"FROM THE ROCKET FISH TO THE TIGER FISH"
By Thomas Takao
Clyde Beatty Jr. is known for his surfing, shaping and his glassing, in fact Clyde is considered to be one of the first to use epoxy resins on surfboards. When some were experimenting with epoxy, Clyde went to Europe to get light stabilize epoxy made. Clyde has airbrushed, laminated, fin and hot coated, sanded, pin lined, glossed and polished. When it came to glassing Clyde Beatty had done it all.
Clyde first learned how to surf in 1964 at California Street in Ventura. He was in the fifth grade at the time. Clyde’s father operated a circus, which was called Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus. Clyde senior was a well-known lion and tiger trainer. Clyde mentions that his father was voted the top lion and tiger trainer of all time. Hence, Clyde Jr.’s logo is that of a Tiger.
His first surfboard was a Duke Kahanamoku pop-out made in Ventura, his parents had bought it for him. His grandfather being thoughtful made him a ric shaw so that Clyde could use his bike to transport his surfboard to the beach. Once at the beach he couldn’t put his arm around it, so he used his head to carry it on. Clyde was the first surfer in his group of friends and some would follow his lead.
While going to University High School in Pacific Palisades during the latter part of the 1960’s Clyde was a team rider for the Hobie / Blue Cheer surf shop in Santa Monica. There were other surf shops in Santa Monica including Natural Progression and Jeff Ho Surfboards.
Mike Perry was the shaper at Blue Cheer and had an influence in Clyde’s shaping. Clyde learned by watching Mike shape a lot of boards including the ones he shaped for him while riding for Blue Cheer. Clyde recalls this one time when his friend Steve Braum a shaper and himself were working on a board.
This was when they were going surfing the next day and Clyde was going ride the board no matter what. So Steve skinned an old Con ugly and reshaped it. Clyde laminated the bottom and top of the blank with a little help from Steve. After the lamination Clyde glassed on the fin and called it a night. The next morning, Steve and Clyde were ready to go. The board didn’t have a sanding coat and was tacky. No matter, the surf was good. They took it to Salt Creek and Clyde waxed it up and went out. It didn’t take long before the board started to fall apart. After that experience Clyde would learn to be patient and finish it before taking it out.
The Blue Cheer factory is where Clyde learned to shape and glass. Being around Mike Perry and watching glassers like Bob Petty laminate and Wayne Miyata gloss and pin line. Bob Petty was the man when it came to laminating. Clyde’s first board that he shaped was also air brushed by him, using a spray can of enamel. Like many things being the first, it made way for other boards and soon disappeared after being sold. Back in 2005 someone in San Diego returned it to him. A little beat up and brown, but it’s was the 001 board that started it for Clyde.
While learning the ropes in board manufacturing Clyde was also a 4A surfer. That is the equivalent of an ASP pro. During the 70’s there was no money in surfing contest. You had to get a real job or make surfboards. Clyde was an Art Major at Cal State Northridge and found time to start his first surf shop in Santa Monica, after that he would move the shop to Westminster the city next to Huntington Beach. Then move up to Santa Barbara and take over the Rennie Yater surf factory.
I asked Clyde about the Rocket Fish, a modified fish with a sleeker outline that Clyde rode in the mid 70's. He mentions an article that appeared in 1974 about the Rocket Fish which were called gun fishes before the article. Steve Lis a kneeboard shaper in San Diego was making twin fin swallowed tail boards called Fishes in the late 60's. From the Fish came a hybrid design in the mid 70's, longer with a pointier nose and a more drawn in at the tail. Steve’s fishes had a rounder nose and was wider at the tail. Clyde had tried the fish and felt it had limitations. "You could pump them and they were fun. But you couldn’t get the long drawn out turns out of them that I wanted” Clyde said.
Talking fish stories Clyde remembered the 1975 US Surf Contest at Hatteras, North Carolina. He and some friend were driving there from California in Clyde’s car. Somewhere in between California and Arizona the car rolled over and the fin on Clyde’s favorite board broke off (a single fin surfboard). They flew to Albuquerque and got a rental car and drove to the contest. During this trip Clyde was taking some boards to the East Coast for some of his surfboard dealers. One of those boards was a fish. Since his contest board was decommissioned, Clyde rode the fish in the contest.
This was a National Surf contest and it was big. Clyde took 5th place, Greg Loehr came in 4th , 3rd went to Tony Staples, Jim Cartland took second, and Rich Rasmussen took the top spot. After the contest Clyde was having fun with the fish, surfing Hatteras’s waves. He noticed the East Coast Rep for O’Neill, Mike Grasley was riding a pulled in nose fish that was a little bit longer. In Clyde’s opinion Mike was surfing light years ahead compared to everyone else. And if Mike was in the contest he thought the standing might have changed.
After getting back, Clyde figured Joey Thomas had shaped Mike Grasley pointed nose fish. Clyde had surfed with Joey in a 4A contest awhile back in Santa Cruz and hadn’t forgotten Joey's shaping and surfing abilities. So Clyde and Steve Braum shaped a few modified fishes. They kept refining each board more and more. Clyde’s main focus was surfing since he was on the contest circuit. As mentioned earlier the gun shape fish became known as the Rocket fish. A design credited to Joey Thomas.
Having glassed some of Brewer’s surfboards, Clyde incorporated the down rail concept into his Rocket Fish designs. It proved to be a match and Clyde’s surfing went up another notch. Clyde has continued making surfboards in the 80's, 90's, and 2000's. Now days Clyde calls the rocket fish by a new name: Tiger Fish, since they have been refined with newer materials and the contours flowing into a new outline, with the removable fins and a tri planning hull.
Clyde got his picture taken riding one of his Tiger Fish and made the cover of Wet Sand Magazine (see photo). Clyde also won the Rincon Surf Contest riding one. Taking first in Grand Masters, 3rd in the Masters, the board worked well. Clyde surfing stayed at a high level through the years and his surfboards can take the credit for that.