a beach. The 19th century U.S. Life Saving Service (a forerunner of the Coast Guard) used the surf dory for rescues. As the population drifted west, the Bank and Surf Dories and their rugged reputations arrived at California's beaches. Lifeguard agencies up and down the coast adopted the crafts as tools for rescues. Eventually, the wooden dories were replaced by those built with aluminum and fiberglass beginning in the 1960's. However, the tradition of "iron fishermen" going out in wooden dories is kept alive today in lifeguard competitions worldwide.
Source: Lowell's Boat Shop and Pearson Unlimited research.

Paddlecraft History

Recreational rowing in Europe found its way to America after the 1860's. But it was only after the Europeans began surfing with kayaks after World War II that Americans began using river boats for surfing waves. Early kayak models followed, such as the Dancer, Sabre, Phoenix Arc, and slalom and dominated the scene until the early 1960's when Merve Larson designed the first modern wave ski boat. Merve shaped a surfboard, made a seat pocket and foot wells and used paddles for maneuverability. The Australians used Merve's design in the 60's and refined it by adding fins, shorter rocker lengths, and thicker boards. During the last 40 years, Merve introduced the tri-hull planing bottom surf wave kayak, Don Wold crafted a speedy, wider paddlecraft, and Malcolm Pearcey designed the now world famous Jester surf kayak. Paddle oar design changed also from wide, straight blades to the wing style developed in Sweden and first used in the 1985 World Championships. In the last 10 years, Decente propeller blades have shared the paddle scene. Today, surf skis, wave skis and surf wave kayaks share the recreational and competitive paddle-powered surfcraft market, with river kayaks making a comeback.

Source: Dick Wold at and Pearson Unlimited research. Picture of surf wave kayaks (left) is from Wold's web site.

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