It was 1959 when I shaped my first surfboard. Surfboard making was still in its infancy – there were just a handful of people on this planet that had a clue to the method of shaping a surfboard. I dove in head first, typical of a young lad who had just turned 16. After all, I was quite the whiz at repairing surfboards, so how could a full sized surfboard be much different than a little repair? Needless to say, it was not a great shape job, but this was the beginning of teaching myself the art of surfboard shaping and design.
Surfboard number’s 2 and 3 were an amazing improvement and soon I began to make boards for many of those who laughed at number 1. By 1963 I was out of garages and I had rented a shop. Within a year I had so many orders that it was not possible to keep up, so I trained Dean Elliott to shape. He turned out to be an incredible craftsman and is responsible for many of the Cheaters, Bananas and Trestle Specials of that era. By early 1964 the two of us could not deliver enough shape jobs per week, so I hired Mike Marshall, who had been shown the basics by Newport Beach shaping legend Joe Quigg. Mike had some design input and did the shaping of the first Trestle Special.
By late 1964 the 3 shaping stalls in the rear of the Main Street Seal Beach show room were just not enough. Since the boards were being glassed in Costa Mesa, and most of the shaping staff lived in that area, it was decided to open a satellite shaping room in that city. Five shaping stalls were erected and I found a shaper by the name of John Graye. He was too slow for Hobie’s likes but was an incredible shaper. “JG” was hired and we now had about the best staff of shapers anywhere. It was truly the shaping “Dream Team.” Since the north shore of Hawaii was flat in the summer, Dick Brewer spent summers on the California mainland shaping, and in 1966 he became a member of the Harbour’s shaping Dream Team. This was the golden age of surfboard making.
But by 1967, boards became shorter, and soon we were shaping 6-0’s instead of 9-0’s. Surfers began experimenting in their garages and the volume of orders dropped off. The shaping staff was now Elliott, Graye, Marshall and me. But it was still slowing and by the end of’67 it was just Mike Marshall and me. Back yard shapers were still gaining a foothold causing Marshall to go back to full time teaching American history.
Robert August had spent several years on Jacobs’ shaping staff but was now looking for work. So I hired him to try to give a little “shot in the arm” to the business. In the summer of 1970 we were busy enough to hire Rick James. Rick was a former Greg Noll shaper and very good at the art of shaping.
By 1972 August and James were gone and I hired Del Miller who has a great “under ground” reputation. He lasted about a year and I decided to teach Kurt Augsburger to shape, and he soon became very good at it. Kurt was the main man while I delved into making skateboard decks - the Harbour Skateboard era is a whole other story for another Sunday...
By the middle ‘70’s Kurt was married and his wife informed him that it was not possible to buy a house and raise a family on a shaper’s wages. So Kurt left and I decided to do all of the shaping myself. This lasted about 10 years, me doing all of the shaping, spray painting the blanks, glassing and polishing every board.
By the middle of the 1990’s my osteoarthritis was becoming more serious. There was a time where my back got so bad that I brought in Jack Sykes who really helped me while I was down. This was somewhere around 1996. I got back into it but by 1998 Chas Wickwire, who was on my glassing staff, wanted me to teach him to shape. My shoulders were now hurting from shaping so I taught him. He soon decided to go out on his own so I decided to teach another young glassing talent by the name of Tim Stamps. This was in the late ‘90’s and Tim Stayed on board until 2013 when his own brand of boards became so big that he just could not find enough time to do his and mine. Tim however, has never completely left the Harbour shape team. He is still instrumental in our design development taking us seamlessly into the era of digital surfboard design. We still bounce design ideas back and forth constantly. I consider myself a very fortunate guy to have craftsman of his caliber still on board our shape team.
So in 2013 Kurt Augsburger heard that I needed some help in the shaping booth. Since he was now retired (from a real job with the phone company), a part time shaping job was a perfect fit. It was welcome home Kurt, but he didn’t want to be held down to the responsibility of all of the orders. Steve Farwell, another craftsman, long time Harbour ambassador and Newport local, who had had some instruction from Mike Marshall, came aboard as well. He turned out to be the multi stringer and nose and tail block specialist!
So that’s where we stand as we go forward in the 20-teens. We have a stable of supreme craftsmen adding their talents to the legacy that is so engraved in Harbour’s history of master shaping talent.