A Thursday in mid-January: it was the best day of the winter in California. For days rivermouths deposited sand (and lots of hideous human waste) onto nearby ocean floors. The spot where I surf transformed into a mini-superbank: 75 yards of pure highline speed, ending with a 30-yard winding sandbank barrel (and a few used syringes for good measure). If you didn't go very, very fast, you were not connecting the dots. Many were called, few were chosen. Surfers were wondering aloud why their 18-and-a-half inch wide chip wasn't making the grade.
User error? Perhaps.
One surfer rode faster than any other. He did so on a unique quad fin Fish. Paddling back out I had to inquire. "It's a Rainbow…a Pavel SpeedDialer," the guy yelled and whispered in the same breath, not wanting anyone to know his secret, but desperately wanting me to know. By coincidence, within a few hours I had an appointment with Rich Pavel to talk about his story and his designs.
Rich "Toby" Pavel, soft spoken and covertly cerebral, is driven by unique possibilities and is widely recognized as the man in San Diego for Fish designs–or any design for that matter. His boards are ridden by a variety of stalwart wave riders including Tom Carroll, Dave Rastovich, and Derek Hynd. But, as I witnessed this day, it is the everyday surfer who is benefiting the most from Pavel's expertise. The following conversation took place at the Green Room in OB.
SURFERMAG.COM: First off, tell me about who influenced your shaping early on, when you began shaping, and how that came about.
RICH PAVEL: It was pretty natural, the way it came about. The first person to really take me under his wing was Steve Lis. And it was a matter of proximity. Then I really cued into, and was keen on, what I thought was probably the best surfing on the planet at the time
SURFERMAG.COM: How old were you?
RICH PAVEL: It kind of came over a period of time. There wasn't like a set date, as soon as you step over the line…[Laughs.]
SURFERMAG.COM: Okay. What about the first foam that you took into your hands and cut out?
RICH PAVEL: I think I remember walking down to the Green Room to go get it and it was just classic. I probably bought the blank off of Tom Lockwood, just over the counter and walked home with it.
SURFERMAG.COM: Was that this Green Room?
RICH PAVEL: The original Green Room.
SURFERMAG.COM: And where was that?
RICH PAVEL: Well, to be historically accurate, the original Green Room was on Kauai. And it was started by two guys: Ray Golden and Skip Wright. And they just had this idea of, "what would be something we could do where we could make enough money to get by and not have to…"
SURFERMAG.COM: Nine-to-five it?
RICH PAVEL: Yeah, so they struck out, really, to this outpost territory at the time, Kauai. Of course you had guys like (Dick) Brewer, (Joey) Cabell, (Mike) Diffenderfer, (Billy) Hamilton. Just so many guys out there on Kauai, really defining the outer edge of the envelope. So Ray and Skip, their idea was to sell blanks and supplies.
SURFERMAG.COM: The Green Room was going to supply all those guys you mentioned?
RICH PAVEL: And did. It's amazing the pictures that Skip Wright has, he's got pictures of Bruce Valluzi, a cast of guys, you know, you're like, "Oh my god." But really, as modest as it was, it played a very significant role in helping to define the modern surfboard, you know, if you look at that whole movement and what was going on at that time. But the guys on Kauai were from here [California]. They're haole guys. And they said, "You know what, we could do this on the mainland," and it just turned out, primarily through Gus Cota and another guy that was very involved in the Green Room, Brad Sandborn, kinda worked that all up. And the guys over here that were really kind of manning the shop were the Lockwoods. Other guys though, like a tremendous influence, you were asking about influences: Wilbur Crane, Joe Lynch.