Lightning Bolt



Lightning Bolt Brand | From Surfboards, to Silence, to Resurgence

Lightning Bolt was one of the first heavy-hitter surf companies back in the early ‘70s. Born from legendary shapers Jack Shipley and Gerry Lopez, surfers knew they were getting quality product and flocked to Hawaii to get their hands on Lightning Bolt boards and apparel. Though the presence of Lightning Bolt fell off the radar after its hay-day, Lightning Bolt has lived on and prospered in Europe for the past 20 years. Jon Paskowitz, now president of Lightning Bolt, witnessed the growth and success of the company firsthand in his youth. Now two years into the re-launch of Lightning Bolt in the U.S., there’s none better than the legendary Paskowitz name to re-establish the hype and put Lightning Bolt back on the map. Here’s Jon Paskowitz to fill in the blanks on the past, present and future of the Bolt.

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original interview by Malakye.com

Where did it all begin?

Lightning Bolt started in the early ‘70s from a combination of the inspiration of Jack Shipley and Gerry Lopez. Gerry riding the Bolt boards and Jack Shipley’s existing business got the best surfers in the water on Lightning Bolt surfboards. With guys like Jackie Dunn, Barry Kanaiaupuni and Rory Russell (to name a few) all riding Lightning Bolts and the whole surfing world focused on the North Shore of Oahu, it was a revolutionary time for the surf industry. Surfers from all over the world poured into the Hawaiian Islands, and the premier board was Lightning Bolt.

Your family personally knew the original owners Jack Shipley and Gerry Lopez who started the company in 1968. Tell us a little about their vision for the company back then and your vision for the company now?

Yes, I grew up around the guys on the North Shore. My dad was a doctor for the beach boys and the Hawaiian Islands at the time. I remember my dad saying he used to surf with Gerry’s mom. I didn’t know Jack Shipley though; I was a kid and way under his radar. As to their vision of the company, I am not completely sure. We have asked a lot of the old Bolt team riders and shapers questions like this and it seems to me they were just trying to make the best stuff they could, and make a buck or two in the process. Everything was quality and made for them and by them.

I would say this is the closest to what we want as well. We want to make clothes and boards that we would use. We want the Aloha spirit of the older Bolt to be seen and felt in the newer Bolt. That’s one reason we didn’t take our production straight to the Far East to make the apparel. We spent a lot of time researching the brand and looking at the way Bolt was made in the primary years that made it famous. This was more a reflection of the original Bolt when it was Gerry and Jack, than the Bolt of the ‘80s, which by then was a massive surf brand in the industry – maybe the biggest.

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Lightning Bolt was flourishing when you were in your youth in the ‘70s. What was Lightning Bolt then comparable to today?

It was big and powerful in some ways, but grass roots and completely respected in other ways; there really aren’t companies like that today. It was an umbrella that encompassed the entire surfing world, as if Hurley, Quik’ and Billabong were all one company today and were core to the max, making the best product by surfers for surfers, like a Birdwell or Katin. I really feel that we are going to see the grassroots of surfing come back more and more. Surfers are demanding a connection to their product they buy to represent themselves as surfers. Maybe that’s why so many guys are going to retro boards and looks to claim a more soul-surf posture than that of a surfer who is just interested in competition.


Is there an iconic story from the early days of the brand that represents what it’s all about?

I remember talking to Peter Townsend, the first world surfing champion. He told me how the Australians would come over to Hawaii to surf, compete and live there through the winter trying to save as much money as possible to go to the Bolt store, probably the one on Kapiolani Blvd in Waikiki, and buy as many Lightning Bolt t-shirts as possible to take home to OZ. In OZ they were worth their weight in gold he said! Peter’s story was about making a buck for sure, but it was also about having the cool thing and being connected to the core roots of the best surfers in the world. Peter was and still is one of the coolest surfers I have ever had the pleasure of surfing with. He and Rabbit Bartholomew were the two Aussie Bolt riders I really love to watch.

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What entities are in control of Lightning Bolt throughout the world?

Lightning Bolt was kept alive by my old distributor for Black Flys, Jose Augusto in Portugal and Europe, for maybe 15 or 20 years. Then about 3-4 years ago he found a new partner and started getting the rest of the global territories organized to re-group Lightning Bolt. I am a partner to this new Lightning Bolt through a great guy in the textile industry known as Dr. Manuel Gonçalves who has a family business in Europe that is almost a hundred years old and wants to resume Lightning Bolt’s brand like the Bolt brand of the past. We hold the rights to the original brand and the Bolt Strike mark, and have a global plan to resurrect Lightning Bolt to its previous glory by slow growth, and quality boards and apparel, like the stuff that made Lightning Bolt legendry.

What’s the balance between the new U.S. license holders and the existing license holders in Brazil?

We are uniting all the countries that have distribution deals or old licenses. Brazil is a good example of a country that was left to its own with the brand for years and did what they could from a Brazilian point of view. We are looking to globalize the core brand so a customer in Brazil or anywhere else for that matter gets something from Lightning Bolt that is clearly Lighting Bolt and represents the original Hawaiian namesake. Brazil is a real leader in the surfing world, now turning out world champion caliber surfers and nationally representing surfing in the correct light. It will benefit us all to have closer ties to surfers like the Brazilians.

It was big and powerful in some ways, but grass roots and completely respected in other ways; there really aren’t companies like that today. It was an umbrella that encompassed the entire surfing world, as if Hurley, Quik’ and Billabong were all one company today and were core to the max, making the best product by surfers for surfers, like a Birdwell or Katin. I really feel that we are going to see the grassroots of surfing come back more and more. Surfers are demanding a connection to their product they buy to represent themselves as surfers. Maybe that’s why so many guys are going to retro boards and looks to claim a more soul-surf posture than that of a surfer who is just interested in competition.

Though Lightning Bolt has re-launched its name in the U.S., the company has been flourishing in the European market for the past 20 years. What’s the “BIG PICTURE” for Lightning Bolt in the U.S. market?

In the U.S. market, we know there is a multi-pronged approach that must be taken. There are surf shops and lifestyle stores that are interested in Lightning Bolt. Surfers that grew up with Lightning Bolt remember it from their past, and we have to live up to their memories of the brand. Then there are these new young guns I meet that love Lightning Bolt, have studied the brand, and want to be part of the new Bolt. The Big picture is making a quality core product that can appeal to all these people and various retail outlets. We’re not trying to be all things to all people; we’re just making the good OG Bolt product. Like the movie said, “If you build it, they will come.”

It’s been a little bit now since the re-launch of LightningBolt. How have expectations been exceeded, or fell short?

Well, I was so stoked to hear Lightning Bolt was coming back, and even more stoked to be a part of the comeback. So I’m stoked even when a surf shop says they can’t take Bolt into their store at the moment. Most serious surf shops are interested in Lightning Bolt. It is funny though to go into a surf shop with the entire modern fan fair and brands present, and the buyers and owners have no idea what Lightning Bolt is or was. To me it’s like surf knowledge 101, so we have to show them pictures and tell them the story behind the brand and then they get it.

As far as pure growth goes, we are less than 2 years old with just a couple of seasons under our belts, but thanks to Staci Levine and Karen Schneider and their team at SnL Communications, we have received a lot of great press, and plenty of people know about us and what we are doing. Now we are getting the calls coming in from shops interested in Lightning Bolt rather than us just calling out, so growth is way up and we are getting to the retailers we have dreamed of selling. Also, remember that these last 2 years have been the most depressed economically our country has felt in several decades. About 50 percent or more of the businesses from my old shop list I had from working at Gotcha/Black Flys were out of business. It was a real scare when I started calling these shop numbers and 5 out of 10 (or more) had a recording stating, “Sorry this number is out of service and there is no new number…” Thank god there is a real visible turn around happening for the economy and us.

One thing that’s has been a painful learning experience has been making everything here in the U.S. The wealth of manufacturers that used to exist in Los Angeles, for instance, are mostly all gone. Quite a few of the amazing artisans from the past that made sportswear here in the U.S. have been out-sourced to death. All said, we have found our way and are getting better and better at the whole ‘Made in the USA’ part of our work.

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Do the U.S. and EU lines differ?

Yes they do. The Euro line has been around for 20 years and there are retail Lightning Bolt stores in Europe; their customer is also a lot different than ours. We are making stuff for the guys whom grew up with Lightning Bolt and are much more critical of the look and of the original product, so we are more inclined to make things more vintage and similar to something that came out of your uncle’s closet fresh from 1974!

How will the brand stay relevant when the current “retro” consumer trend changes to the next thing?

We are already making the things that will be the “crossover products” from vintage surf to the “next thing.” We can see the evolution quite clearly. When we treat the brand as a character, we want to cultivate and grow rather than exploit. We have no doubt that there will always be a portion of the line that will stay dedicated to that nostalgia. You don’t see Levis cancelling the 501 jeans? But there will be newer versions of what we do and the young surfers of today and tomorrow will help us to refine those items for the future.

Are there plans to push LightningBolt into new cultural segments/channels such as skate, snow, lifestyle and boutique?

Well, Lightning Bolt was a big part of skateboarding back in the day. As far as Snow goes, we can’t see that for the U.S. market at the moment, but the Euro’s are definitely into it. And as far as lifestyle and boutique stores go, we are doing well with these retailers already. However, it will come from our success in the surf market where we will define ourselves. Lightning Bolt is surf.

Are Lightning Bolt surfboards making a comeback?

Oh yeah! We have been selling surfboards this last year and a half pretty well. Rory Russell has shaped retro collectors for us, and Craig Hollingsworth has been making some fun shapes and fishes. Graham Smith makes Bolt boards for the Euro market and we are talking to Cole Simler about making some modern short boards. I grew up with Cole, so I know how amazing he is, but he is mean to me and shouts things like, “Tell me I look slim!” I have great hopes we will work out a deal with him.

Where is Lightning Bolt’s U.S. headquarters and how many people are on the team?

The corporate offices are in Venice, California, close to our team and manufactures. Bryan Porter handles design and development, and corporate sales. Benjamin Brussell is our CFO and COO, who happens to be way too smart for any of us; I hope we deserve such a great guy. Leah Dittrich runs the office, takes care of customer service, and is an all around helper; she’s originally from Canada, eh! Drew Lumsden is our sales guy and super smart school guy. You should see his spread sheets; a tear comes to my eye sometimes. ‘Production Master’ Kelly Barry is an independent contractor who works with Porter, who we just love because she keeps all the little details in order. Then there’s our part-time technical illustrator Barbara Blatz-Stone that does technical illustrations for us when we need them. And then there’s me of course! All the design and development is done here by the “Little Porter Venice Team,” except for the website and Blog Spot’s which are the creation of my brother Joshua Paskowitz and Rudy Huebner, legends of the OC and masters of the thing they call the INTERNET.

KEY: O= Original, R= Repaired, RF= Refurbished. Condition of board rated: 1(worst)-10(best)


deck/bottom

FinDetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 5″
Width: 20″ 3/4 
Thickness: 2″ 7/8

Classic 70’s yellow and red air-spray round-pin bolt with MR Star Fins.  Huge Lightning Bolt Lams top and bottom with the bolts both sides.  This board  speaks for itself.  All original some minor scuffs and scrapes.  Acquired thru Cash Jack.  (8) o


deck/bottom

Findetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 2″
Width: 20″ 7/8 
Thickness: 2″ 1/2
Rory Russel

One of the cleanest all original Trademark Bolts in my collection.  A Bobby Digital acquisition years back when I first started collecting. 1970’s wing-pintail with double lam bolts.  Clark Foam, black pin line, unknown who was shaping these. maybe Munoz, Senate?  Great find. Thank you Bobby!  (10) o


deck/bottom

Findetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 6″
Width: 20″ 1/8 
Thickness: 2″ 1/8
Rory Russel

This board has seen some milage.  Yet very unique in that is was hand-shaped by Rory Russel back in the 70’s.  Striking yellow and red deck bolts, with Rory w bolt written on the stringer.  Clear bottom w Trademark Bolt Lam. Clark Foam.  Obvious dings and repairs.  Well ridden specimen.  I recently let this one go to a avid bolt collector out of France.  (7) o Acquired this from craig list mid-west


deck/bottom

findetaildetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 1″
Width: 20″ 1/2
Thickness: 2″ 3/4
Rory Russel

This board was acquired thru E Bay few years back.  Bitchen red pintail RR Bolt w/ white & black bolt.  Rory signed this red beauty “Aloha Bra” Trademark Bolt lam, heal dents, all original, just filled a few dings and polished.  Striking appeal. What is your opinion? (o) 8


deck/bottom

Findetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 8″
Width: 20″ 3/4 
Thickness: 2″ 1/8
Tom Elberly

Classic 19070’s Tom Elberly pintail, clear deck, blue tint spray bottom, trademark bolt lam,  sun faded, water damage.  I sold this last year, but I thought I would throw it in for kicks and giggles.  (7) o


deck/bottom

Findetaildetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions
Length: 6′ 2″
Width: 20″ 3/8
Thickness: 2″ 3/4
Bobby Owens

Bobby Owens moved from Florida to Hawaii where Bobby quickly became an international surfing champion in 1976. He placed in the top 16 four times between 1976 and 1982 when he finished 10th in the world. He gained sponsorship from various surf companies, competing for seven years on the world tour. He is reknown as a master surfer and is still highly respected at Sunset Beach on the North Shore. Bobby is a super nice guy and willing to share his surfing knowledge or surf stories. If you want to meet Bobby, you can find him managing the North Shore Patagonia Store in Haliewa.  Acquired this from cash jack.  All original and striking.  A lot of going on here, with the black checker top and bottom, double bolts, etc.  One of my favorite Bolts in the collection. What do you think?  (o) 10


deck/bottom

Findetaildeck/detail/fin/bottom

Sold
I recently sold this to trade into the checker board above. It was hard to part with, as I have not seen another one.  Some water and delam damage at the tail .  Otherwise all original. (7.5) o


deck/bottom

Findetaildetaildeck/details/fin/bottom

Board Dimensions  – TBD
Length:
Width:
Thickness:

This was an interesting find.  It was listed on SBL Classifieds, I wanted it, but Cash Jack got it first.  Then Cash Jack and I completed a Board Trade.  And Shasham, it has re=appeared in my hands.  I just love this board.  All original Lopez Model. The classic rail bolts with center moon bolt just pop this board into the stars.   A true rare find.  Find another.   (o) 9.5


Just a heads up on the Lightning Bolts. They were licensed out to a variety of individuals, with “Pure Source Certified” licensees making them in California, South Africa, Australia and Brazil.

A lot of the Pure Source were made out of the California made by Danny Brawner, who worked for Hobie, who had the license for the USA mainland and was most likely shaped by Mickey Munoz or Terry Martin. It is very rare to find an actual Gerry Lopez shaped one, and even in Hawaii, there were others shaping them under the authorization of Gerry and Jack Shipley who owned the Bolt label in the early formative days. During it’s hey day of the mid to later 70’s, over 30 different shapers pumped out Bolts: “The Most Frequently Tubed Surfboards in the World”. They had three distinct categories at one stage, known as “Units”, with the “name” surfer/shapers at the top category, the reliable shapers in the next category and the up-and-coming or journeymen shapers in the third category.

Unit 1: Gerry Lopez, Reno Abellira, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Tom Parrish, Jeff Hakman, Owl Chapman, Don Koplein Price: $190.

Unit 2: Rory Russel, Brian Hamilton, Tom Eberly, Peter Trombly, Wayne Santos, Robbie Burns, Cowan Chang, Bill Barnfield, Mark Angel Price: $175

Unit 3: Steve Walden, Russel Kim, Tom Nellis, Brian Hinde, Joe Blair, Bill Stonebraker, Tony Anjo, John Carper, Price $160

So, there are a lot of Bolts floating around out there and while everyone claims it is a “real” Gerry Lopez, only those in the know, really know!

Randy Rarick
Hawaii Surfing Promotions



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  • ray64

    I have a “Gerry Lopez model” and I just picked up a board that may have been shaped by Rory Russell. It has a Rory Russell lam like the Gerry Lopez lam on the tail of the yellow board above. Does anyone know if the board would have been shaped by Rory, or is this a “Rory Russell Model”?

    Thanks,
    Ray

  • Buggs

    Ray,

    These boards are MODELS not hand shaped by either Gerry or Rory. Usually when either hand shaped a board, they would hand write in pencil on the foam and or stringer, “Lopez” “Rory”. Most of the boards you see with rice lam’s along with the Lightening Bolt Lams were being manufactured by Hobie in California. Micky Munoz and others were shaping these. But not that it is not still collectable. Send Photos and I can give you n my opinion what it is worth . info@surfboardlne.com – Buggs

  • R.Roper

    Came across an old lightening bolt tri fin that was shaped by Hienrich Rienhard Von Der Schulenburg any ideas or info would be great.
    Cheers.
    Russel.

  • Buggs

    Russel,

    Not sure, can you send me photos of this board? Randy Rarick May know the answer to your question. Yet, send Photos.

    Buggs

  • Pingback: Surfboards lighting bolt | Jezsez()

  • Steve Powers

    Randy I was one of the team that started this great company and lifestyle source. I have an original hollow balsa Bolt board shapped by Parrish which is a center piece at my home. It was given to me by Duke and Jerry at an award dinner. Never wet or waxed but in many of our ads.

  • Buggs

    SICK!!!!! Please share photos, email to info@surfboardline.com or Show your quiver. Advise as interested. Buggs

  • Bill

    Russel  

    Hienrich, is from Brasil, he makes Foam Blanks there.  I met him when he first visited Hawaii in about 1975 or so.  I made him some boards with Lightning Bolts on them.  One was Red opaque if I recall.  He later learned to shape and I coached him a lot along the way.  He worked for G&S and Linden.  I don’t recall him ever making Lightning Bolt boards.  I wonder if the board you have found was one of the ones I made for him?  Back then I would sign the foam with a small BB and the customers name in full.  Often people would see the customers name and think that was the shapers name.  So I enlarged the BB on later boards.

  • Stoneohana

    Is Jack still part of lightning bolt?

  • Bill Barnfield

    Hienrich was/is a Brasilian surfer who first visited Hawaii in about 1974/75.  I made him several boards.  He was a good surfer and one of the original Brasilians to visit Hawaii along with Rico, Pepe and others.  He later began shaping and living in California where he shaped for G&S and later for Lynden.  This was around the time of Tri Fins.  He was a good friend so I helped him to refine his boards by passing on much of my discoveries in solving the problems in fin set ups on early Tri Fins.  He became quite a good shaper and eventually moved back to Brasil where, with his cousin Vincent, began making foam blanks.  I think it is called Rhino Foam these days.  He still lives in Brasil.

  • Nicole

    Wow! My dad is pudgie and good friends with all of you. He still has his lighting bolt boards. 

  • mitch

    Mitch- ATL, GA- I still have my 5.4′ Davey Smith – Red w/ yellow bolt board from 1970 purchased new at Wikiki Lightening Bolt shop. sweet.

  • http://surfboardline.com/ Buggs

    Mitch,

    You want to sell ? send photos,

    Buggs 310 877 6932 cell

  • Steve Gunn

    I just aquired a Lightning Bolt and trying to find any info I can about it. it has Gerry’s name on the right side of the top and a serial # 01134 on near the tail. No other names other than pure source on it. Any idea who shaped it and where?
    Steve

  • Francisco

    Hey guys. I have a 6’6″ Bolt that has the initials BK. Any idea of who the shaper might be?

  • http://surfboardline.com/ Buggs

    Can u send photos?

    Most likely barry kanainaipuni

    B

  • Francisco

    Sure

  • doug

    I had a black lighning bolt in high school back in hawaii. It was a single fin cheyne horan board i was told.

  • LUIS

    IS THE BK SURFBOARD FOR SALE STILL?

  • LUIS

    FRANSCISCO, IS THE BOARD FOR SALE STILL?

  • Kaala

    Most likely Rory



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