It’s Friday, the 11th of November 1966. There is a North-West swell with two to four foot waves arriving at a point-break arena that locals call “Stables,” about a quarter mile north of California Street in Ventura, California. It’s the first day of a three-day invitational professional surfing contest offering a $5,000 cash purse and it’s called the “Morey-Pope Professional Invitational Championships.”.
An audience of about two thousand has gathered, paying $1 each to enter the closed-off beach area and see the performances of fifty top surfers invited from around the world to have their skills tested in the disciplines of trimming and noseriding.
The judging system is objective and utilizes a stop watch to determine the length of time on the wave and cumulative length of time on the nose. No points, nothing to do with style, simply time.
Money is the prize for the second time in the history of the sport. It’s the hottest promotion in the sport and brain-child of Inventor Tom Morey and partner Peter Pope. The contest is designed to address the need for objective judging in the sport. It is brilliantly designed to appeal to the masses and demonstrate the best skills of surfing in its best form. Also, and more importantly, objective judging is a judging system required by the Olympic Committee to qualify a sport for the Olympic Games. The future was envisioned but little did anyone know what would develop to stifle its progress.
Day one: Time for length of ride serves to demonstrate a competitor’s ability to master the whole wave from the point of take-off to the beach. Ten waves are timed. The clock runs from the time the contestant stands up on his surfboard to the moment he pulls out of the wave. Day two: Noseriding for time pushes the competitor’s skills at maneuvering the surfboard from the front end (the nose area) of their surfboard, which is measured at 25% of the overall surfboard length. The third and final day, combines both accumulated nose time and wave time.
Each of the fifty champion competitors has the intent of pushing nose-time to the extreme in hopes of showing off their most spectacular poses to get the most sensational photos ops in the magazines. There is no overall surfboard length limitation. This rule (25% nose area with no length limitation) promoted experimentation among many of the invited contest surfers and their design surfboard design team, leading to wild imaginations that abounded! Some very strange devices appeared for the initial contest in 1965: Mike Doyle had a 2″x4″x8′ wood plank rosined to the tail to gain over-all length and a greater associated 25% nose area. A 10 pound bar-bell was duct taped to the tail of another surfboard, and yet another had a brick rosined to the tail – both inventions were hoping to keep the tail weighed down. Nose shapes varied from flat bottom to concave, narrow to wide, flat rocker to lots of rocker. A cross “Wing” was attached to one fin, while another fin had a funnel running through it.
The second contest had its share of oddities too but they seemed more thought out. Designers learned from the first contest that a surfboard could not just be long to gain nose area and more nose time. Surfboards had to turn as well as nose ride to maintain position in the pocket of the wave, where the nose gains the most lift. What became clear was that surfboard designs were advancing in many different directions. Designers were experimenting to find the common denominator that enabled the surfboard to maneuver from the nose and in so doing, were discovering other surfboard functionalities. This may have been one of the most revolutionary times in the development of surfboard designs, inadvertently promoting short-board designs that revolutionized the sports for the following decade facing the challenge of big waves and the adventure of finding them around the world.
Perched like casual Gods on the front end of their surfboards, striking ethereal poses in effortless motion, the best competitors clocked incredible distances. The entire audience would watch, mesmerized, as the length of each nose ride increased, surpassing the previous record. The entire audience was captivated watching a single rider and timing their test of skill. They kept a tally while they gambled on who would win.
Highly ranked contest surfer and surfboard designer, Bob Purvey had designed his surfboards under his mentor and the tutelage of world famous surfboard maker and designer, Dewey Weber and his shaper, Harold “Iggy” Igg, for three years prior to endorsing his new sponsor, Con Surfboards, in the beginning of 1966.
Purvey came up with his unique conceptual design and the essence of what typically goes into a noserider shape today. It had an extremely wide nose, long and deep concave underneath it and a kicked up tail. Purvey states, “It’s a combination of the Dewey Weber “Performer” tail and the Tom Blake concave nose. The extreme wide nose was my unique concept. Con’s best shaper, Gary Seaman, put it all together. I could have rode the nose on a tongue depressor, which is what The Ugly shape kind of looked like but the details in The Ugly shape made nose riding a heck of lot easier and enabled me to stay on the nose a lot longer.”
Competition Surf Magazine reviewed the event and stated: “On the last ride of the day Purvey catches a five foot wave, turned high and went to the nose, the section came up, he backed off, dropped, repositioned himself with two steps and came out on the nose. Then the wave broke ahead and he straightened off then turned into the wave and clocked two more seconds while in the soup. He made no mistakes whatsoever.” Purvey won the nose riding contest that day and went on to place third overall, winning $500. His board was aptly named “The Ugly” because of its wide, blunt nose shape.
Word of mouth about Purvey winning the much publicized contest buzzed around the world.
The manufacturer, Con Surfboards, placed the first full page advertisement in the March, 1967 issue of Surfer magazine. The copy in the ad states: “It’s called ‘the Ugly’. Bob Purvey out rode the top professionals in the 1966 U.S. Championship Invitational Nose-riding contest at Ventura, with the highest nose-riding time of 41.5 seconds for 6 waves. An average of 7 seconds per wave. Purvey won the admiration of every rider and surfboard maker for his superior wave knowledge and ability. Bob gives the credit to his UGLY.”
“EVERYBODY WANTS IT ANYWAY! No matter how you look at it, the only thing beautiful about the UGLY is the way it handles in the water. There is certainly nothing handsome about the twenty inch nose one foot from the tip, able to support full weight on take-off or cut-backs. Beauty prizes will never be given for the parallel rails that holds smooth trim as the board glides down the wall of any wave, or give precision control in turning from the nose. And the really Ugliest part is the silly looking, scooped-out popped up six inch square tail that sets into the water and causes downward pressure exerted on the tail for opposite reaction to the nose. What we are trying to say is that nobody cares how it looks, because it was designed for function as an all around board as well as a nose-rider!…”
The next full page ad in Surfer magazine’s summer issue states, “Bob Purvey has been consistently improving his own time…”
Along with the ads, word-of-mouth spreads that the Ugly truly is the most functional nose-rider design. “In action, the Ugly practically makes you want to nose-ride!” Purvey siad. By mid-summer of 1967, the surfboard factory must quickly increase manufacturing capacity by approximately 35% because of demand for the Ugly. By the end of summer, 1967, the Ugly becomes recognized as the fastest and hottest selling surfboard in the world.
In October, 1967, the introduction of the 7′ 11″ “V-Bottom” starts the short-board revolution. Longboards started collecting dust and endless nose-ride stories faded into faithful memory.
The Ugly becomes the last popular longboard model to dominate the “longboard era.” In response to the short board revolution, Purvey suggested to Con that they make a short version of The Ugly by proportioning the length down to the eight foot length and the Super Ugly was born as the first “Fun Board” short-longboard. Good idea but short board designs were primarily focused on turns and tube rides on big waves.
As the short board trend grew, taking over even small wave arenas in California and Florida, both The Ugly and Super Ugly seemed to fade away into the shadows of collector’s heaven.
In the late 1970’s, Dewey Weber, a notable trend setter in the sport, started promoting the resurgence of interest in longboard’s and the movement grows all over the world. Longboard’s of the 50s and 60s are dusted off and The Ugly becomes recognized as the standard bearer for nose rider style designs, and the originals from the 60’s becomes one of the most valued by collectors.
The Con Surfboards company changed owners three times in five years. The Ugly and Super Ugly styles got lost in interpretation through the transitions and sales lacked luster. After the last owner Purvey took over marketing as the owner of the registered trademarks of The Ugly and Super Ugly surfboards. He separated labeling rights and eliminated the Con brand and to maintain authenticity he placed his name beside both brands and began the process of marketing them properly, promoting the value of noseriding once again. Bob points out, “Today, The Ugly still makes champions and clocks long nose times.”
Purvey supervises the manufacturing of each and every Ugly model now and is launching a unique made for mobile media Malibu NoseRiding Invitational to inspire further development of noserider type designs and promote the sport, as well as benefit the surf-zone environment.
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