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Pure Genius: Rybovich Family

The Rybovich family was blessed with a curious mix of passion, timing and location.

February 22, 2016

Night is falling as Michael Rybovich looks out the window of his boat workshop on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Michael, 60, is the third generation of a family who pioneered the modern sport-fisherman. A truck in the parking lot represents the fourth generation. It belongs to his son, Dusty, who is supposed to be celebrating his 28th birthday tonight.

“I guess he has the Rybovich work ethic,” Michael says, laughing.

It’s an ethic that started with the family’s boatbuilding patriarch, John Rybovich, who opened a boatyard in south Florida in 1919. For the next 20-plus years, he, and eventually his three sons, spent long hours refitting pleasure boats into fishing boats.

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“Oddly enough, World War II was a turning point for what we see now,” says Michael.

The Rybovich family Courtesy Rybovich

Uncle Tommy came home from his duties as a bomber pilot with new ideas for ­aerodynamics. Uncle Johnny learned how to shape aluminum. Michael’s dad, Emil, worked with rescue boats and became an expert in mechanical and ­electrical systems. When all three were home, a customer asked if they could build a ­breakthrough boat: a sport-fisherman customized for comfort and big game, as well as offshore performance. “Think about their niches and the timing of it all,” Michael says. “Things rarely come together like that on this Earth.”

The first from-scratch Rybovich, the 34-foot Miss Chevy II, had a finished flybridge, in-deck livewells, fighting chair and her own style that included a broken sheerline. Rybovich boats soon ended up in the hands of people named Maytag, Gillette and Firestone. Today, past and present converge at Michael Rybovich & Sons, 10 miles north of the original John Rybovich & Sons shop. There are sawhorses and clamps, grinders and fine wood. And there are three family members — Michael, Dusty and 27-year-old Alex — helping to finish an 86-footer, the ­largest Rybovich ever built.

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“My grandfather, father and uncles all had it right,” says Michael. “Where we are now is a result of their God-given talent — and the opportunity they had to use it.”

The first Rybovich boats were a fusion of the three brothers’ specific interests. Location was also a factor — they worked within reach of the Gulf Stream, the perfect test area for this new breed. Courtesy Rybovich
The 128 Rybovich boats built since 1947 feature efficient lines that were inspired by ­warplane designs. Technology and tastes have changed, but the DNA ­remains. Courtesy Rybovich

The Rybovich family are just one of five creative thinkers that Yachting profiled in its December, Spirit of Innovation, issue. You can read the other four here:

Giuseppe Carnevali

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Ole Evinrude

Frank Pembroke Huckins

Nathanael Herreshoff

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