The Legend of the Sphynx on Seal Way




The Sphynx watching over the surf

The legend goes sort of like this… Blackie August a die hard local surfer owned a beachfront house in Seal Beach. This wasn’t any old house it  was the ultimate beach pad in Seal on the boardwalk at 1303 Seal Way.

  One evening in the late 50’s or early 60’s some of Blackie’s friends (depending on who tells the story, Harry Schurch, Jack Haley and a couple other local guys) had a bit too much wine to drink and helped themselves to a Plaster of Paris sphynx that had been decorating one of the local public buildings in Long Beach.  They decided that it would not only make a fine addition to Blackie’s roof, but in some mythical fashion, look out over the ocean and care for all of the local surfers.  They quickly nick named the Sphynx “El Supremo” and  Blackie made sure the Sphynx always had a fresh coat of paint on all the the right parts –  picture green with red nipples.

Around 1968, Blackies son, Robert August  (who was later to become famous as one of the surfers chronicled in the movie “The Endless Summer”) was the main shaper here at Harbour Surfboards.  Robert August, Rich Harbour, Mark Martinson and Danny Nelson had been room mates in Sunset Beach when Blackies beach house came up for rent and the crew quickly moved in.

merry xmas sphinx

1303 Seal Way / The Sphynx House 1969 / R to L: Danny Nelson, his girlfriend Helen, Rich Harbour and Robert August


The house had a lot of history, from drunken ceremonies honoring “El Supremo” to boardwalk headquarters for both summer girl watching and winter surf.  Oh, the stories that house could tell and the amazing people that passed through!    And in a twist of fate, Rich also met his wife Helen at the Sphynx house and they have been together ever since for 44 years.


In the late 70’s the property was sold for demolition.   Rumors went around that a lady named Lisa Gager was cruising the boardwalk when she saw the demo crew about to toss the Sphynx into the scrap pile.  She rescued it and after some years of toddler riding, a well-worn head is all that is left.

About a month ago, Lisa came by the shop here and said she had the mythical Sphynx head in her yard and she wanted  donate  to Harbour Surfboards for all to enjoy.   It has now been returned  to once again watch over and care for all of the local surfers we love so much.  In honor of our 60’s history we plan to unveil the Sphynx this Saturday at the Sunset 60’s contest for all to pay homage once again.


As the Story goes….It was the year 1959 and Rich was a 16-year-old kid just having had his surfboard stolen –  the cheapest option to replace it was to make one.  Having no shaping experience and just some repair experience, Rich convinced his parents to give him enough money to buy a blank and some resin and fiberglass.  He glued a ¾” redwood into that blank that he had sawed in half, grabbed a hand plane and removed the blank’s skin.  He sanded that smooth and that was the extent of the first shape job.

It wasn’t until the 4th board that Rich made templates, one for a nose shape and a separate one for the tail.  He drew two parallel lines to make the board’s width and blended the nose and tail template’s curves into the parallel lines.  This method will work if your templates are long enough to cross each other, leaving no flat spot in the outline. That  board had some straightness in the middle, as seen below in the only known picture of #4.  The boards following had better outlines.


“I think that it was then that I began thinking about board design.  The hot maneuver at the time was “rad” bottom turns and the shape to achieve it  was the “Pig”.  The concept was to make the tail wider than the nose.  I applied this approach by the time I was building surfboard number 8, sometime in late 1960.  My mom took a picture of two customers and myself (on the left) standing across the alley from her garage, with board number’s 8, 9, and myself holding number 10.”