Bob "Ole" Olson
Long about 73 years ago, a youngster named Bob Olson gazed over the cliffs at Palos Verdes in Southern California in fixed amazement at surfers riding waves in the ocean down below him.
Fast forward down the line across those 73 years to the Ole Surfboards shop in the heart of Lahaina’s industrial district, and you’ll find Olson still in the soul of the Hawaiian Sport of Kings.
He’s ridden hundreds of thousands of waves in locales around the world and continues to shape and produce surfboards — now approaching 10,000 — for surfers and art collectors from the Mainland to Japan.
Ole is now in an elite group of surfboard shaper-artisans — those that still hand plane their product from a template drawn on a foam blank or sometimes wood, rather than from electronically measured, massed and mold produced “pop outs” of the industry.
His boards are being ridden on the shores of Tokyo to the perfection of Malibu, and down the line at Trestles and over the ocean to the pristine curls of Mala Wharf in West Maui.
It was 62 years ago that he rode his first wave in the shadow of Huntington Beach Pier, and soon after that, Ole began crafting his own boards under the guidance of legendary mentors Hobie Alter and Harold Walker.
After working as an industrial arts teacher at Rancho Alamitos High School and military service in the Korean War, Olson set up his first shop in Seal Beach, California.
He had planned to stay for a year or so — but he never left — and the man has outlived his surfboard shops at an old garage (where Blackie’s is now) and another within the old Cannery.
His current location is tucked in the tube way back in the Lahaina Industrial Area, where only those with a relationship to the true soul of surfing can find it to order a board — Ole puts out about 100 a year — or one of his classic T-shirts.