Rest In Peace, Rich Harbour - Stab Mag
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Rest In Peace, Rich Harbour

The Father of the South Bay Surf Industry.

elsewhere // Jul 13, 2021
Words by Jack Mutschler
Reading Time: 3 minutes

It has become hard to keep pace with the rate at which surfing’s cultural icons are falling.

In the last few years, Derek Ho, Ben Aipa, Bruce Brown, Greg Noll just this month…

And today, it is with a heavy heart we bring news of the death of Rich Harbour, of Harbour Surfboards. 

Rich Harbour

The Orange County Register reports today that “Harbour, 77, died on Sunday, July 11, surrounded by family and friends at his Seal Beach home.”

The son of an aircraft machinist, and often referred to as the Father of the South Bay Surf Industry, Harbour was born in 1943 in Seal Beach, where at just 16 he would open Harbour Surfboards in 1959.

According to Harbour, “Almost 60 years ago, Rich Harbour’s prized, albeit beat-up and used surfboard was stolen from his parent’s garage, forcing him to shape one of his own as a replacement.  It wasn’t long before many of the locals were asking Rich to make their surfboards. Soon Harbour’s boards were gracing the pages of Surfer Magazine underneath the feet of the era’s most respected surfers.” 

“The 60-year-old shop is rooted in the art of shaping high-quality surfboards, an ethos fostered by owner Rich Harbour,” wrote Surfer Magazine, accompanying a Shop Profile. “Since the opening of his eponymous enterprise in 1959, he and his team have created more than 32,000 boards.” Famous models of Rich’s include the iconic 1960s Trestles Special, and the Shortboard Revolution smash hit the Spherical Revolver, 

Harbour surf team in the 1960s was world class, with everyone from Corky Carrol and Jock Sutherland, to Steve Biggler and a teenage Herbie Fletcher. 

According to Surfer, “Rich Harbour might be best known for his open-door policy–giving a home to some of surfing’s greatest influences. Dick Brewer spent his first year shaping under Harbour. Surf photographer and photo editor Larry “Flame” Moore’s first water housing was built by Harbour.

Rich Harbour

Steve Pezman spent his early journalism years hanging around the shop, as did Gerry Lopez during his California travels. Needless to say, Harbour’s generosity has left a mark on his community and continues to do so today.”

“I think he would say he lived a complete life with no regrets and (he was) happy he accomplished everything he could,” longtime business partner Robert Howson, who bought and operates the Harbour Surf Shop retail operation, told the Orange Country Register. 

(Listen to an interview with Rich on LAIst, here. )

Harbour is survived by wife Helen Harbour, daughters Melissa Harbour-Hennessy and Carrie Harbour-Nolan, son Paul Lawler and five grandchildren.

Posting on the Harbour Surfboards Instagram, the family had this to say about their Patron:

It is with the heaviest heart we announce the passing of our founder, icon, father, friend, mentor and so much more. Rich passed yesterday evening at his home surrounded by love. Our family has been touched by the outpouring of love and stories. He will be deeply missed but we are consoled knowing he’s probably already setting up shop and mowing foam somewhere in the sky. We want to thank him for everything and let him know that the story of Harbour Surfboards will continue… We love you.

Rest In Power, Rich.

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