International Surfboard Builders Hall Of Fame Inductee Details
For: Mike Davis
Inductee Name
Mike Davis
Event Year
Inductee Location
Noosa, Australia
Inductee Contact
Inductee Brand
Inductee Boardshop
Mike Davis Designs
Boardshop Link
Inductee Bio

∙ I was the sickly, redheaded first-born son of Wesley, an ambitious young timber company exec and Maxine Davis in Creston, Iowa USA in 1947. Confined to bed for weeks at a time, surrounded by encyclopedias, dictionaries, Thesauri and magazines of all sorts, I became a prolific reader by age four with a curious and enquiring nature.
∙ My first exposure to surfing came in 1951 on the Arthur Godfrey variety show, I was enthralled. I lived for snippets in the Saturday afternoon matinee newsreels, anything to do with surfing.
∙ Shortly after the Big Surf episode Adventures in Paradise my doctor advised Mom to get me to a warmer climate or forget about my next birthday cake. "California?" she'd offered hopefully. His nod was all it took.
∙ Unfortunately this move would curtail my father's upwardly mobile climb up the corporate ladder. Fortunately for me, I'd no longer have to fight my way on and off of a new school-ground every few months. I'd already endured nine different schools in my first nine years of school and seldom at beginning of term. Compared to the icy windblown snowdrifts of Shawnee Mission, Kansas - Sundrenched Ledbetter Beach, Santa Barbara was Heaven on earth. To my delight: My first friend at SBJHS, Jeff Seaton, walked up and asked me if I surfed and invited me to spend the weekend at his house in Montecito to try it. Afterwards, I spent every afternoon on the cliff at Ledbetter watching the older guys surfing the little rollers below and wondering if I'd ever be brave enough, strong enough or just plain lucky enough to be a surfer.
∙ My first surfboard was a 2nd hand 10' Hobie. I broke the Hobie in the Carpinteria pier in storm surf, which plunged me into the depths of despair.
∙ From day one the harbor in Santa Barbara held a particular fascination for me because somebody always needed someone to get something, hold something or run an errand or do some sanding. One such sailor presented me with The Architecture of Planing Hulls by Lindsay Lord on completion of a keel and rudder refurbish. It was during this most fortuitous time while chasing crabs on the seawall at the marina that I met a young Georgie Greenough which began a lifelong friendship and in truth a very special mentorship culminating in my war non-homophobic on drag.
∙ Norman and Richard Grant's response to my broken Hobie was, "We'll build one." We built a shaping/glassing stand in his garage, bought a blank and materials from Jeff White and laid David Baker's brand new 9'0" Jacobs on the blank and traced around it. The board would become known as the crook, after the Crook Cigar, as it was just that.
∙ At the time: It didn't seem like a career decision but we managed to build over 50 boards in our high school years until Norman got drafted and John Eichert at IKE Surfboards hired me. Loved my time there.
∙ In my senior year: Mom divorced dad and married an Oldsmobile Cadillac specialist who trained me as a mechanic who soon discovered my talent as a trouble-shooter.
∙ I turned down a couple of writing scholarships because I'd been accepted in a writer's group tasked with producing the next great American novel from a west coast author, besides, it meant staying in Santa Barbara and surfing Rincon.
∙ In 1966 Renny Yater built me a Spoon after seeing that I'd left Ike Surfboards. It was the beginning of a lasting relationship.
∙ I met Nat Young at Rincon after George had tuned his fin on Sam and we became instant friends.
∙ I met Bob McTavish and his Vee bottom in 1967 and borrowed it to use as a reference point.
∙ In March 1970 I returned from Hawaii a total Barry Kaniapuni convert and worked with Renny on refining down-railed point surfboards.
∙ In June 1970 a bud asked me to go to Australia with him. I already knew Midget Farrelly, Nat Young and Bob McTavish and Bob Cooper, so regaled with tales of perfect, uncrowded points and downrailers to ride them on, I was 'in'.
∙ I worked for Bob Cooper in Coffs Harbour for a year and when I met Christine. I followed her to Wollongong, shaping for Midget in Sydney and John Skipp in Wollongong until 1973 when I hung out my own Mike Davis Designs shingle in an old wooden shed in Kiama with the credo: If it's good for surfing, It's good for me. Within three years we were producing as many boards as the biggest established labels.
∙ We bought and massive factory in 1977; which allowed me to build shaping machines that milled perfect vee bottoms. They were so successful I designed machines for leading shapers of the day Al Merrick, Rusty Preisendorfer, Sam Egan and Greg Clough.
∙ In 1978 I was approached to design a series of sailboards for World Champion Tom Luedecke. Within a year I was shaping 50 a week and trained Col Warren to ghost my surfboards.
∙ In the early eighties Nat Young asked me to work with him on his Nat Young surfboards. It was my first signature model that wasn't a Mike Davis and it was quite successful. I'd later do Shaun Tomson's.
∙ With Bob the Greek Bolan's, "You're not a shaper until you've shaped a thousand boards," in mind, Derek Hind and I once sat down and tried to determine just how many boards I had actually shaped and it was well over 25, 000 of the 42,000 + MD's we built in nearly a quarter of a century.
∙ I walked away from it all in the early 90's when Christine's health failed. I was her carer until she passed.
∙ Since 1994 I've been doing shaping contracts for Peter Turner's Kirra Surf, Les Purcell Surfboards, Bear Surfboards, Beach Beat Surfboards, Laguna Bay Longboards and currently collaborating with Mitch Surman of MS Surfboards.
∙ Current projects include finishing more novels and shaping until I can't.
∙ I am a product of my environment. Luckily for me, I had Rincon for a benchmark test track and the greatest surfers in the world as teacher/mentors and buds, Especially Renny Yater and Georgie G and Barry Kaniapuni.
∙ Achievements that make me especially proud was standardizing a national contest judging system and seeing surfing as a school sport from concept to reality.

∙ Autobiography submitted by Mike November 2016

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Article by Mike Davis