Richard Harbour iconic surfboard maker passes at 77

Seal Beach man was famous figure in the surfing industry

Rich Harbour in his youth, enjoying the Pacific Ocean

Courtesy of the Harbour family 

Seal Beach businessman and surfboard legend Rich Harbour died last Sunday, July 11. The family issued a statement announcing the sad news Monday, July 12. Harbour was a surfing industry legend.

“It is with a heavy heart, we announce the passing of legendary Seal Beach shaper Richard Harbour, at his home surrounded by Family the evening of July 11,” according to a statement issued by the family. News of Harbour’s passing prompted 178 comments on the Harbour Surfboards Facebook page. 

“I’m very sad right now,” said Michael Pless of M&M Surfing School.

Harbour made a special board for Pless’s surfin’ Santa.

Pless described Harbour as a great person for Seal Beach and the surfing world. Pless said Harbour strived to make the surfing world better for everyone.

The Encyclopedia of Surfing described him as an “understated surfboard manufacturer.”

In Seal Beach, he was an icon. To his family, he was a husband, a father, and a grandfather. In 2013, as part of the Seal Beach 98th anniversary celebration, the Founders Day Committee held a “Surf, Sand and Song”-themed concert in Harbour’s honor. In 2019, Surfer magazine credited Habour Surfboards with creating more than 32,000 surfboards.

According to the Harbour Surfboards website, he was inspired to shape his own surfboard after his was stolen from his parents’ garage.

The following is from the Harbour family’s statement:

“Rich was born in 1943 (to Raymond and Alice Harbour). He was raised in Seal Beach, California where he shaped his first surfboard at age 16. Two years later and with the help of his father, Rich got his business license and Harbour Surfboards was created.

“Rich lived out his passion making surfboards on Main Street for 62 years.  Starting in 1959, Rich Harbour was an early pioneer in the southern California surfboard building scene and his surfboards and eponymous brand, Harbour Surfboards, have gone on to be recognized as a true classic Californian surfboard label sought after by enthusiasts all over the world. Over the years, Seal Beach and Harbour Surfboards have almost become synonymous when recognized around the world—always being a point of connection with others.

“Rich was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, in 2004. In 2009, a 50-year curated retrospective exhibition was held at Orange Coast College alongside the release of his book, “Harbour Chronicles (A life in Surfboard Culture),”  and in 2011, Harbour was inducted into the shapers hall of fame, in Dana Point.

“The Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center presented a retrospective of him and his work in 2017.

“In 2019, Rich Harbour was honored in Huntington Beach once again with a curated show celebrating 60 years of Surfboard Craftsmanship. The event was attended by generations of shop employees and team riders from the past 60 years, as well as innumerable guests and pilgrims who made the journey from across the globe to Celebrate Rich Harbour’s career and dedication to the sport, craft and culture of surfing. That same year he was also recognized by Seal Beach City Council.

“Rich passed on Sunday, July 11, 2021 surrounded by all of his loves. He is survived by his wife Helen; his children Melissa Harbour-Hennessy, Carrie Harbour-Nolan and Paul Lawler; grandchildren Ava Hennessy, Isla Hennessy, Elena Nolan, Myles Nolan and Harrison Nolan; brother Alan and his wife Pauline and nieces Teri and Sandi.

“Rich was an incredible dad not only to his own kids but a father figure to so many others in town taking so many into his world of surfboard making, mentoring and guiding them into their own respective careers in the industry. His surfboards and legacy will live on forever.

“A celebration of his life will be forthcoming in the city of Seal Beach which meant so much to him.