Interview with Surfing Innovator Gary Mountford

Interview with Surfing Innovator Gary Mountford

Written by Modell Bleu

Content Creator at Author of Roadkill Diary. Chef/Owner of the World Famous Rusty Pelican. Expat in SE Asia since 2004, currently living in Thailand.

We are happy to have Gary Mountford here with us today. Most of you have never heard of him but if you surf you are more than likely to be using one of his products.

Lets start with a little background. When did you start surfing?

Well I started surfing when I was twelve in a place North Curl Curl in Australia. After I finished school I worked in the plumbing trade. After just over a decade working as a full time plumber and surfing everyday, the Simon Anderson thruster was created and became available to the public. With the thruster it would take you a few waves to get your back foot positioned right. For those of you who don’t surf, your back foot position is pretty critical. Being a plumber and owning my own business I was good at working things out to make them more efficient. I realized that having a rear foot positioning device would be a good idea for a thruster.

So an idea is born?

That’s right. I came up with an idea to make an adjustable block to attach to the back of a surf board. I got together with my brother in law, Graeme Bennett and an old school friend, Bill McCausland and in 1984 we developed a product called a Rocketblock. It was a simple, adjustable foam block that adhered to the back of the surf board with Velcro. It was an after market product that sold really well. After about a year we started sending them over seas. A Japanese distributor contacted me and asked if we could develop and manufacture some type of anti slip stuff for surf boards. So the three of us put our heads together and came up with a product called Gorilla Grip.

Good idea number two!

It is funny because I was still a plumber and my two partners were pursuing their careers in photography and engineering so we were all working really hard. What was a side project was turning into something larger than we expected. Gorilla Grip was doing so well that we rented a little factory and hired couple of staff. Pretty soon we were traveling to America to work the trade shows in California. We met an American distributor there named Larry Block. He really got our product out there and into the hands of some well known surfers at the time. At the end of the 80′s most pro surfers weren’t into having the full deck of the board covered in Gorilla Grip so it was shortened to just the tail pad area. That pretty much cut our market in half.

I guess it was time for good idea number three?

It was at that time that we started looking for a new product to launch. We were introduced to a guy named Brian Whitty and he had this idea for a detachable fin system. He was working as a surf board sander at the time and it was really difficult to sand between and around the fins. We bought the idea off him and my partners and I developed it from scratch. It was the most difficult project we had come up against because we had to convince the market that it was necessary and it had to be a good product at an affordable price. It was an uphill battle. At first the market didn’t want to know about it. The manufacturers wouldn’t produce it until the market ordered it. So we went directly to the shops. Everyone liked the idea but they wanted people to ask for it.

Sounds like a dog chasing it’s tail. What was the break through?

That’s exactly what it was. We went to the professional surfers and they were pretty finicky about things. We found a machine to make the fins in the sizes we wanted and started to manufacture them ourselves. At that time Japan was the most influential surfing market in the world. They loved them but wanted items that were popular in America. We went back to America and they were worried about supply. Finally we went to Hawaii and gave the fins to some big wave riders there. The response was good but the breakthrough came when we opened up an office in Orange County, California. We hired a guy named Tyler who was in advertising at the time and he took us to the next level and beyond. Now almost all new surf boards come with FCS or Fin Control System boxes and fins.

2015 is upon us. What’s the next idea!?

Some sort of self propelling device. There is a company in California developing a small jet propulsion system that sounds good. Something light and easy with no motor or battery that’s easy to attach to the board and gives you the extra help with paddling. Other than that…who knows?

It looks like the challenge has been cast to all of you inventors out there. Thank you Gary for spending your holiday time to come talk with us.

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