George Olson Passed Away Last Week

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viejo's picture
Joined: 09/10/2004

I heard from friends in Santa Cruz that Geoge passed away. Some of you may have known George or knew of him. He was a great sailor, craftsman and designer. He shaped boards for Jack Oneill in the sixties, had his own shop for a while, Olson surf boards, after that he began working on sail boats. He worked with Bill Lee on the ultra light boats before starting, with his wife, his own boat works designing and making some very successful boats. I know his friends in Santa Cruz will miss him.

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KirkPutnam's picture
Joined: 03/18/2004

George built some really nice boats , I was takin by one boat so much I did a painting of it.

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yoyo's picture
Joined: 12/10/2007

Sorry to hear the news - my condolences to his family and friends.

I didnt know George personnaly but I have spent many hours/days sailing his boats of various sizes. His boats are still great looking, tough and a blast to sail 20yrs after they first touched water. Definately one of the core players from the Santa Cruz hotbed for ultralight racing yacht development that started in the late 70's early 80's.

To this day one of the best times I have had was on one of his 40 footers. 3-4 days of non-stop open ocean surfing on the way to hawaii. Hooting, hollering, wind, sun, spray -- it doesnt get any more fun than that.

George may you always have fair winds and smooth seas....

yoyo

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pcinsc's picture
Joined: 03/18/2004

http://www.olson30.org/theboat/georgeolson.html

I got away from surfing and started sailing in the mid-late 70's as Santa Cruz was creating what were to become ULDBs. I never got to know George except to nod hellos, but I did become friendly with his partner (wife?) Ln Neale. I had taken a photo of (sorry, forget his name but know exactly who he is) singlehanding his 030 and sold it to them for print ads. She thanked me many years later for helping them sell so many boats because of the photo. Those were incredibly fun days, hanging around the old Aldo's hoist and watching the antics of all the guys that were part of the George Olson/Bill Lee crowd. The 030 is a timeless design - good looking, fast, and scary downwind in a blow. The boat I sailed on may have made it as high as third in the Nationals, with at least a few top 10 placings. Didn't care really, just enjoyed the work and fun generated by those boats. Many credit him with designing Merlin.
His surfboard decal was classic.

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sadony's picture
Joined: 06/17/2006

sorry to hear that george has passed.. i didnt know him, but my first surfboard was a 10 foot olson.. it was around 1965 ... his boards were really popular back then.. and yes that decal was really cool ... i used to see it everywhere... thanks for the great board george...

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SammyA's picture
Joined: 01/14/2006

Quote:


Those were incredibly fun days, hanging around the old Aldo's hoist and watching the antics of all the guys that were part of the George Olson/Bill Lee crowd. The 030 is a timeless design - good looking, fast, and scary downwind in a blow. The boat I sailed on may have made it as high as third in the Nationals, with at least a few top 10 placings. Didn't care really, just enjoyed the work and fun generated by those boats. Many credit him with designing Merlin.
His surfboard decal was classic.

I spent three Winters in SC. 1979,80, and 81. Went sailing a few times with Homer Lighthall (?) on his boat. I recall that Homer was into something called light displacement hulls. A good friend of mine knew Homer well and was involved in the harbor 'scene'. He specialized in wooden boat repair. As I recall, Homer designed the Santa Cruz 27 (?). The name "Merlin" rings a bell. Somewhere, I have an old SC newspaper ("Senile"?) with an article about Homer and his boats. I'll try to find it.

Anyway, here's an Olson ad from 1964, and part of a Hang Ten ad with Doug Haut holding an Olson. You might recognize the kid and the other guy in the photo.





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merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assorted

pcinsc's picture
Joined: 03/18/2004

http://forums.sailinganarchy.com/index.php?showtopic=82290&hl=george+olson

Quote:

Went sailing a few times with Homer Lighthall (?) on his boat. I recall that Homer was into something called light displacement hulls.

Homer has been pretty sucessful with boat repair - large projects and small. His Lighthall 30 was stored for years in a yard on 7th right outside the doors to the shop where Olson built and sold his surfboards.

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A good friend of mine knew Homer well and was involved in the harbor 'scene'. He specialized in wooden boat repair.

Initials "B.M." and currently working on boats in the south of France?

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As I recall, Homer designed the Santa Cruz 27 (?).

Bill Lee designed it (along with the Highway Patrol - many boats of that time were deisgned to be under the maximum width for trailering. I kind-of recall some joking that the Olson 30 fudged the rule a little figuring the cops wouldn't actually measure it)

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The name "Merlin" rings a bell.

The 67' "Merlin" was built in chicken coop on a hill just outside of Soquel.
From Wikipedia - In 1977 the yacht "Merlin", designed by Bill Lee, set a elapsed time record of 8 days, 11 hours,1 minute. This record would stand for 20 years. Ending "Merlin's" record a new monohull elapsed time record of 7 days, 11 hours 41 minutes and 27 seconds was set by Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket, a 73 foot maxi ultralight designed by Reichel/Pugh in the 1997 Transpac Race.

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DougHaut's picture
Joined: 07/02/2008

George was one of a kind. He taught me about craftmanship and taking the extra time to do things right. I was shaping for him in the early 60's and remember his shop on 7th Ave. What a time in Santa Cruz history.

The photo was taken at Steamer Lane with the Hang Ten Crew. The little guy is Pat O'Neil and the guy next to me is Billy Hamilton. Not shown was Tommy Lee.

We'll miss you George, may your sails always be full.

Doug Haut

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DEADSHAPER's picture
Joined: 03/23/2007

Hey DH...didn't know you were on this site........all these memories pull some heart strings. I have keen appreciation for Olson and remember those early ads quite well. I had them in a pile of old mags that I left at my Pleasure Point house when I blew out of SC and came back to Santa Barbara. I had a ton of them all the way back to Griffin's Murphy cover along with Surf Guide and others......someone made off with them the second I left!

Boat building takes such dedication, mine came at an early age building work boats with the Radon boys and their dad in Santa Barbara. Not the things of beauty like Olson's.....these were their famous design for ab and urchin diving.......beefy strong boats with planing vees and low rails perfectly suited to their purpose. Plywood, mat and roving...........god I hated grinding them! It wasn't until much later that the molds came in and Don sold to the big boat company.

I'm glad to see you still in the game. Olson did the boards, and the boats, and I remember when I came to O'neill's in early 80' how you had a brief time of fatigue & disenchantment, and asked me to get O'neill to buy you out.......but sailboards kicked in and rejuvenated all of us shortly thereafter. Let me know how Steve is getting on after his scare.........he was the kindest guy to me durng my stint at the O shop........will never forget it.

Olson truly siginifies an era.......there was such a golden age in Santa Cruz......Olson was there. He will always have a place in my memory...........may he ride the perfect wave of eternity.

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karan's picture
Joined: 03/19/2010
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easternpacific's picture
Joined: 03/18/2004

Quote:


I heard from friends in Santa Cruz that Geoge passed away. Some of you may have known George or knew of him. He was a great sailor, craftsman and designer. He shaped boards for Jack Oneill in the sixties, had his own shop for a while, Olson surf boards, after that he began working on sail boats. He worked with Bill Lee on the ultra light boats before starting, with his wife, his own boat works designing and making some very successful boats. I know his friends in Santa Cruz will miss him.



http://www.moore24.org/moore/boatOfMonth.html
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MikeDaniel's picture
Joined: 05/03/2007

Quote:

http://www.moore24.org/moore/boatOfMonth.html



Great link there, I love the part about jamming the 2 x 4s in the mold to gain some beam. True caveman engineering.

Nice to know this man will be remembered for his work.
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mintu's picture
Joined: 03/11/2010

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afoaf's picture
Joined: 12/19/2007

I'm still freaking out on this guy...does anyone know his friends/family?

He was born the same year my grandfather's brother passed away.

My family is Danish, but the joke was we had a "Swede in the wood pile" since the Danes are usually
Olsen and the Swedes, Olson....our family name is Olson.

When I started fiddling with cabinetry and watercraft I felt like I had tapped in to something deeper
than just a weekend hobby...I learned from some of my elder family members about the history within
the family lineage related to woodworking and boatbuilding...it almost feels genetic; my forefathers
were all engineers and craftsmen.


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llilibel03's picture
Joined: 04/21/2005

I started sailing when I was about 10 with my uncle. It was all racing. One day I see this boat that was visibly going so much faster than all the other boats, I was like "What's THAT?!" The folks on my boat told me it was an Olson 30, but kind of dismissed it because it "had to beat 4O foot boats to win."

For those of you who don't know, it was back in a time when there was a rating rule which handicapped boats- the IOR. They started designing boats with all these unnatural bumps to get a better handicap, to win on "corrected time." Then along come these crazy Santa Cruz guys who said, "To hell with the corrected time, let's be the first to finish because fast is fun." Bill Lee had a classic quote, "I prefer the sensation of going fast over the sensation of winning a trophy."

The boats they introduced were so much cleaner, so much faster, that they changed the rules of the game. Because they did beat the 40 footers.

To this day Olson's boat are one of my favorite flavors of "eyecandy."

These photos don't do the boat justice.



RIP George. Thanks for the ride.

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rh476's picture
Joined: 08/22/2008

George grew up next door to me He would stay at his Grandparents whom lived next door and George and Darlene his sister would stay most summers, This was in the late 50s ,George was A couple years older than myself and Darlene was the same age.They moved to Santa Cruz 57 or 58 full time. At this time was an accomplished sailor as His father was in the Navy and as A navy brat George took up sailing small boats at Navy basis, later when he moved to Santa cruz we turned Him onto surfing and George being the thinker and craftsman that He was took up shapping and applied sailboat therory to surfboards bottoms and would come with allsorts of ideas some worked and some did not.

Later we all started working for Jack O'neil an I just found an old Santa Cruz Sentinel article and picture of Jack,George and Myself classic Santa Cruz Sentinal stuff in it.

Than when George started Olson surfboards He would not let me be A partner until I flunked the draft, which I succeded in doing in short order and we partnered up for A couple years. George's passion was always sailing and George ,WayneCocker,George Aurther and myself somehow got A Dinghy which later became the Jester after being modified to Georges hull changes to make it function closer to sailing on A plaining surface.

Along with the surfboard making he started thinking along the lines of surfing a sailboat and started thinking of lightweight composite construction
and we started A I believe 30 ft boat it was classic we did not have any money and had to steal bus benches for the gunnels because they were marine plywood so if you looked into the interior you would see Ideal Fish Resturent or Stagneros Fish grotto. I was the grunt that George would come up with some ideas and I would always say I can do that and I think George would tolerate me but George taught me many things that You can only learn from A true Craftsman and I was always eager for the lesson.

George and I went in defferent directions and would meet every so often and I was fortunate to sit and have some wine at Betty VanDykes 70th, it was like old times A lot of laughing and the stories get better with time and I could still see George that night rolling his eye's as I was telling A story ready to reveal how I screwed up some how.

I hope someday we can hear of all of Georges's accomplishments because there was sure A lot

Richard NovakQuote:


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railrax's picture
Joined: 05/04/2009

Hello to all of you who have written about George Olson.  He was my partner, husband, best friend and lover for 34 years.  I just found this site today (May 4, 2009) and read the entries and although no one may ever read this, it is important to me to thank you for you words.  If anyone wants to contact me, my email address is [email protected].  George and I lived in Santa Cruz on 37th Ave. for 15 years and then moved to Aromas in 1991.  After moving here, he did not ocean sail much, but started building a 1926 Model Speedster.  It took him four years and he did it by himself, including making the frame, the brackets, the gas tank, trunk, steering wheel (wood) dash (wood) rolled the aluminum for the body, and painted the car.  He also assembled all the parts which have original Model T parts, 1939 Chevy parts, Stromberg carbs, modern coil, Volkswagon distributor, andother parts I have forgotten.  He was an extrodinary man and a great artist/craftsman. Towards the end he became interested in radio controlled model yachts and restored a Gus Lassal Marblehead, made a mold off it and his son (Adrian) makes and sells them. 

He was also humble, kind, a great deal of fun to work and do stuff with, and very loving.  I tooted his horn, he never did.  I love him and miss him every day.  lyn neale olson

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railrax's picture
Joined: 05/04/2009

Hello, I am George Olson's widow and was his wife and partner for 34 years.  I know his family history, family members and and can answer any questions you may have about him.  lyn neale olson.  [email protected], May 4, 2009

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tibuan's picture
tibuan (not verified)

I send my condolonces. He will be remembered especially his works.

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railrax's picture
Joined: 05/04/2009

Thank you for your condolence.  Lyn Neale Olson (June 26, 2009)

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viejo's picture
Joined: 09/10/2004

Lyn, Thanks for sharing. See you 0n 9/19.  Dick P

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railrax's picture
Joined: 05/04/2009

Viejo - do you remember how to get here??? lyn

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railrax's picture
Joined: 05/04/2009

PC:  Are you still planning on coming to the George Olson Event on Sept 19??  Will you need directions?  lyn

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pmiburtons's picture
Joined: 09/21/2009

Dear Lyn, thank you so much for inviting us to this wonderful tribute to George.  He was such a humble man we had no idea how talented he was and how much he had achieved in his lifetime.  The amount of friends that were there and shared their stories was overwhelming for sure.  Our very best wishes to you and your family.

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Joined: 03/19/2010
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