Behind the Brand: Pat Rawson's North Shore shaping room is considered sacred ground by the world's best surfers. Since the late '70s, nearly every world champion has come through Rawson's door at one time or another seeking the proper artillery for Hawaii's powerful surf. In shaping circles, in a word, he's royalty. When everyone from Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Mark Richards, and Tom Carroll to Bruce Irons seeks you out, it's no wonder. Rawson began shaping in 1966 back in Hermosa Beach, where he grew up. He moved to Hawaii in 1974, where he was schooled under the watchful eye of Dick Brewer. While Rawson's big-wave guns are what have attracted most of the world's attention, he's become a design leader in several areas through the years, including kiteboarding and stand-up paddling, which have opened the doors for more experimental construction. With more than 42 years of surfboard manufacturing under his belt, he now sells boards in 31 countries, and has a loyal following amid generations of surfers.
About his Most Popular Models: Rawson's reputation was built around his serious-wave equipment, an area that includes mini-guns, guns, and tow-boards for the very top end of the big-wave spectrum—and much of those are still custom made. Yet small-wave boards like his 6'2" EPS/EVF five-pound Rocket fish are big hits at retail. "I find the retail shops want step-down boards for small surf, along with bigger-guy tri-fins, quads, and travel boards from 6'4" to 7'4" made for exotic waves."
Taking the Pulse: "I have been working with many alternative construction techniques through my involvement in kiteboard manufacturing over the last 10 years in Hawaii and elsewhere. I have had overwhelming success for my pro riders and regular customers alike using vacuum bag lamination, as well as our custom spray finishes at EVF in San Diego on my surfboard, kiteboard, and stand-up products."Shop Talk
You've seen a lot of trends come and go. Which would you like to see continue? "I like seeing the public more open to trying new designs and technologies. Surfing has been locked in a 50-year-old cycle of technology for way too long. However, I still feel the standard polyurethane/polyester boards have a place in prototyping new designs and lower priced products for the surfing marketplace. Furthermore, at least 90 percent of the top pro riders still favor standard PU technology over the exotics in freesurfing and competition surfing."
What attitude would you like to see go? "If dogmatic beliefs in what was the best and most acceptable way of building surfboards, and the overall outdated way of thinking regarding surfboard design and construction went away, I think the future of surfboard design would be much better."
What's the most dramatic refinement or shift in design going to be in 2009? "I think with the tighter economy ahead, we'll see less people buying new boards, and those new boards manufactured to be on a more high-end scale, possibly with higher durability in mind, yet still coupled with overall high-performance."