Matador surfboards started back in 1961 by Surfing Hall of Fame's Richard Lisiewski. Richard made his first wooden, hollow, finless surfboard in the mid-1940s and riding it in Seaside, NJ. After only a few sessions on the board Richard was riding home to north Jersey when the board blew off the top of the car and was destroyed by a tractor trailer (remember, there were no surf racks yet). So with his first board destroyed Richard went back to the drawing board. The next board came out slightly better than the first and was always strapped tight to the top of the car. In fact, we still have it on exhibit at the New Jersey Surfing Museum in Tuckerton, NJ. From the mid-1940s to 1960 Richard rode this board all over the Jersey-New York area, from Atlantic City to Montauk, NY, most of the time surfing alone. Then while traveling in California and Mexico he saw lots of guys riding the new foam boards and he knew he had to have one. But once back in NJ Richard realized that the foam board had not really made it back to the east coast. The opportunity to turn his passion into a career was now open and in 1961 Richard decided to start a surfboard label. But what to call it? After spending time in Mexico watching the bullfights, Richard decided that Matador was an appropriate name. There was a lot of similiarities between the grace and style of the bullfighter and a surfer. The same soul arch as a noserider, the same love of the danger, and the closer you got to the critical spot the more you were applauded. Simply put, it was all about the style, grace and courage!
Matador Surfboards went into mass production in 1962 after Richard's family sold their bar and restaurant business. Along with partner Frank Collier, Richard established a factory in Riverside, NJ where he utilized his board making skills and incorporated his lifelong love of the ocean to make his dream a reality. The first few years were full of trial and error. Richard had made only a handful of hollow wooden boards, but paired with Frank's master woodworking skills the two began shaping and glassing foam boards. Soon the two board makers were shaping faster and more efficiently--Matador surfboard company was literally taking shape. As surfing's popularity grew the handshaped Matador boards became a "pop-out" for a couple years to meet the demand, while the custom boards were labeled Collier Custom Surfboards. As their board making skills improved and their knowledge expanded, Richard and Frank sw the opportunity to branch out into other manufacturing areas. They soon began to produce not only surfboards but also skateboards, belly boards, skimboards, wakeboards, and even buoys, but surfboards were their primary product. And as demand for boards began to grow, the Matador guys started shaping boards for other labels including Caribbean, Cheetah, Continental, Curcio, Cutlass, International, Pecks Beach, Seahorse and Wavemaster. Matador also developed a close relationship with Foss foam and even had the rights to make Foss' brands on the east coast. The beauty of this relationship is that it elminated shipping coasts--another brillant business move by the Matador label. Matador boards soon became known for their strong glassing, ornated wood inlays and innovative stripes and figure eight stringer designs. All of this innovation was recognized by some of the bigger label surfboads and was soon replicated in their designs. And it was not just the surfboard industry that was taking notice. Companies like Kodak and Chevron were using Matador boards in their advertising while big retail stores like Macys and JC Penny's were ordering surfboards. On the sales front things couldn't have been better but the location of their first and second factory was causing some problems. The resin fumes caused eviction in 1965 and 1966 and as a result, Richard and Frannk had to halt production of Matador surfboards. Despite receiving plenty of high volume orders and already producing thousands of boards, Matador could not find a suitable new factory location. It was at this point that the future of Matador surfboards looked uncertain. Frank decided it was time to return to his woodworking craft but Richard was unwilling to leave the surf industry. It was at this point that Richard opened Brant Beach Surf Shop on Long Beach Island in NJ and began selling off the existing inventory. In the late 1960s Richard continued to shape a few custom boards out of his mother's house, but the days of mass production were done--or werre they?