Now that the 2012 Olympics in London have come and gone, with some debate as to whether surfing should become part of future Games, the US Open of Surfing just finished its 53rd year in Huntington Beach, California. While the sport wasn’t around in ancient times, and Greece’s beautiful beaches have never really been known as a surfer’s destination, we had the chance to meet one Greek, famous for riding the waves and being a master craftsman of surfboards.
Bob Bolen, now a Huntington Beach resident and business owner, moved to Garden Grove, California as a youngster. His maternal grandparents hail from Kalamata, and his last name stems from his Irish father. Growing up, his mother tried to get him to go to Greek school but he says he was busy “having too much fun.” Even though he didn’t learn to speak the language fluently, his classmates nicknamed him “The Greek” because of his heritage.
Watch our interview with Bob Bolen below:
One day, while hanging with his cousin Jimmy at a local beach, he was introduced to his first ride on a surfboard, and Bolen never looked back. He learned to ride the waves at Doheny and Huntington Beach, and developed a soft spot for Dana Point. Soon after, he started making surfboards for himself and a few of his friends. That was the beginning of what would ultimately become a legendary surfboard-making business.
Initially, his father wanted him to work in a navy yard, but the young Bolen decided to pursue his passion. Holding onto his Greek heritage and nickname, he used it to brand his business and started Surfboards by the Greek, shaping and creating handcrafted boards. From the Shorty, to a fin known as the Turbo Tunnel that he invented which enhances wave-riding, Bolen is considered a local hero in his hometown and that success earned him a spot on the Surfing Walk of Fame.
After closing up his surf shop in 1980, Bolen began focusing on real estate, opening an office on Main Street in Huntington Beach, which has become a museum of sorts with his surfboards lining the walls.
Alongside his friend and colleague Mike “Mickey Rat” Ester, he also founded the Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame, an organization that honored veterans in the industry with awards every year since 2000. Professionals aside, Bolen says he welcomes the young generation of wanna-be surfers from Greece to the same waters where he learned his skills, with one piece of advice: “You can’t make the peak without the Greek!”