REMEMBERING RICH HARBOUR
Rich Harbour was born in 1943 in Seal Beach, California. He started surfing at the age of 16 after receiving a surfboard for a birthday gift. Just a couple of months later, it was stolen out of his garage, leaving Rich boardless and without money to buy a new one. Taking the initiative, Harbour scrounged up a blank, sawed it in half, glued in a redwood stringer and created the first Harbour surfboard.
Before long, word got out in the Seal Beach area about the boards Rich was making, and in 1962 he dropped out of college to open Harbour Surfboards. As demand grew, Rich recruited some great craftsmen to help produce his boards, and he assembled one of the strongest surf teams on the West Coast. Notable members of that team included Jock Sutherland, Mark Martinson, Steve Bigler and Rich Chew.
Harbour Surfboards produced some of the best selling models of the ‘60s, including the Banana, the Cheater and the renowned Trestles Special. All of these boards remain highly collectible.
As the 1960’s drew to an end and the shortboard revolution took hold, Harbour enlisted the help of Robert August to create fresh, new shapes. Always experimenting with rail contours and templates, Rich continued to provide surfers across the U.S. with up-to-date surfboard designs. Utilizing his skills as a precision craftsman, Rich began to build laminated wooden skateboards during the skateboard resurgence of the mid-70’s. He built boards for a number of companies but ultimately decided to leave that side of the industry and keep his focus on surfboards.
Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, Harbour built new models that rode the longboard resurgence sweeping the surfing world at the time. The Nineteen, The San-o, and The Classic were just a few of the boards he introduced during the period. In 2019 and after nearly 60 years of shaping surfboards (more than 32,000 of them, according to Surfer Magazine) and weathering the many changes in the surf industry, he created his final masterpiece.
Then, as health issues took their toll, Rich Harbour died at his Seal Beach home on Sunday, July 11, 2021. The Harbour Surfboards shop remains open, owned and operated by Rich’s long-time business partner, Robert Howson.
Rest in Peace, Rich. You will be remembered as an enduring, understated craftsman and mentor to so many.
Note: My thanks to long time Last Wave customer Tom Malizia for the photos and newspaper articles that went into preparing this short but heartfelt bio on Rich Harbour.
Until next time,