Iconic Seal Beach sculptor Rich Harbor dies at 77
On Sunday, On July 11, Rich Harbor passed away at the age of 77 surrounded by family and friends at his Seal Beach home. The surf shop he opened on Main Street in 1962 still stands in its original location today, making it the oldest surf shop of its kind, according to Harbor Surfboards.
Of all the stories the surfing world can tell about its most memorable shapers, Rich Harbor is as iconic as it gets. The surfboard shaper and longtime owner of Seal Beach debuted at just 16 years old. His own board was stolen and he had no other choice to get back into the water than to craft one. It was “terrible,” he once said. But surfboard number two wasn’t, and soon after, friends started asking Rich to make them too.
It was the spark for a Rich Harbor teenager to use his father’s name to get a $ 15 business license and get Harbor Surfboards off the ground. Harbor had notoriously marked that first plank with a “1” and made sure to add a number to every plank he had built since then. According to Orange County Register, the last board handcrafted by Harbor itself got number 32,680 in 2019.
Harbor’s legacy as a builder and businessman runs deeper than his six-decade-old boutique. The Harbor Surf Team was legendary, and Harbor itself will be remembered as a mentor to countless people who shaped the history of the sport. Dick Brewer, Robert August and Tim Stamps were just a few names who were part of the port staff at one point before going out on their own.
“It really was the fitness ‘dream team’, he said of building fitness stands and recruiting members for his fitness team in the 1960s. “It was the golden age of surfboard making.”
“I think he would say he lived a full life with no regrets and (he was) happy to have accomplished all he could,” said Robert Howson, longtime business partner. OC Register. Howson purchased and now operates the Harbor Surf Shop retail operation.
The community is still working on plans for a paddle celebration to honor the legend. Harbor is survived by his wife Helen Harbor, daughters Melissa Harbor-Hennessy and Carrie Harbor-Nolan, son Paul Lawler and five grandchildren.