by Corky Carroll
I just got a message telling me that Pacific City, in Huntington Beach, is holding a celebration in honor of Harbour Surfboards 60th anniversary in business. It runs now through May 5th and includes exhibitions, surf films and all kinds of fun stuff. I was thinking that this is pretty cool and it jarred loose some great memories that I have from when Richard Harbour first started making boards in Seal Beach.
Like most surfboard shapers Rich started out knocking out garage boards, but it didn’t take long to see that he had a talent for it and, as surfing was just about to blossom into a full-fledged national fad, he was in the right place at the right time. Gidget had just hit the screen and Frankie and Annette, the former Mousekateer with boobs, were soon to follow. With the support of his mom he was able to open up his business in a very nice little shop right across from the Bay Theater on Main Street.
Sometime around 1961 Rich offered to sponsor me with free boards. The best deals I had before that were “free color” from OLE and “free color and all the stringers I wanted” from SURFBOARDS BY THE CROW. Getting a real sponsor and free boards was a huge step in my surfing career. Rich and I became pals and it was on a beautiful glassy summer afternoon that he took me to Cotton’s Point, a surf spot at the south end of San Clemente, for my first time. This was the beginning of a long love affair I had with that spot. He also started taking me to surf contests up and down the coast along with two other local up and coming surf kids, Danny Lenahan and Eddie Bonham.
In 1962 he made me a magical board that had a beautiful purple and white color job on it. Rich was not only a great shaper, but he also did incredible fiberglassing and color work, one of those guys who could do the whole board himself. I got a cool looking pair of surf trunks custom made from Nancy and Walter Katin that were white with stripes down the side, matched up perfectly with my new board. If nothing else, I looked dam good coming down the beach. In August of that year Rich took me to the San Clemente Surf Capades, the first contest on my new board. It was my very first contest win. Up until then I had never even made it out of a preliminary heat. This was a real life changer and what gave me the confidence to decide that somehow, someway, I was going to become a top surfer and was going to make my living that way. I was so proud of winning that trophy that I had Rich drop me off at the end of our street so I could show it off to all the neighbors on the way home. One of them, Jerry Motes, told me to not let it go to my head. Obviously I didn’t listen to those words of advice. Also, the first time I had my picture in SURFER magazine was in a HARBOUR SURFBOARDS ad, along with Rich Chew. My time with Rich was instrumental in planting the seeds to my life as a surfer, which is thankfully still going.
As time went on I would move down to the south end of the county and went to work for HOBIE in Dana Point. Rich and I have remained friends for all of these years and I always have thought of him as my “Uncle Harbie,” as he was more like an uncle or family member to me than simply a guy who made my surfboards. I have always respected his craftsmanship and the fact that he has been able to survive in the surfboard business all these years. This is a HUGE accomplishment; it is not an easy business. Most board builders have clothing lines and huge chain stores to get by. He is still in that same shop on Main Street in Seal Beach and still making excellent surfboards, no big hype, no additives or glamor ad campaigns. Just a quality product and the love of making them and being a surfer. Happy 60th Uncle Harbie, you rock.