You’ve been surfing for 50+ years, is there any session or wave that stands out as your most memorable?
I think the finals of the US Championships stands out. I had Donald Takayama in my heat and I felt that I was having an excellent day and could go all the way. The best wave of the day came trough and as I started to drop in on it I caught my thumb in my colored vest and almost fell off. It likely cost me the title. Another memorable day was at Sunset in the early 1970s. I had a super 2+ overhead day and for some reason no one else was out. Got several outstanding waves and some of those waves made it into surf films. Another great session was during a trip to South Australia in 2000. I surfed some clean super long left and right breaking waves at a place called Three Poles.
What kind of education do you have?
I have 3 masters degrees: Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Business plus a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering. I also have a Secondary Teaching Credential in Math and Physics. The reason I went to college for so long is because I wanted to surf as long as I could without getting a real job. I went to college many years full time (other than a stint in the Army) before I started working in my technical field.
You’ve done a lot for the surfing world, what are some of your proudest accomplishments in and out of the water?
There are several that I'm personally proud of. I am very proud of all the students I have helped with their research, thesis creation, and doctorial dissertations over the years many of these are related to surfing. I was also the first varsity surf coach at Huntington Beach High School and was able to convince the California Interscholastic Federation to sanction high school surfing in Southern California. I placed the first surfing web site (and my surfing book) on the Internet. I wrote the application for surfing to become an Olympic Sport for the USSF. I guess my most recent is founding the National Surf Schools and instructors Association.
You put together the first surfing oriented web page on the Internet, how did this come about? I was researching bandwidth capabilities on DARPAnet while at the Naval Research Lab in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time I was also helping a number of researchers with their masters and doctorial research. We had been using ftp transfers for messaging directly or through alt.surfing and I wanted to find out if full text books could be easily downloaded and viewed over the net. We had a new browser called Mosaic and I figured I could use my coaching surfing book as a test. Since I needed a way to have the book readily accessible, I created a web page with links to the book and other research documents. It became surfing's first web site.
Surfing in the Olympic Games. Will it happen? And when?
I don't think it will happen for many years, likely not during my lifetime. We had a good chance when the Olympics were in Australia, but just too many internal squabbles caused it to miss the window. Now to become a new sport you must meet a number of criteria that surfing doesn't meet plus you need to get an existing sport dropped. Just can't see this happening. I do think that SUP racing will make it though. It can come in under kayaking and won't need to have another sport dropped.
How did you get into shaping?
I was a team rider for Soul Surfboards in 1968 when Dale Velzy was their shaper. After spending about 3 hours in his stall one evening having him shape a new design for me, I had it glassed, rode it once, and took it back to him. it just wouldn't work with the rail design. After some discussion he basically "There is the planer." I shaped under his guidance for awhile before he left Soul and went to work selling blanks for Rogers Foam. About a month later he called me up one evening and said to come over as he had some things for me. He loaded up my van with all his shaping equipment, lights, etc. and finally his Skil planer. He then told me to go forth and make boards.
What keeps you busy these days?
I'm partially retired as a research engineer in the field of comnputer security but keep busy with my surf school, surf shop, surf museum and of course the NSSIA. I also give tennis lessons and coach wrestling every now and then.
How often do you get in the water these days?
I get in the water at least once a week unless I'm on a trip or the weather is horrible.
What does the future hold for Bruce Gabrielson?
Unfortunately, like many of my generation, we are getting a little long in the tooth now. however, I've been helping the International Surfing Museum as an advisor and have decided to go back to school and get a Doctor degree in history, specifically surfing history. Why I don't know but it is a lot of fun doing research on various historical items, particularly when I seen writings that aren't the way I remember things. It's interesting how you can get first hand descriptions from 3 different people and each sees what happened a little different after only a few years. I think it would be a great life accomplishment to have the record straight when none of us are still around to remember it.