Family Rambo | The Riviera Paddlesurf Clan
The story of an elite paddling pedigree
One fateful weekend eight years ago, Brad Rambo swam to the rock outcropping a half-mile offshore from his home in San Clemente, California. He and his friend shooed the seals off the rocks and laid out to warm their bodies in the sun before the brisk swim back.
"A guy came paddling up on his knees on this gigantic 12-foot surfboard," Brad says. "It was kind of bumpy and rough and he couldn't even stand on it. We asked him about it, talked for a while and that was one of the first (standups) Ron House made."
The next Monday, Brad went and ordered a board from House for himself.
That was the tipping point for the Rambo family, a moment that would change their lives forever.
Now, Brad 54, his oldest son Taylor, 26, and Brandon, 24, own and operate Riviera Paddlesurf, one of the country's most successful SUP brands.
Brad grew up in North Hollywood and moved to Santa Barbara as soon as he graduated from high school, where he spent his time on the water, whether it was working on boats or surfing. In 1984, he got into the apparel industry and eventually built an indispensable part of the surfwear market with Independent Trading Company, a sweatshirt production company.
"If you look at the surf sweatshirts over the last 20 years (more of) the brands sweatshirts have been ours over any other vendor," Brad says.
Amidst his growing business, Brad was raising his family. And he made sure water was central to their upbringing. The family—including the youngest, Dana, and mom Wendy—would spend weekends off the coast on Catalina Island on their boat.
"We always surfed, fished, sprearfished, dove," Taylor says. "We were pretty into skimboarding when we were younger, then we got into outrigger paddling then tow surfing. I guess we like pretty much anything that involves water."
As the boys grew older, they would take the boat to offshore secret spots in Mexico to surf ever larger waves.
But when Brad got into standup, his boys were skeptical.
"These two," Brad waves his had at his sons, "at first were full-on shortboarders who thought standup was for 'You and your old farts that don't pop up quick anymore.'"
But as designs changed and they spent more time on the water with paddles, all the Rambos grew to love it. Now, Brandon regularly makes finals in surf contests amidst his busy schedule as Riviera sales manager while Taylor designs and shapes Riviera's models and manages its photo and video assets.
Taylor, the more quiet and reserved of the two brothers, will often work all day and then leave the office to shape. The fact that Taylor can change a design once he gets off work allows them to continually innovate.
"I always wanted to shape boards," he says. "Brandon or my dad or the team riders can come in here and dial in equipment. We can ride a raceboard and then make subtle changes."
Now that they're 'all in,' the entire family filters in and out of their office/warehouse compound daily, managing the working parts of a brand dedicated solely to standup. Their life revolves around the sport: Brad is leaving with Wendy and another couple to spend a week on their boat, SUP surfing spots down Baja to Cabo; Brandon and Taylor will be at events.
The Rambo clan has played a part in building the larger standup family as well.
"It's totally cool," Brandon says. "Everywhere I go, whether it's a trade show or a race, I'll know at least 40 or 50 people and they're all super happy and friendly. I've built all these different relationships in these places and you feel welcome. I think that's what makes the sport what it is. It's a family."
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Story originally published in SUP’s 2014 Gear Guide.
Featured Image: Surfer—Brandon Rambo, Photographer—Jason Hall