History of Gordon & Smith Fiberflex Skateboards

Updated: January 2, 2023 | Archive

Who could have predicted that the sports of archery and skateboarding would one day connect to create one of the most popular skateboards ever produced: the Fibreflex.

The Fibreflex was manufactured by Gordon & Smith. The roots of Gordon & Smith go back to the late 1950’s. Surfer Larry Gordon was studying chemistry in college when he joined up with Floyd Smith. The two began making surfboards in the corner of the Gordon Plastics factory run by Larry’s father and two uncles. Eventually Larry and Floyd moved out of Gordon Plastics and into Floyd’s garage. In 1962, Larry left school and went into manufacturing surfboards full time. The company was known as Gordon & Smith Surfboards.

In the summer of 1964, Larry’s cousin Mike returned home from college where he had been studying business and chemistry. At the time, skateboarding was gaining in popularity and Larry came up with a brilliant idea. He took a material called Bo-Tuff and combined it with a wood core to create a skateboard deck. Bo-Tuff was a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy that was used to make bows for the archery industry. Bo-Tuff had some amazing physical properties. For example, a bow that incorporated Bo-Tuff set a world’s record for shooting an arrow — it went over one mile!

By utilizing Bo-Tuff along with a maple wood core, Gordon & Smith developed a skateboard that gave an extremely responsive ride. The camber or arc of the board also added to its responsiveness. If you pushed down on a Fibreflex, it would spring back into place immediately. This was the first laminated skateboard.

In an interview for SkateBoarder magazine in 1978, Larry Gordon described the skateboard atmosphere in the mid 1960’s. “Slalom racing was the most exciting aspect of the sport at that time, and we felt we had a better idea for a skateboard design.”

Larry teamed up with friend Jim Hovde and formed a company to make Fibreflexes. They made a few at a time and eventually produced a thousand boards using a hand-screw press. Over time, a Fibreflex slalom team was put together. Surfers like Skip Frye, Willie Phillips, John Haywoods, Tommy Ryan, Denis Shufeldt, and Mike Hynson dominated the First Annual Skateboard Contest held in Anaheim in May of 1965. But most skateboarders in the mid 1960’s were content to ride on wooden boards that gave little to no flex. The highly advanced technology of the Fibreflex was lost on most skaters, who were still trying to deal with the challenges of clay wheels.

When the skateboard craze died in late 1965, so did production of the Fibreflex. It would take close to 10 years before another one was manufactured. Larry and Mike decided to resume production in 1974 in a garage with the same equipment that had been used in the sixties. On average, Mike was producing about 25 boards a day. Eventually, Mike decided to join his uncle back at Gordon Plastics. He also moved his Fibreflex equipment from the garage to the factory where there were more presses.

The introduction of the urethane wheel in the early seventies brought with it a number of skateboarders who were enthralled by slalom skating. The speed and the smooth, flowing motion that could be achieved on a Fibreflex made it an extraordinary skateboarding experience. The skateboard magazines featured numerous ads and articles on slalom pros Paul Engh, Henry Hester, and Chris Yandall (who of course, were winning contests on Fibreflexes).

By the mid 1970’s the factory was churning out 500 Fibreflex boards day, which was still not enough to meet the demand. Dave McIntyre, head of the sales division at that time, vividly recalls having six months’ worth of back orders!

On the basis of the success they had with the slalom skateboard, Gordon & Smith soon introduced other models of Fibreflexes. There was a freestyle model that came with a rocker (the reverse of a camber), and a 25-27-inch kicktail model that proved to be very popular. In 1977 they released a stiffer model called the Bowlrider which offered the flex of fiberglass and the stability of a wood board.

Soon after the introduction of other Fibreflex models, Gordon & Smith came out with a solid wood board (which, according to their ad copy, was made from ash or oak, depending upon what was available!). There were two models — a flat wooden board and the Stacy Peralta Warptail model. In the course of 18 months, 110,000 Warptails were sold. The Warptail II model, which incorporated layers of maple veneer, was significantly lighter. Gordon & Smith also marketed the “Rockit” deck, similar in construction to the Warptail II. In 1978, after their success with both fiberglass and wood models, the company introduced the Teamrider, the widest and largest Fibreflex they had ever made. It was one of the most versatile boards, and countless photos displayed it being used in both vertical and freestyle riding.

Over time however, skateboard manufacturers like Gordon & Smith moved away from fiberglass. Slalom riding took a backseat as more skaters b: came interested in halfpipes, bowls, wooden ramps and, of course, concrete skateparks. By 1979, the Fibreflex line was replaced by strictly plywood-type boards (although the Teamrider model was still available). The G & S Proline, Dennis Martinez “Flying Ace,” and Doug Saladino “Pine Design” were all vertical boards.

Finding an original Fibreflex board nowadays is difficult. The ABC Company licensed the Gordon & Smith Skateboards trademark and is now reissuing Fibreflexes, allowing riders to once more experience the ultimate cruising and carving experience. However, in 1998 Larry Gordon decided to begin production of a longboard Fibreflex that is an incredibly responsive ride, making “Fibreflex” one of the most enduring names in skateboarding.

2023 Update

In 1964, the year of my birth, Gordon & Smith brought out one of the most iconic skateboards ever produced: the FibreFlex.

I still recall the first time I rode a FibreFlex. It was at Springbank Gardens in London, Ontario. The owner, Tom Browne, was a bit older than me. He’d gone to Kentucky and picked up one complete with Bennett Trucks and Road Rider wheels. I was in awe and stoked out of my mind. The next year, 1977, would be my opportunity to actually get one of my own. To say that I have a deep affinity for all things FibreFlex would be a massive understatement.

gordon & smith fibreflex skateboard 1964
Skateboarder Magazine:
Volume 1 Issue 2

Tom Browne would later join me as one of the first longboarders in Toronto back in 1997. In 1999, we would team up to create the world’s first longboard magazine – International Longboarder.

One of the stories I would have loved to include in the Concrete Wave book was about Larry Gordon and how he’d been a monumental help at a trade show. I know that sounds rather odd, so let me explain.

Larry and I met by phone in the fall of 1997. I coordinated interviews for the upcoming Action Sports Retailer show in Long Beach, California, in February 1998. Larry agreed to meet me and sent a fax indicating the G&S booth and the time and date we were to meet. This fax proved to be an absolute necessity when I arrived at the convention center several months later.

When I got to the ASR, I explained I had registered as a media. But it turned out there was no trace of me on any list. The lady at the counter was determined not to let me in. The reason for this (as I later found out) is that hundreds of people try to get into this show without actual credentials. But most of these people are local skaters looking for free swag. I had flown across the country and was getting rather anxious about proving my valid media credentials. I reached into my pocket and produced the fax showing that I had secured an actual interview with Larry. It was at this moment the lady at registration agreed to let me into the ASR. I had never been so relieved in all my life!

At the show, Larry was genuine and very hospitable. He took the time to explain the history of G&S and proudly showed me his new range of FibreFlex longboards. I think Larry recognized that the brand was still an important part of many skaters’ lives and by creating a longboard, he was providing something unique in what was already becoming a very crowded marketplace – and this was before longboarding really exploded!

After the book was released, Larry became a regular advertiser in both International Longboarder and Concrete Wave Magazine. Over the years, G&S became more of a family affair. Larry’s children, Debbie and Eric started to do more with the business. 

As the years pass, nostalgia around G&S and especially the FibreFlex brand has grown exponentially higher. When the company launched a re-issue of the original FibreFlex slalom decks they sold out in less than two days. 

Sadly, Larry Gordon passed away on January 1, 2016. He was 76.

Gordon & Smith Fibreflex Pintail Longboard

Michael Brooke

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