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Robert Rube

Robert Rube shapes surfboards and a whole lot more out of his new shaping bay located in Otter Rock, OR. Here is a piece written about him in 2005, shortly after Pura Vida opened its doors (originally in Philomath, OR). Written by Stiv Wilson who is a freelance writer and has written articles for the Surfers Journal and other Surf Publications, Wilson offers readers a glimpse into the world of surfing.

He dusts off and we shake hands and begin to chat, first talking about surfing (of course). No laptop or camera has emerged yet, and I'm reminded that I'm actually here on business. But, this is the life of surfing, and talking surf takes precedence over all. I ask if he's got any good spots protected from huge winter swell and I swear he looked around to make sure no one is listening. He tells me about a few. My mind processes this information as – wow, cool that we just met and I'm down enough to learn some of his secret spots (don't ask) – and – the guy travels the coast a lot, relentlessly in search of good surf.

As he shows me around more, we talk about the Crescent City contest, where we met. I tell him I really dug the gromm longboard he had on display for the raffle there. It's his practice to donate a board for the kids competition every year. “I like to get kids out there on boards. You can't turn a 9'6 if you're 70 pounds. If you don't keep the kids interested, the sport will die.” His generosity has earned him sponsor awards from the contest organizers. As we move back to his shaping room, I ask him more about the eight footer he's working on. Originally he shaped a board specifically for the Katrina relief event sponsored by the United Way, but when the auction winner claimed his prize, he asked Rube for a longer board. Rube thought it was funny that the guy bid on a board he didn't actually want. But Rube, being a reasonable man, bribed him. Well, sort of. He told the winner to throw in some more cash to the relief effort and he'd shape him a custom.

I learn quickly that his shaping and surfing philosophy are one in the same – he's a passionate shaper who uses his skill to benefit all.

Rube grew up in the Midwest, but, as a military brat he traveled around the country with his family as his father's orders dictated. Though the moves were often to coastal locations, it wasn't until his family moved to Hawaii that he was introduced to surfing. There, one of the only haoles in his school, he got heavily into the skate and surf scene. Living in Waipahu, he was constantly bugging his parents to take him to the beach. But more often he'd sneak off and hop island busses with his friends, rent boards and surf the West side or hit the skate park in Aica (his parents didn't know about all his punk activities until a few years ago).

After four years in paradise, his family up and moved to Iowa. Bummer. Soon enough however, the ocean called him back and he moved to the Pacific Northwest. Here, he started shaping.

Robert's NW Surfboards officially launched in 98' though he's been shaping for nearly 13 years. When I ask how he learned to shape (the stock question), he just sort of just shrugs, grins and says, “trial by fire...watching, practice.”

Rube is a man who envisions his life clearly and pursues that vision. He works hard to realize it. Learning to shape, he started studying boards, reading up on design techniques, experimenting, shoulder tapping shapers he admired, and with passion and hours upon hours in the shape shack he slowly built his own label. He got a few custom boards from Bob Pearson and was allowed to watch the process at the Arrow factory a couple of times. These experiences inspired him to really go for it. Other help came from Bruce Jones who was kind enough to give Rube advice on glassing technique tips and tricks for classic longboard designs. But by his own admission, much of his talent has been honed by trial and error. “I sold my first board and bought blanks and then built more boards. Eventually I was making boards I really liked riding.” Becoming ever more confident in his art, he started selling his boards at Ossie's and Oregon Surf Shop.

As a shaper he's obsessed with the classic principles of surfboard design, rocker, V, etc. His own style is heavily influenced by hydrodynamics, thrust design, and he is constantly experimenting with different materials and concepts. In short, shaping fascinates him. “You can never become a master shaper...there is always something beyond what you keeps it interesting.” His boards are of the highest quality and about as custom as custom can get. Many shapers pick certain principle designs they like and then elaborate on them on a per customer basis. Rube gives his customers the power to choose every aspect of his or her dream board way beyond shape and color. Density of blank, weight, fin box geometry, glass thickness, cloth. He even lets his clients choose the glue color that holds the blank stringer to the foam. Glue color? I asked him about this detail in particular, not familiar with anything having to do with stringer glue. He shows me the result of black glue; when sanded and finished, the black outlines the wood making the whole line visually pop out. It's a small aspect of his work, and a wholly aesthetic one, but it speaks to his singularly mature style and keen design eye. Talking about himself and his work, he makes it apparent how important customer satisfaction is to him. He often asks his clients for feedback and critiques.

Isn't that what an artist does?

Another facet intrinsic to Rube's philosophy is price. He wants to get people in the water. “It's important for me to keep my prices down. I try to make the highest quality boards without killing your wallet.” Surfing to Rube is as much about getting a good ride as progressing the sport itself.

Robert's NWSurfboards are some of the fairest priced boards around.

The original Pura Vida Surf Shop was located in Philomath, and is currently operating at Otter Rock. “You don't open a surf shop to get rich,” Rube says. To him, it's more about serving the community of surfers and skaters. Growing up surfing and having kids who surf, he knows the importance of the local surf/skate shop. It's his goal to provide a foundation for the community and help to nurture the abilities of young skaters and surfers by providing them with a venue for their sport. His shop stocks many lines of skate and surf gear, and also offers surf rentals and lessons. And even if it means Rube doesn't make a few dollars that day, he won't rent you a board if the conditions are crappy unless you know what you're getting into. That's how much he cares about surfing, but one need only to look at his boards to realize this.

(Edited October 19, 2019)

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