Raised in the Long Beach and L. A. area, Dick Brewer came from two generations of engineers. Blessed with the brainpower, skill and aptitude it takes to be a successful designer he would have been successful at any profession he chose. He chose surfing. Life and a deep sense of adventure took him to Hawaii and in 1959 Dick began on a journey that he would continue for the rest of his life. He founded Surfboards Hawaii in Hawaii in 1961 and never looked back.
Dick Brewer’s love affair with surfing began in 1952, and he got his first surfboard in 1953, a 9’0″ balsa Woody Brown template that they called a “Double Ender.” He rode this board for years in all kinds of conditions, including waves up to 15 feet. Dick couldn’t get enough of the beach and the lifestyle associated with the surfing culture so after high school he attended Long Beach State to work towards an engineering degree, earning an income working as a tool and die maker for his Dad’s Tool and Die Company, Keith Black Racing Engines, and North American Aviation.
His True Calling
Dick joined the Air National Guard in 1958. The recruiter had told him he could finish the year out at Long Beach State when he joined. During this period of his life Dick became interested in the design-side of the surf industry, wanting to shape his own boards. In 1959 Dick bought one of the first Walker blanks ever “blown” and shaped a 9’10” gun. Dick then took his first trip to Hawaii, and it was all over. After his trip to Hawaii, Dick went back to Long Beach State, but his heart just wasn’t into it anymore. In 1960, he returned to Hawaii.
Dick Brewer had always been an excellent surfer and he quickly established himself in Hawaii as a big wave rider by charging big Waimea Bay and Sunset. Dick spent the early sixties taking-off shoulder to shoulder with the best surfers of the era. In the winter of 60/61 Dick opened Surfboards Hawaii in Haleiwa, selling Weber, Scholl and his own shapes. Dick Brewer had found his calling making boards.
In 1964, the Matson Shipping Lines strike stopped the flow of blanks and resin to Hawaii. No raw materials were available in Hawaii for building boards, so Dick went to California and started shaping from his operation in North County San Diego. He took Jeff Hakman (one of his team riders at that time) along with him and they spent the summer surfing and building surfboards.
Throughout the summer Price never paid Dick Brewer any royalties and at the end of the summer, just before returning to the north shore, Brewer asked Price for the royalties due him. Price said, “You own Surfboards Hawaii in Hawaii, I own it in California. I don’t owe you anything.”
Trials and Tribulations
Business relationships would become a recurrent problem for Dick throughout his life and without any formal contracts or agreements to fall back on, Dick decided to walk away from Surfboards Hawaii, going to work for Hobie Alter in 1965. This is where the Hobie “Dick Brewer Gun” evolved.
Dick put everything he knew about surfing and design into his boards. Hobie had hired Dick to shape big wave boards exclusively, paying him twice as much per board than he did any of his other shapers. In a small shop on a back street of Wahiawa Oahu, Dick built every Hobie Dick Brewer Model Gun. Shaping, glassing, sanding and glossing every board he built in Hawaii himself. In late ’65 he spent a few months in Dana Point doing production shaping, building just a few Brewer Models in California.
The year went well and after a prosperous summer for Hobie, Jeff Hakman won the “DUKE” on a Hobie Brewer Model. Soon after the contest, however, Brewer’s relationship with Hobie ended. Dick had requested a $10,000 R&D allowance from Hobie so he could develop a new model called “Summer Semis” and was turned down. Shortly after leaving Hobie, Brewer spent a few months shaping boards at Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach.
Needing to get back to Hawaii, Brewer decided to go to Kauai and set up shop in Hanapepe. Shortly after his arrival on Kauai, he was approached by Fred Schwartz and recruited to build Bing Pipeliners at Surfline for Bing Surfboards. The Bing Company really wanted Dick on their design team and they pursued him to the extent that Bing Copeland and Duke Boyd flew over to Hawaii to bring him into the family. As a gift of welcome they presented him with a polished Skil 100 planer that was later to become the “Sword of Hercules.” An appropriate gift to a man at the top of his craft. Thus became the Bing Pipeliner era.
Bing absorbed the entire Dick Brewer Surf Team, and life was beautiful for Dick Brewer. It was at Bing where Dick’s shapes evolve, culminating in the now classic “Mini-Gun” and “David Nuuhiwa Model.” After his successful era with Bing, Dick returned to Hawaii and founded companies in Wahaina Maui and Hanapepe Kauai. During this period he continued his work on the Mini-gun and continued to shape shorter boards. One notable board he developed during this period he called the “flip-tip.” Ridden by Reno Abellira, the “flip-tip” was the sensation of the ’69 Huntington Beach contest.
Shortly after, Dick tried to strike up a relationship with Larry Gordon of G&S surfboards, and went so far as to travel to California and teach his shapers how to create his designs. In fact, he even gave G&S his templates. But this new relationship came to an abrupt halt when Dick was denied reimbursement for some travel expenses he presented to G&S. The very next day Dick Brewer Surfboards was born.
Dick went back to Hanapepe, on the south side of Kauai, where he spent the better part of the next ten years in seclusion developing new shapes and designs with Gerry Lopez. Dick and Gerry would shape a new model and take it out to a little known Kauai surfspot near Hanapepe called “Pakalas” to test it out. Even though these underground shapes would eventually enter into and transform the surfing world, the 70’s also brought with them a tremendous amount of turmoil for Dick and it kept Dick Brewer Surfboards from taking off.
To make matters worse, in 1975 Dick lost his son Keoki in a tragic car accident. Struggling to understand why Keoki was taken from him, Dick’s marriage suffered and eventually ended in divorce. Once again faced with a crossroads, Dick Brewer put his trust in surfing. With his love of surfing firmly established and a new found understanding of the power of meditation to guide him, Dick continued to grow as a shaper, producing some magical boards during this revolutionary era and beyond. Dick is still shaping everyday a tremendous variety of boards and materials. Dick gets a lot of support and encouragement from his friends, family and especially his wife Sherry.