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Endless summer continues for Robert August in Costa Rica

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Robert August, the star of “The Endless Summer” movie, shapes a board in front of members of the Huntington Beach High surf team and their parents at his shop in Costa Rica in July.
(Courtesy of Jennifer Guinaldo)

Summer is over for us mere mortals, but for Robert August, well, it never ends.

Part of that may have to do with the fact that he is a full-time resident of Tamarindo, Costa Rica, where the air temperature is typically in the 80s and the water temperature in the 70s year-round.

But it’s more than the temperature. It’s a mindset, a vibe. August, one of the stars of the iconic movie, “The Endless Summer,” took off on a plane with filmmaker Bruce Brown and fellow surfer Mike Hynson soon after graduating from Huntington Beach High in 1963 to travel the world and surf, capturing it on film.

The movie came out in 1966, but the truth is, that trip never ended for August.

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August, 74, moved his Robert August Surf Co. business to Costa Rica years ago, and though he travels to Southern California every now and then, the Central American country is now home.

Can you blame him? August is just as excited about the day in front of him now as he was when he was in his 20s.

“It’s good, it’s wonderful,” August said last month. “I have a great association with the [Witch’s Rock] Surf Camp and today I’m giving a lecture about the history of surfing and the evolution of the surfboard.

“Last night on a big screen they showed the original ‘The Endless Summer’ and everybody’s invited. Everybody’s seen the movie, but I’ve got a microphone. Everybody who puts their hand up, they can ask a question. It’s fun. And tomorrow, I do my shaping exhibition where everybody can come into the shaping room and watch me shape a board. I like it.”

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August did try to move his business back to Huntington a few years ago when his daughter, Christine, was in high school. Christine surfed for coach Andy Verdone and the Huntington Beach High team, while August tried to revive his business.

“I tried to create something going on in Huntington and really couldn’t [do] much,” he said. “Nothing was happening in Huntington. I tried to create some excitement and some business and stuff, and nothing. I have a beautiful home here in Costa Rica that I live in. And gosh I was renting a place in Huntington for me and Christine, and geez it was $2,500 a month.”

So it only made sense to return to Costa Rica, where August has a home overlooking the ocean. He has his gig with Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, a resort with luxury hotel rooms, restaurants, a microbrewery, a surf school, and of course, August’s board-shaping room, where he still makes his world-famous boards, often with an audience.

Earlier this summer, August put on a shaping demonstration for members of the Huntington Beach High surf team, which was on its annual summer surf trip. The team has gone to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in recent years, and this year they made two trips to Costa Rica, in July and August, with help from Hurley.

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Robert August, fifth from left, poses with members of Huntington Beach High surf team and some of their parents at his shaping shop in Costa Rica in July.
(Courtesy of Jennifer Guinaldo)

Though August has shaped thousands of boards over 50-plus years, he moved and danced around the shaping room as though he was a performance artist.

“I show them the whole routine,” August said. “I explain how we make the blank; all the blanks come from Southern California. All the materials do. Curtis Custer, who’s from Huntington, he and his wife distribute from Nicaragua to Panama, all the best in the world. It’s a little expensive because of import and shipping, but the quality is great. I’ve got everything I need to do it. So that’s what I do.

“I do custom orders down here and make whatever they want. If it’s some giant, fat guy, I make a giant, big board. If a little kid wants a twin fin, sure, I’ll make that for you. I still enjoy the shaping thing. … The birth of that surfboard is fun.”

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While “The Endless Summer” is what made August a surf legend, it wasn’t the only surf film in which he took part. He also showed off his skills at age 48 in Brown’s 1994 film, “The Endless Summer 2,” surfing Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point in Costa Rica. And his film career began when he was just 12 years old.

“I surfed when I was 5 years old with my dad [Blackie] in Seal Beach, so by the time I was 12 or 13 I could surf about as good as anybody,” August said. “I had fun with Bruce, we traveled, we did ‘Slippery When Wet’ (1957), ‘Barefoot Adventure’ (1960), ‘Surfing Hollow Days’ (1961). He made really fun movies before ‘The Endless Summer.’”

And just a few years ago, the film “Return to Cape St. Francis,” directed by Verdone, was a documentary celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the original “The Endless Summer.”

August is still closely tied to Huntington. His niece, Lisa Carden, owns and operates the Robert August Surf Co. surf shop on Newland Street in Huntington. His son Sam, who was a second-round draft pick of the Houston Astros and reached Double-A as a pitcher (he once struck out Michael Jordan), is in Huntington and helps out where he can.

For August, Huntington Beach High’s senior class president some 56 years ago, every day is like that last day of school in June. The sun’s out, surf’s up and life is good.

Huntington Beach City Surf Contest

Huntington Beach held its 49th annual city surf contest in mid-September with 155 surfers competing. Competition is limited to Huntington Beach residents. Following are the winners in each division:

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Menehuene (ages 9 and under) — Sawyer Abing; Boys (10-14) — Luke Guinaldo; Junior men (15-17) — Keanu Igarashi; Men (18-24) — Sage Guinaldo; Masters (25-34) — Jeremy Jennings; Senior men (35-44) — Micah Byrne; Grandmasters (45-54) — Charles Bechtloff; Super Grandmasters (55-64) — Scott Banuelos; Legends (65 and up) — Steve Berger; Women (10 and up) — Brooke Daigneault.

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