Richard Mobley, a surfing pioneer and surfboard shaper behind one of the South Bay's most iconic outdoor sporting shops, has died. He was 70.
Mobley died Friday after an eight-year battle with cancer, his wife of 25 years, Vicki Mobley, confirmed.
"He touched so many lives," she said. "He always had the time and patience to teach and help people. He was an incredible gentle soul that seemed so unaware of how successful and talented he was."
Mobley was elected to the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame last year, joining an elite group of the biggest names in surf history: Greg Noll, Hap Jacobs, Dale Velzy, Dewey Weber and Mike Purpus.
Scores of family and friends gathered on a Sunday morning last April in Pier Plaza to celebrate the achievement.
"He knew he was dying, and Richard felt that was his celebration of life," Vicki Mobley said. "That was his memorial."
Mobley's ties to the South Bay are deep. Born in Inglewood in 1941, he was a third-generation Hermosa Beach resident. He graduated from Mira Costa High School in 1959. Nicknamed the "Fox" for his cunning intellect, Mobley was a mainstay in the South Bay surfing scene.
He opened Ski Surf Shop in Manhattan Beach on Artesia and Aviation boulevards in 1963 and ran the popular store for 40 years, competing with the rise of the Internet and arrival of corporate chain outlets. Ski Surf Shop was considered one of the last true specialty skiing stores in Southern
Mobley was highly regarded for his knowledge on the ski and surf industries, and would attract customers from across Los Angeles County, friends said.
Mobley also sold bicycles and ran a ski rental and repair shop at the location. He sold the store in 2005.
"Everything he did he was absolutely fantastic at it," his wife said.
Mobley first started surfing when he was 11 at 22nd Street in Hermosa Beach. In an interview with the Daily Breeze last year,
"That whole winter I never stood up on a wave - I went from top to bottom every single time," Mobley said. "The first time I stood up was that summer. I said, `I can't believe this."'
He started crafting boards two years later. Mobley's first shaping job was in the Venice store owned by Velzy, an iconic surfer and influential shaper who died in 2005, and Jacobs, the shaping icon who still works today from a small studio in Hermosa Beach. He would go on to craft boards in Hermosa Beach shops owned by Noll and Bing Copeland, and eventually started selling his own boards under the Mobley brand.
"He could shape anything," said Jacobs, recalling Mobley's time crafting surfboards for him. Jacobs said he last saw Mobley several months ago, and despite battling cancer, Mobley maintained a positive attitude.
"He was an all-around nice guy. He always seemed happy and glad to see everyone."
Aside from surfing, Mobley enjoyed skiing trips with his wife and friends to Mammoth Lakes, fly fishing in the trout streams nestled in the Eastern Sierra and sailing aboard his 44-foot sailboat, Pacific Coast Hwy. He participated in sailing trips to Mexico, Hawaii, and across the South Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
"When I did all those things I didn't look back," Mobley told the Daily Breeze in April. "The idea is to try to fill that prism with as many colors as I could."
Mobley spent the final years of his life battling cancer, and had brain surgery two years ago. At the time, doctors said he would likely live for only another year, his wife said.
"He made the very best of it," Vicki Mobley said. "He was such an example to people. When he was dying he always had a smile, he was always positive. He was telling people to enjoy the day, to enjoy every minute."
He died in his wife's arms.
"He made a very classy exit," Vicki said. "I saw his spirit come out of him."
A memorial paddle-out is being planned, and likely will be held during the summer. In addition to his wife, Mobley is survived by three children, Kelly Mobley, Joey Mobley and Kari Kennedy, and four grandchildren.
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