Bob "the Greek" Bolen started surfing in 1958 and made his first surfboard in 1959 while still a student at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California. At the time, shapers usually worked for a well-known shaper/mentor before opening their own shops--but not the Greek. Instead, he bought his first blank from Bill Holden and some stringer material from Chuck Foss, picked up his planer and started making foam dust.
Bob learned to surf at Doheny and Huntington Beach, but loved surfing Dana Point in the early '60s--before the harbor was completed in 1968. "It could be howling onshore at Huntington but Dana Point would be clean and fun," Bolen said. "I surfed out there with Dick Dale a few times, and Mickey Munoz would come around and Peter Peterson was catching waves in his canoe. It was just a lot of fun. Damned yacht harbor..."
The Greek started out making surfboards for himself and a few friends, but it was a local bicycle shop owner who gave him his first shot at building boards commercially. Witnessing the huge growth in surfing's popularity, he asked Bob to make boards to sell in his bike shop. Bob didn't have the money to fund the endeavor, so the shop owner paid for materials and Bob built boards in his father's garage.
In 1960, Bob opened his own surf shop in Huntington Beach. Nicknamed "the Greek" by high school buddies because of his Greek ancestry, he decided to call his brand "Surfboards by the Greek." By his own admission, he figured names like "Surfboards by Bob" or "Surfboards by Bolen" weren't going to cut it. For the next twenty years, Bob was one of the top surfboard builders in the business and was known for his many popular model designations that included the Eliminator, Liquidator, Maui Model and Pickle. In 1964, he introduced what is considered to be the first East Coast signature model for team rider Bruce Clelland. Other members of the Greek's surf team included such well-known riders as Herbie Fletcher and Tiger Espere.
In the summer of 1980, Bob closed the doors to his surf shop forever. Now a successful real estate broker in Huntington Beach, surfing will always be a part of his heart and soul. "My real estate office looks more like a surf shop than a real estate office," he says proudly. A consummate tinkerer who loves technology, Bob recently invented the patented Turbo Tunnel® fin system, which is designed to channel water through a center "tunnel," helping to control the forward, horizontal and vertical movement of a surfboard. Check out www.turbotunnel.com for more info on this unique fin. Bob has also introduced the Stylemaster, a modern longboard shape he designed specifically for Surf Tech's extensive line of high-tech surfboards.
Bob "the Greek" Bolen is an energetic, affable guy who truly loves surfing and is still one of the sport's innovators. Even though he closed his shop years ago, Bob has continued to produce a small quantity of his longboards each year. His new website, www.surfboardsbythegreek.com will be on-line soon and will feature his surfboards, fins and accessories