4: TUNNEL BOARD
I made my first video appearance at 10 years old on another one of the early kneeboards. Tunnel Board was founded by my uncle Mike and Andy Remy. The gas crunch was over, and with that Mike and Andy opened two businesses at the same time in 1976. The first was Murphy’s Water Ski School and Pro Shop on the Parker Strip of the Colorado River. The second, Tunnel Board, was formed because both men had valuable experience in the first two kneeboard manufacturers.
The first Tunnel Boards went on sale in January, 1977 [i]. The boards were fiberglass, with neutral flotation like the original Knee Ski. The boards had attractive graphics, a high performance profile with a beveled edge, and for the first time in a kneeboard, contoured ankle pads. One of the first promotions for Tunnel Board was a short film for boat shows and dealers, and Mike asked me to ride. I received my first free swim trunks for the shoot, a pair of yellow Kanvas by Katins which hung down to my shins. My memorable appearance in the movie was a side-by-side beach start with my grandma Murphy. She started forward and I started backward. We slid off the beach I pulled off a few spins, then gave grandma a pat on the back. The voice over said, “watch as grandmother and grandson bridge the generation gap and enjoy the fun of the Tunnel Board”.
My First Pro Video Ride with Grandma Murphy (from Tony Klarich, in the Wake of Mike Murphy)
Murphy Joined Forces with Andy Remy to Launch Tunnel Board
Initial sales were consumer direct only, but dealers eventually wanted in on the latest high performance kneeboard. Tunnel Board was making money by selling fewer boards with higher profit margins, and Mike wanted to keep it that way. Andy wanted to go for the gold with the dealers. So Mike and Andy parted ways amiably; with Mike taking the ski shop, and Andy taking Tunnel Board.
Tunnel Board was generally considered to be a better performer than Glide Slide, or the fledgling Hydroslide, but once again the higher price of a labor-intensive fiberglass board prevented mass acceptance. Kneeboards were still considered toys and most people went for the cheaper foam filled models increasingly available in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
[i] Terrence Dorner, “On Your Knees: Kneeboarding,” Spray’s WaterSki, July, 1983, 47-48.
Images (used with permission)
“Adventures in Water Skiing: Part 2, Kneeboarding,” photo Rick Doyle, 1994.
“Tunnel Board Ad – Murphy,” Spray, July 1979, 32.
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Mark Reidell Ad – Former World Record Holder in 1/4 mile barefoot drags
1982 Ad – with Andy Remy Throwing a Wake 360