Futuristic Tennis Racquet: Historic 1977 Ilikai Grand Prix—Hawaii

Mysterious $800 Futuristic Tennis Racquet

Would you pay $800 for a new state of the art futuristic tennis racquet? That’s how much this mysterious racquet would cost if you bought it today! 

I first laid eyes on this historic but then revolutionary coal-black racquet with yellow racing stripes in 1977. I had volunteered as a junior linesman for the Surf Resorts Cup at the Kona Resort Hotel, the Ilikai Grand Prix’s second leg.

Ilikai Grand Prix – Six Tournaments on Four Islands

Sixteen of Hawaii’s best local teaching pros and amateur players competed from March through June.

  • $30,000 in prize money
  • Player ages ranged from 17 (David Andrews) to 52 (Dooley Kam) 
  • Other players included: Peter Burwash, Don (Sunlight) Gerstmar, Peter Isaak, Jay Paulson, Glenn Gerstmar, Greg Peebles, Charlie Panui, Randy Lim, Jim Schwitters, Gregg Lee, Rick Aquino, and Van Smith. 

Peter Burwash – Winner and the Owner of the Mysterious Innovative Black Tennis Racquet

He was a former world-ranked player and Canadian Davis Cup player who played in 24 different countries – winning 19 national titles. Peter won the Ilikai Grand Prix title by the slimmest of margins over Sunlight Gerstmar. Tied in Grand Prix points, Burwash edged out Gerstmar by a better percentage of games won and lost.  

After his pro career, he established Peter Burwash International, which manages tennis operations at clubs and resorts worldwide. He also became an author, motivational speaker, television commentator, and coached some prominent tennis players.

Ilikai Grand Prix
General Manager of the Ilikai Hotel, Bill Hulett (left) with Grand Prix point winners — (from left) 3rd place: Peter Isaak, 1st place: Peter Burwash, and 2nd place: Sunlight Gerstmar

Aldila Cannon – The First Graphite Tennis Racquet

Back then, tennis players either played with a wood or metal racquet. Enter the futuristic invincible continuous graphite fiber and Kevlar tennis racquet — heat resistant and virtually indestructible. It didn’t warp and get mushy like wood. And it didn’t fatigue like metal. 

The cost? Well, to put things in perspective, my Garcia Pro 240 wood racquet cost me $30, and in today’s economy, it would cost about $120. The Aldila Cannon’s price tag was an unprecedented $200, which equates to $800 today!

What did you get for $200?

  • Thinnest aerodynamic frame on the market, allowing considerably better maneuverability.
  • One-piece solid urethane foam handle molded to the frame for more effective shock absorption.  
  • Faster serves and livelier shots with control.
  • Stiffer head eliminated torque and increased the size of the sweet spot.
Aldila Futuristic Tennis Racquet

This futuristic Cannon tennis racquet was produced in 1977 by an American company, Aldila Incorporated. They were the originator of the graphite golf shafts.

Aldila’s innovative tennis racquet started the evolution of graphite frames and was the model other companies tried to copy. 

In case you’re wondering about the racquet specifications, here’s a racquet that’s strung with Victor Imperial natural gut and a calfskin leather grip.

  • Head size – 73 sq. in
  • Weight – 12.7 oz
  • Stiffness – 59 RDC
  • Swingweight – 351 
  • String Pattern – 16×20

Today’s Racquet Technology 

Maybe some of you are too young to have ever played with a wood or metal racquet, but if you played tennis in that era, I’m sure it didn’t take you long to convert to a graphite racquet as the price tag became more reasonable.

Most quality racquets in today’s market go for about $200. We should all be happy that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune with today’s technology!

It would be nice to hear from you, so please comment below. What was your first racquet? 

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Albert Murata

You could find Director of Tennis for the Royal Kona Resort Tennis Club, Albert Murata, stringing racquets in the AM Stringing Pro Shop or Pro Circuit events, teaching on the courts, coaching a youth tennis team, or playing league tennis! He has a long history in the tennis community from Kona to Oahu.

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