History of Lightning Bolt Surf Company
Lightning Bolt surf company started in 1971, at the height of a surfing revolution. For the last twenty years, between the 60’s and 70’s, surfers across the world were getting pumped about short boards. Mini-guns that allowed surfers to go deeper, faster, higher and lower into the belly of the beast. A change from the love of longboards that came before. Surfers like Wayne Lynch, Bob McTavish and Mark Richards were dominating competitions across the world, all riding on the shorter side. Not to mention Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell. Lopez and Russell surfed Pipeline like no other. For those that don’t know Pipeline, it is named one of the deadliest waves in the world. Located on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, this monster wave hosts the annual Billabong Pro Pipeline Masters every year, for those that think they can take her on.
Champions of Pipeline rank up names such as Kelly Slater, Moana Jones Wong, Andy Irons, John John Florence, Italia Ferreira and Rob Machado to name a few. Lightning Bolt founders Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell have also claimed the title several times each. Lopez in 72’ and 73’. And Russell in 76’ and 77’. Both were able to show off their Lightning Bolt boards on winner waves.
There have been rumours over the years that the Lightning Bolt symbol was inspired by a particularly strong strain of marijuana that was circulating the island in the 1960’s. But to them, Lopez and Russell, the Lightning symbol meant ‘energy’, first and foremost. The energy of the waves, of surfing, of Hawaiian surfing to be exact. But to them it also symbolised the energy of human physicality, and the artistry to make surfboards that ride deeper, faster and more radical. They succeeded. Their symbol could be seen across the surf scene in Hawaii, and later across America and beyond. Their beautifully crafted guns came at just the right time, and made quite the splash, with every surfer wanting one of their boards at a time when surfing was having a resurgence. Surfers were wanting boards that allowed them to get a wave that much quicker than their opponent. Even with the sketchiest drop-ins at Pipe, these boards were so agile that a quick cut back into the pocket was possible. Barrels all round.
In the mid-1970’s, Lightning Bolt moved from surfboards into apparel. If someone couldn’t fork out enough cash for a Bolt board, then they could definitely spare a few bob for a t-shirt, trunks or tanks. By this point, not only were Lightning Bolt dominating the water, but the land too. With their Bolt being seen at breaks from Hawaii to Australia. To this day the Lightning Bolt continues to symbolise a free rider state of mind. A soul surfer ubiquitous with its origins in Hawaii and island life. It also continues to inspire surfers in each generation. A message crafted from surfers who lived through the revolution, a change in the waters. Those who loved surfing so much they made a life from it, not just a hobby. They have continued to share that love for surfing from the start.