Jimmy Lewis's Story
Jimmy Lewis’s first experience in surfboard building began in 1961. While growing up in Southern California, Jimmy started making miniature surfboards. From that beginning, using foam, resin and fiberglass his direction took shape. He would go on to design surfboards, sailboards, kite boards and hydro foils and become world renown.
Surfing Cardiff, Pipes, and the other spots along the North County coast in the 1960’s contributed to his development of becoming a surfboard builder. He was impressed with the other surfers and board builders in the area. To name a few there was Billy and Gary Brummet, Tommy Lewis, Sid Madden, Donald Takayama and Billy Hamilton.
In 1968 Jimmy shaped and glassed his first full sized surfboard. The late 60’s was a time period when the short board era began and the boards that Jimmy shaped were short boards. Making his first surfboard was a learning experience. From those early surfboards he would learn to become a better shaper.
In 1969 he would visit Maui for 3 months and got acquainted with most of the surf spots on the island and the surfers there. He would return to the mainland for a year before returning in 1971 for good. Now able to be there when the different swells hit, Jimmy would surf the varies spots on the east and west side and Honolua Bay. One of the hottest surfers at Honolua Bay during this time period was Les Potts. Les Potts was a shaper whose influence helped Jimmy in his career.
Other shapers that influenced Jimmy were Gerry Lopez and Dick Brewer, Brewer especially. Dick Brewer’s influence on Jimmy made him more aware of design and concept. As the 1970’s came to a close, another aspect of surfing developed and that was windsurfing. Windsurfing was becoming more popular and windsurfing boards were in demand.
Jimmy shaped his first few sailboard in 1978 for Mike Waltze and Mark Robinson. From there he would go on and work for Fred Haywood and Mike Waltze at Sailboards Maui. By 1981 he was into it big time. The shop was getting quite a few order and Jimmy’s sailboards were becoming popular. From the mid 1980 to late 80’s some of his board held the world speed record for sailboards.
In 1982 Pascal Maka took a stock sailboard from Sailboards Maui that was shaped by Jimmy to Weymouth, England. On that sailboard he smashed the existing windsurfing speed record by 4 knots. The record time was 27.82 knots. Two years later in 1983 Jimmy shaped Fred Haywood a “speed boards” to take to Weymouth. Fred surpassed Pascal’s previous record by 2 knots, with a record time of 30.82 knots. Fred’s accomplishment made him the first sailboarder to break the 30 knot barrier. His time was second only to Crossbow, a modified catamaran whose speed was 36 knots. At the same event that year, Fred sold one of the 2 boards to Robert Teritehau and Robert increased his personal best time by 2 knots.
Three years later during 1986 in the Canary Islands, 4 sailboarders broke the Crossbow record. They were using boards shaped by Jimmy. Pascal Maki was clocked at an incredible speed of 36.86 knots. While Eric Beale did 36.73 knots, Fred Haywood would do 36.13 knots and Jimmy Lewis would do 36.31 knots. There were 60 competitors for the event and 8 contestants out of 10 finishers were riding Jimmy’s shapes at that contest.
It would be another few years before Eric Beale would become the first to sail over 40 knots. His world record time was 40.48 knots. In the 1990’s Roddy Lewis broke Eric’s record in open-ocean at a speed of 44.51 knots. During the 1980’s and part of the 90’s, Jimmy was full on windsurfing and had put his surfboard and surfing on hold. After making sailboards for 15 years, Jimmy felt like surfing and started making longboards again. He was back out in the lineup having fun.
While making surfboards in latter part of the 90’s, he met a guy named Lou Wainman. Lou was one of the most progressive kite boarders in this new sport of Kite boarding. Within 6 months Jimmy was kiting and switched from making surfboards to making only kiteboards. Then around the turn of the 21st Century Jimmy made Laird Hamilton a few kiteboards for him to use. Since his introduction to kite boarding,
Jimmy has been quite successful at making kiteboards and literally has taken off while holding on. Today Jimmy Lewis is making surfboards, along with his famous kite boards, SUP’s and hydro-foils. His imagination has taken him to new heights and will continue to pull him along. With his experience in board design, we can definitely say the sky is the limit for Jimmy Lewis.