Robert August was almost a dentist. Already an international celebrity, thanks to his role in The Endless Summer, the Seal Beach celeb was well on his way to an ordinary life outside the sport before his doctor convinced him otherwise. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do it, so I made an appointment with my dentist to see if he enjoyed it and he said he hated it. It’s repetitive, like fixing dings, except you’re messing in people’s mouths and they hate you. I really started thinking about it and decided I’m a surfer.”
Robert Alan August was born into the surfing scene, the son of Blackie August, a renowned lifeguard, athlete, party host and one of the first to surf Redondo Beach. Surf stars regularly turned up at Blackie’s parties, introducing young Robert to the lifestyle from as early as he can remember. By the age of six, he was learning to surf at Seal Beach, where he rapidly acquired a reputation of his own. At 14, August was already appearing in Bruce Brown’s movies, traveling extensively while maintaining a good standing at Huntington High School, where, as a senior, he was elected student body president.
Just after graduation came his biggest opportunity yet, being chosen along with Mike Hynson to star in Brown’s The Endless Summer. In circumnavigating the globe, August and Hyson had the luxury of being the first people to surf in many areas that had never seen a surfboard. The film played throughout America, giving August the name recognition that would serve him later in business. Despite people’s misconceptions, August received no royalties for his efforts. But the experience itself, coupled with a lifelong friendship with Brown, made it vastly rewarding. After one year of pursuing dentistry at Long Beach State, his eye-opening doctor visit returned him to his senses and the beach.
Working in Jacobs’ Surf Shop in Hermosa Beach, August began shaping in 1966, not long before the shortboard revolution rendered the boards of the day obsolete. “Overnight, longboards weren’t cool anymore. Dewey Weber, Bing, Noll, Hobie all quit. I had to adjust.” He opened a restaurant in 1971, an ordeal that he says almost killed him, then launched Robert August Surf Shop in Huntington Beach in 1974 (which would later merge with Huntington Surf and Sport to form HSS Longboards). He stocked the shop full of shortboards, all the while feeling that something was missing. “In the ’70s, you couldn’t even find a longboard blank. I knew I wanted one, but I didn’t know if it would sell. Finally, I made five of ‘em and everyone came in the shop going, ‘A longboard, wow!’”
The longboard resurgence of the ’90s pleased August as much as anyone. His board sales returned, and when Brown made Endless Summer II in 1994, August returned for a cameo appearance. Still a keen shaper and surfer, he resides in Seal Beach with his wife Pat, whom he married in 1965. Their son, Sam, a former minor league pitcher with the Houston Astros, handles all the sales and marketing for the family business, freeing Robert up for a steady diet of surf time. A Huntington local when weather permits, August travels to his vacation home in Costa Rica up to five times each year, ensuring him a truly endless summer. — Jason Borte, March 2001