A keen student of weather and its impact on swell formation, Downing blended this knowledge with surfboard theory and construction. He not only created one of the earliest quivers with subtle variations in length, rockerand volume, but in 1950, produced the first board for truly big surf, and it soon became the template for all serious surfers. While the Hot Curl was finless, Downing’s 10-foot “Rocket” had the first removable fin. George and others like Walter Hoffman and Buzzy Trent, cracked first the 20, then 30-foot barrier at Makaha riding the innovative Rocket.
As a competitor, George won the Makaha International in 1954, 1961 and 1965, finished seventh at the 1965 World Championships and second at the 1967 Duke. He coached the Hawaiian team to victory in the 1968 World Surfing Championships and set numerous paddling records from 100 yards to one mile. As a businessman George Downing created the venerable Downing Surfboards, which his son Keone continues, and has worked to prevent the corporatization of the Waikiki beach concessions.
Mentor to dozens of Hawaiian surfers over the years, Downing also worked as one of the famed Waikiki beachboys for more than three decades. The longtime contest director of the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event, George Downing holds an important place in surfing culture.