A Tribute to Floyd Smith - Co Founder of G&S Surfboards Inc. by Debbie Gordon

A Tribute to Floyd Smith - Co Founder of G&S Surfboards Inc. by Debbie Gordon

Floyd Smith R.I.P -  3/10/1940 - 2/1/2023

Our whole family is mourning the loss of our Uncle Floyd Smith, co-founder of Gordon & Smith Surfboards. Business partners and brothers, Floyd Smith and our dad, Larry Gordon married sisters and so this company has been a family run business from the beginning. The loss is deeply felt on lots of levels. As sad as we are, my heart goes out to his immediate family and his dear wife of many years, Sherry, and his kids, our cousins- Buddy, Damon, Justin and Alicia.


(Above: Video of Floyd across from the first shop on Turquoise street with the First silk screened logo T-shirt Ever!)
(Above: Floyd working in the first shop on Turquoise with Larry in the background)
"Floyd was exposed to surfing earlier than Larry because he had two older brothers who had attended La Jolla High School and knew some of the surfers who hung out at Windansea Beach. You really had to know someone to be allowed to surf there as the "locals only" mentality prevailed. Floyd used this to gain access to this elite group. He listened to their stories and gained alot of information about surfboards including how to make and ride them. When a board was broken in the surf, Floyd would salvage what he could, gather the pieces and take them home. He glued them together and then proceeded to shape his first board which he called his "scab" board. Between 1955 and 1958 he bought a few used balsa boards, cut them down to nine feet and glassed them. Floyd had noticed that the best boards being surfed had a curve in the bottom or "rocker". Armed with this insight, he proceeded to add this feature to his boards.

The first board Floyd ever rode was a balsa, lent to him by one of the Blankenship brothers in 1956. When he saw his first foam surfboard at Windansea Beach he was ready and eager to try it.


(Floyd and first wife, Pam checking out Duke Kahanamoku's board he shaped during first visits to Australia years before)

With his passing the things that remain are the impressions he left me with and his influence. Floyd Smith was an innovative thinker, and had a certain charisma that propelled the Gordon & Smith brand in the early years. He was a catalyst that made the wheels turn and an amazing story teller, some stories were even true.!

(Part of the Early G&S Crew... most graduated in 1958 from Mission Bay High School together)

Larry, Floyd and Floyd's brother Lee, chipped in the $200 for materials and made their first boards in Lee's garage. Soon, Lee lost interest but Floyd and Larry persevered.  Gordon & Smith was born like so many great brands....in an unassuming garage.  Floyd was one of the founders of this Company that has had world-wide recognition and reach since its inception spawning the entire foam board industry in Southern California.

Ever wonder how everyone started wearing T-shirts silk screened with logos from Surfboard, Skateboard and other sports brands? 

" Surfboard Manufacturer Floyd Smith of San Diego, California is often credited as the inventor of the Surfing T-shirt. As a marketing ploy in 1961, Smith invited local surfers to bring their white T-shirts into the Gordon & Smith Shop where he applied the company logo across the back..."

---Matt Warshaw
Encyclopedia of Surfing

Floyd put the word out to buy a white T-shirt from JC Penneys and be at the Shop on Saturday, the line wrapped around the block!

(Larry and Floyd at the Mission Blvd location which included retail and manufacturing in 1962)


(Early Australian G&S Ad - Shop location-Caringbah, Cronulla south of Sydney)

San Diego is a better place because of Floyd, during the early 60's, he was one of the driving forces to push for Surfers to be able to surf in spots besides Tourmaline Surf Park. People think it was great that the city created a Park just for Surfers....but the under belly of that sentiment was that the City of San Diego wanted to control Surfers and thought of them as derelicts to society and wanted them corralled into one place- out of site and out of mind. Surfers were sited, detained and boards confiscated by police if you surfed the better waves at Chrystal Pier.  Floyd fought for that freedom to surf all the great San Diego surf spots that we enjoy today. I remember him commenting to me at our 50th Anniversary party that he was amazed that people actually liked surfers now! He was part of the shift of a paradigm! Now the City of San Diego honors surfers and there is even a memorial down at Tourmaline honoring Surfers. Tourmaline Surf Park was, I believe, the First and remains one of the ONLY "Surf Parks" in the World.

(Floyd with a beautifully "self-crafted" board)

We are amazed at the fact that Floyd had the courage to take the Gordon & Smith label to Australia in first progress to expand the brand “Internationally”.  Single-handedly, our uncle opened a surfboard shop and built lifelong friendships while recruiting some of the worlds best surfing talent for the Gordon & Smith brand while down under.

(An Ad featuring Bobby Brown and his new Stringerless Model. Bobby's tragic and sudden death in 1967 would eventually be a sad and traumatic event causing Floyd to return home to California in 1969/70)
(Floyd brought a new level of quality and craftsmanship fresh from California that soon emulated Australia's surf scene as well )
(Late 60s OZ G&S Ad featuring Floyd)

While still in Oz, Floyd made a critical call to Larry who was still making Long boards in California and advised him to stop! The trend of shorter boards started in Australia first and the Short board Revolution put many California Surfboard Brands out of business in California. Many established surfboard labels kept making Long boards and had huge inventories that they were stuck with as Board lengths dramatically went from 10' to 7' overnight. G&S was one of the first to go short and actually push the trend with cutting edge ads all thanks to Floyd's phone call.

Even after he left the partnership with our father, his impact on us personally has made a mark, specifically by his Christian Faith. Uncle Floyd was my favorite Uncle and was my Youth Group Leader through Church in Jr High School, he had alot of influence on my personal faith during an impressionable time of my life.

 A jack of many trades, from opening restaurants to carpentry. Despite other pursuits, Floyd never lost his love of surfboard making. He was active shaping solid wood boards up until a few years ago, exhibiting his shaping skill at Woody events up and down California’s coast, defying his age with skill, passion and that same charisma.. 




Floyd's great love for the Craft of Surfboard making and the impact it has had on my brother Eric and I running the G&S Brand as a second generation family business, has been significant. During the past 10 years Uncle Floyd has frequently encouraged my brother Eric with his craft in the shaping bay. ( I don't think I have ever seen a ‘Perfecto’ shaped as well as Uncle Floyd… except by my brother Eric).

The 'Perfecto' was Designed by Floyd Smith. It was honed through all of those years of development and thought. "The Quest for the Perfect Longboard shape and design. " The 'Perfecto' plan shape is similar to the 1963 G&S Quarter speed  The Plan shape is a little wider and blunter nose than the Quarter speed.  This board has specific proven aspects of design that make it a very performance style long board with a Classic outline. Every aspect of the bottom contours to the curve and rail shapes are specific and carefully planned.

(Past and present G&S Shapers: L to R Bill Shrosbree, Floyd Smith, Skip Frye and Nephew Eric Gordon - 2019 at the current G&S Surfboard Factory)


His last minute Surfboard Factory visits were actually “Inspections” which would make me break into a sweat to clean the surfboard factory before he would arrive. Cleanliness = Quality he would always say. RIP Uncle Floyd, you will be missed and loved always.  – Debbie & Eric Gordon and the entire Family.