Aired on 2020, Aug 24th  in Podcast / Shapers

Interview with Pat Rawson

Aloha, welcome to the 24th episode of our first series!

We are very happy to have today with us, from Hawaii, the legendary Pat Rawson.

Let’s discover more about his career, shaping for absolute legends like Tom Carroll, Buttons, Bertlemann, future projects and much more!

You can find the episode in all the major podcast platforms or read the transcribed episode on our website (please forgive us if we did spelling mistakes)

TTOS: Aloha Pat, welcome to the show, where are you today?

Right now I’m in Costa Mesa, California, I’m staying with my son, Ryan Ross.

TTOS:  How’s it going over there between coronavirus and recent violences… situation is not like the best, right?

No, I think that violence is a new thing right now, last night here in Costa Mesa, they had a curfew at eight o’clock and I heard that in Los Angeles everybody had to be off the streets at six. 

Right now it’s not a good time, it’s a dangerous time…. you’ve gotta be careful, but at least in Hawaii we don’t have that, but it’s still closed because of the quarantine there.

I decided to stay here, I have work here, I’m staying busy and you know, it’s nice to be with my son and my grandkids,

TTOS: Family first in this moment, I believe is the most important thing, the priority for all of us.

Today, we’re going to talk about surf, surfboard shaping and much more… the first question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?

In surfing is be ready for the day and having good equipment. 

Those two things:  being in good shape, meaning you train for the surf and then when you get out in the water, you’re able to perform better. 

Then if you have good equipment, is good and maybe the last thing is a good mindset, how we think, how we program ourselves for what we’re going to do. 

I think those three things could be the most important things that I know, at least for me. 

TTOS: And in shaping?

I think it’s the same thing. 

If you shape every day, you’re in good shape, 

I think if you love it as much as I do, passion is really, really important because it’s a hard job and you know, it’s not always rewarding.

Sometimes it’s not easy, you have to paddle back out to catch another wave and making surfboards, you want happy customers. 

We have costs that are coming up everywhere here in California and I’m sure is going to be the same in Europe and for sure in Hawaii. 

People don’t like paying more for a board, but it’s the cost of doing business is going up…

I think the most important is to love what you do and work with your customers, which is what I do

TTOS: When you, did you first start surfing?

Oh, that’s easy….1961 was my first year, I lived in California on a beach, right by Los Angeles airport and I was a junior lifeguard. 

I had to surf, I just watch and I started riding paddleboards and finally borrowing a surfboard 

By 1962. I was trying to surf every day after school.

TTOS:  Do you remember your first surfboard, let’s say the first proper surf boards that you got or you bought?

I do, it was really, really heavy.

It was 1962 and it was a board that was made by a guy I’ve never heard of before, John May and I remember I paid $40 for it and I was so happy to have my own board, just not to have to borrow a board I hurt my head with it as we used to carry the boards on our head because these were heavy and we were small, we could barely make our arm go around the board. 

I had a bump on the top of my head from carrying that board!

TTOS: You know, I like to collect surfboards and one of the first I got was a Greg Noll from the sixties and when it arrived, I tried to lift it and I was like “Oh my God, these 60 boards are so heavy” you needed to be fit!

Yeah, there were at least 10 or 12 kilos back then!

TTOS: When did you decide to, to start to shape?

That was about 1964 on that same house, by the beach there was a friend that lived across the street. He was a really good surfer and he was older than me. 

At that time, he was very famous, his name was Mike Doyle and he was also a shaper. 

I remember, back in 64, hearing some noise like the planer going on, I went across the street on my bike and there, I was watching through the open garage store of Mike Doyle shaping surfboards.

I was just mesmerized and I made my mind up: I was going to learn how to shape surfboards. 

I wanted to make a board that I could ride. It would help my surfing….. that’s how I started.

TTOS: In your career, who were the shapers that you used as a reference, the ones that you were looking at for inspiration, maybe because they were doing innovative things…

Well, I think probably the most famous one, It was more later in my career when I was in Hawaii and I met Dick Brewer, he really helped me a lot. 

I used to do a lot of pin lining and gloss, which is the finish work on the surfboards, you know, like a Lightning Bolt, we taped it off and we used colored resins that made the Lightning Bolt and that’s how we did everything, he pin line around the overlap, you know, the trim line of the color separation of color…..that was my job. 

Dick Brewer was nice to me and he let me watch and I just kept working with them and he was a big help. 

In the early days, I didn’t really start making boards and selling them until 1967, there was a guy named Pat Stephan, he was from my town, Playa Del Rei,  he probably showed me the most about how to make a board….all the glassing and everything, at that time, we used to do everything ourselves. 

Those are two important people and maybe another guy named Tom Oberlin who was really a good surfer and his boards work really good, he taught me a lot about design. 

Probably those three people were the most important.

TTOS: You know, I have done, so far, around 23 interviews and the name of Dick Brewer comes quite a lot. 

Not only as a reference, of course he’s a legendary shaper, but also because he was always there to help younger shapers and people to learn the craft ….

I would say if he liked you, he would do that., he didn’t help everybody, but, for me, he was really helpful 

But I agree on what you are saying, in fact he helped Gerry Lopez , Alain Chapman and Sean. 

These are all guys that, in the mid-seventies, just were the best shapers on the planet and he was instrumental in working with all of them. He gets a lot of credit for that.

TTOS:  You just told me that your first surfboard was 1967, right? 1966, 1967…

Well, there were other surfboards before that, but I didn’t start charging, meaning the guy would come to me and give me some money and then I would make a board from start to finish about 1967 that was when I really got busy. 

I put 1966 because that’s when I started taking long boards, we would tear the fiberglass saw and then we would reshape the board, it was like a perfect blank side. 

That was my first shaping, but I don’t really count that. I was just learning… but, by the time I was probably in the seventh grade school, that’s when I started making boards for my business, a small business at my home.

TTOS: What was the greatest achievement of your career or the thing that you are the most-proud of?

I would say mostly being able to have a family and still be able to do the work that I did working with professional surfers. 

Of course, now it’s all different, there are younger shapers working for the pros even if I still get a chance to work with different guys, but I can’t mention their name because they get paid by somebody else, but they still ride my boards. 

I’m proud that I was able to have a good family life for my children and my wife and I make a good income, we started locomotion in 1978. that was really good for me.

I think that was an achievement in itself, but I think also just being recognized by my peers, for being somebody that contributed to the certain design. 

There is a tribute coming up for me that is going to be in San Diego around September 26th and 27th and I’m the guy they’re attributing.

I also was really proud, back in 2009 when I won the tribute to Dick Brewer, back then there were eight shapers, they all shaped boards that needed to be the closest to the reference board displayed there.

Now the rules are different, but back then, I won and I’m so glad I won the one that my teacher was honored with, it was pretty proud moment.

TTOS: It’s amazing and we are going to look forward for September is going to be great!

You shaped a lot of boards in your career, do you remember a specific request from a client or from a surfer or a pro surfer that particular impressed you because it was kind of crazy or very unusual?

I worked with a lot of different guys in the eighties, that was a very strong time for me. 

I think I had more than half of the top 16 guys riding, at least in Hawaii. 

Some of them were in the tour and all of them were so different. 

I would say the ones of Tom Carroll were so different than those for Buttons. 

I feel like, maybe my strength and maybe my accomplishment, was being able to work with so many different types of designs and sorta making each guy happy cause they don’t have to ride the same board

Gary Elkington had really thick rails channel bottom flat back Tom’s boards are really thin and really narrow, Buttons ones are super loose, he would fly all over the way, like jumped out as he was skateboarding…

Probably looking back, I think there was a lot of pretty interesting designs 

Working with Larry Bertlemann and making boards that were just specifically designed to do airs…he was the one of the first guys to really apply skateboard moves to surfing and actually going out of the water, you know, like they do in the pool. 

It’s pretty cool, I mean, I look back at that era, there was a lot of money available to make a lot of boards for the company I worked with,  we sponsored everybody and I think, you know, having that diversity was my strength in my career and still is as I make a lot of different kinds of boards.

TTOS: I have seen your website, there you have amazing boards from guns, mini-gun, longboards, fish  , there is quite a lot of variety of surfboards in your inventory. 

You said about Tom Carroll and we had him part of the guests of the first season of our podcast and, when we asked him who was the best shaper of all times, he said your name.

He is kind of really connected with you and he said that every time he comes to our Hawaii, he comes to visit you and he’s really proud of the surfboards that you made for him and, actually, I guess, you still make.

We still do, in fact we have a replica model of Tom’s . 

it’s interesting because my new website should be going live, the old one it’s really old. 

it’s like if you don’t take your car in and get it repaired and problems come, and it’s just gotten so old, I’ve been busy with a lot of other things, remodeling my house and just trying to keep up with work, but my son’s helping me right now, the new website’s going to be really, really nice, same name and everything. 

I think the biggest thing when I think of Tom Carroll is it’s just passion, he just loves surfing, he loves being in shape and he loves helping people, kind of all the same things I like, so we connected really good. 

Normally I didn’t get too close to pro surfers, I kept it more of a business relationship, but I think for sure with him and probably Mark Richards too, is different.

Mark and I are really good friends and he’s just an amazing guy.

Tom was so important and still is and certainly people look up to him. 

He’s now doing his own podcast, he does every day….it’s meditative and it’s really cool a 10 minute thing and I’m so proud of him for doing it, that just tells you what kind of person he is.

TTOS: We talked about meditation and the fact that he is getting professional with the meditation, you know, certified…. this is one of the next things in his life, very important. 

We also spoke about how much meditation helps surfing at the end….

Well, I think meditation right now with the covid and some of the tensions that are going on, could be very important.

I don’t meditate like the way Tom does, I’d like to, but my brain goes too fast, so I take a walk every day and I try to shut my brain off and I try to just basically clean myself out and walking is so amazing. 

I did every day since I’ve been here because the beaches were closed, but you could walk and walking through, I got to see spring come and all the beautiful flowers and stuff. 

I think we all need to get in touch with our bodies, especially if we can take the time to just meditate for one or two minutes, that’s all we need for sometimes.

Some people can go a half an hour, an hour….It really does reset, It really helps you kind of come back into your body and be strong and be grounded….. it’s a good thing.

TTOS: Somebody says that the meditation is good as long it doesn’t isolate you from the rest of the world for too long….

I don’t think that would be a problem, especially with somebody like Tom, because Tom was always helping people, but he got really good at it and, like I said, he has different meditational things. 

He’s got one coming up in the East Coast, I will try to attend, I’m looking so forward to take a look at what he does and for people.

He’s a good teacher, he is so passionate, a really good teacher, people just really want to learn from him

TTOS: What are your future projects? 

I’m working with my son and my granddaughter, my son’s really good at marketing, I’ve never been good at marketing myself. 

He and my granddaughter are doing Instagram and we’re growing about a hundred people every 10 days. 

http://www.patrawsonsurfboards.com

I just got started, so I’m not, some of those guys that have maybe 50,000 people or something, but we have a quarter out which I’m proud of.

I think having that IG page with a good website is really important. 

https://www.instagram.com/rawsonsurfboard/

In addition to that, for me personally, the biggest thing is that I’ve been shaping since 54 years and today, we’re back to people that kind of want some of the stuff that I was making in the seventies when the younger shapers weren’t there.

I like what Skip Frye is doing, he is always busy cause people want him to make them a board.

He was there all those years, he’s an amazing surfer and a really amazing person and, as a consequence, he has a huge demand for his boards that are really expensive, but we are artists. 

http://www.skipfryesurf.com

I’m kind of falling in his footsteps and still staying in the current, some of the people that ride my boards, including Tom. 

I think the project is really just revamping and working off a bit to the ground because there aren’t so many surf shops anymore. 

I work with the shops, we do custom orders, so it’s drop/ship, that helps the shop and it helps me too, The shop wins, the customer wins, it all works out. 

I just make sure I contact each customer…. It’s usually by text, but sometimes it’s on the phone and people are just excited that they can talk to me and ask questions…I think it’s really important. 

Surfboards are really a personal items, I think when you can get a little bit of a personal thing from the guy that was going to design your board…. it’s a nice touch. 

TTOS: Of course, is essential, the relationship between a surfboard and a surfer is essential…. It is not just take a board and, go and catch a wave. A board has to be designed by the weight, by the ability and the style of the person that rides it and much more than that.

Correct! I think what’s happening in surfing is that now people are a lot more knowledgeable because of Instagram because of the internet. 

They know a lot more than what they would know 20 years ago, which they read from a book or maybe the first websites…those kinds of things. 

Now surfers really understand a lot more; when I’m doing boards as custom orders, people come to me mostly for guns, but also for boards for older people, I’m 66 and I’m still in really good shape, I work out every day, but I can’t ride what, you know, a 17 year old would ride. 

That market’s been really good for me and I think those are the things that I want to keep up with is always to keep up with my go to boards and then also to being on top of my vintage boards, which some of them are from the seventies, single fins, twin fins , some from the seventies, some from the eighties and of course boards for now that can blend everything into one board.

It’s really challenging, a lot of fun, I love it.

TTOS: Yeah. We’re going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind. 

The best surfboard that you ever ridden…..

I had lot of great boards, but there was one nine foot board….It was shaped by my friend “Court Gaayan” , I think I wrote my biggest wave ever out at lineup K on that board. 

I’d love to get that board back, he was a really well-known North Shore shaper, but not as famous as Dick Brewer. 

I happened to borrow the board and I was sitting out with Al Chapman and there was like al least 15 foot on the sets…it’s just a hallway, it’s really powerful. 

Normally people ride it when it’s four to six feet as it is a lot of fun, but when it gets that big, it’s a lot different. 

I remember that board because with it I just rode the biggest wave, the most intense wave I ever ridden That day, I’ll remember it was in 1977.

TTOS: You need to get back that board.

I’d love to see it, just to see it. 

At that time, I was making good guns too, I don’t know why I borrowed it, but I’m so glad I did because I really looked at that board and try to find out why that worked so well for my style and why that board works so well that day. 

TTOS: Best shaper of all time….

Dick Brewer. Dick has been a friend, he has been a teacher… he did a lot for me.

Today he’s getting older and it’s getting harder for him to shape boards and stuff, I think he’s done probably more for surfing than I can’t think of anybody that would have done as much as he did.

Maybe back in the day, there was a couple other really good guys, I think Dick really changed the short board, he made it acceptable and he made it in a way that she could ride big waves on a small mini guns as we called it instead of riding longboards.

He’s my favorite.

https://www.brewersurfboards.com/about

TTOS: personal question, your favorite song….

I have so many, but I have to say for right now, let’s just say for this time period of my life today, there’s a song by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington….it’s called “in a sentimental mood” …a jazz song. 

I’m a musician and I like playing jazz, that song just sums up my life right now. 

I’m really sentimental person and today we’re reviewing the past and maybe making changes for the future….there’s a lot of change going on. 

It’s nice to get an older song like that, it brings back good feelings.

TTOS:  Your favorite surf spot.

I love backyards in Hawaii. And why that’s one of my favorites in the wintertime. 

I love K when it’s good, which is a great world-class wave when it’s good.

I think those two, and also from my California days, I really, really loved Malibu.

I kind of grew up surfing Malibu on the longboard days, I love that perfect point break. I like that wave, I mean, you don’t have to ride a longboard, you can ride any kind of board.

It’s just such a beautiful wave, it just keeps coming and you can have so much fun on it.

TTOS:  Your favorite surfer….

Tom Carroll definitely gets my vote, because of what he did and what he’s doing.

I love, Buttons, we had a great friendship and I think a lot of people took advantage of him because he was such a giving person. 

I know we tried to take care of him at Locomotion and make sure you got everything you needed, he was so fun, he was the best guy to be around, always kept people laughing. 

He made my boards look magic even if they weren’t good  boards or there wasn’t such a good surf….he would make just look like the best sports in the world. 

When I think about them, those two guys, my heart beats a little faster.

TTOS:  The name of a young shaper that you think like every surfboard collector must have a surfboard made from.

He’s going to be competing in the art tribute that I have coming up in September, because he won the last one…. I didn’t know him too well, but I’ve gotten to know him a little better. And I would say Ryan Burch is a guy that he’s definitely doing really well. 

https://ryanburchsurfboards.com

I’m a little older than him and I’ll have to mention him is Chris Christenson, he’s my partner. I actually work at his company when I’m here at San Diego. 

I think Chris is in amazing shaper, the way he does what he does, he can make big wave boards, he can shake off the blank, he’s good with the computer. 

I think he’s very balanced. He is where I was at when I was 46…. he’s just doing a great job. 

https://christensonsurfboards.com

TTOS:  the last question we asked for everybody has nothing to do with surf and he’s a little bit unusual. ,we want to know your best relationship advice…

For the people, I think it’s finding somebody that’s likeminded because whenever you have a relationship with anybody, whether it’s a woman or just a friend or whatever I think you want to be likeminded. 

You could be totally different physically, but I think when you’re spiritually likeminded and you love the same things, it makes it a lot easier to be around those kinds of people. 

I know for me, I try to hang around people that are smarter than I am so I can learn from them and sometimes it’s not easy to receive information. 

Maybe the person’s giving you information, that’s kind of harsh…..I don’t like hearing that I do this and that and I try to not take that personally, but if he’s being honest… he’s right…..those kinds of people could be really amazing to you have around you.

If you’re lucky you have, I did mention Timmy Patterson because he’s older, but right now I’ve been working with him and he’s an amazing person. 

I watch how many people he helps, all the time, including me.

We’ve been friends a really long time….those (like him) are the kind of people you want to be around. You want to be around with people that lift you up, that teach you, that, at the end of the day, you can have a good time with because you have very, a lot of similarities. 

The key to good relationships is having the right people around you….

Recorded in June 2020

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