Born in California, Patrick Lawrence O’Hare was an athlete his entire life. After getting kicked off his junior college wrestling team because, according to his coach, O’Hare was “a surfer, a drinker and a bum,” O’Hare forged ahead on his own in competition, making it all the way to the Olympic trials.
O’Hare began his board-building career in 1958 as a sander for Rick Geech, alongside friend Rick James in Los Angeles. Later, O’Hare and James moved on to the higher powered Dewey Weber Surfboards factory. After Weber, Pat went to work for Greg Noll Surfboards. It was with Noll that O’Hare became a team rider with his very own model.
In 1963, O’Hare and James made the move from California to Cocoa Beach, Florida to start their own label, James and O’Hare Surfboards. After a while, James decided the East Coast was not for him and he returned to California. O’Hare, however, remained determined to continue honing his craft. He did a short stint working at Oceanside Surfboards in Cocoa Beach before deciding to strike out on his own once again with O’Hare Surfboards.
The 1960s in Cocoa Beach was a formidable time to be a surfboard builder. Shapers from Cocoa Beach were sending boards up and down the East Coast, influencing numerous shapers from Miami to Maine, and getting countless devotees out in the waves. The most important contribution that O’Hare and Cocoa Beach made to East Coast surfing at the time was undoubtedly the loosening of the chain of dependency on California-made surf products. Finally, up-and-coming East Coast surfers had boards built by fellow Right Coasters, who understood their waves.
In the 1970s, O’Hare worked at Sunshine House Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, along with friend and fellow East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Inductee Sam Gornto. “Pat was a great listener, which made him a great custom board builder,” Gornto once said. “But it also made him a great person and friend.” Another friend, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater, said, “Pat has always been a local legend…shaper, surfer, all around nice guy.”
O’Hare passed away in November of 2017. That same year he was inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.
Photos by Tom Dugan / ESM and courtesy the O’Hare family