Today we wanted to pay tribute to Donald Takayama, prodigy surfer and board maker. There’s no doubt about it, Takayama was born to surf. When he was only in kindergarten, Takayama was skipping school in Hawaii to ride the waves of Waikiki Beach on boards he had made himself. His first board, made of redwood, was “too heavy to carry home, so I’d bury it in the sand, then dig it up the next day,” he told the Union-Tribune in 1999.
When he was 11 years old, Takayama came to Venice Beach with money he had saved up from his paper route. He didn’t come to California without a plan though, and began crafting boards for the pioneering surf shop, Velzy-Jacobs Surfboards, in Venice Beach. This was in the mid 1950’s, and by the 60’s, Takayama became one of the country’s top competitive surfers.
While he was a highly-praised surfer, he was mostly known for his talent in board-shaping. According to the LA Times, Takayama-designed longboards encouraged a renaissance in surfing in the 1980s. “The longboard gives the less expert surfer an easier time. It gives the older surfer a second chance at youth,” Takayama told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1992.
Boards that Takayama designed once sold for as little as $100 and can go for $10,000 today. Takayama passed away last Monday at age 68 due to complications during surgery. The surfer and board-maker will be remembered forever as his work and inspiration live on.