In Celebration of Donald Takayama: Part One
Stoking the Photographer
by John Grannis
In the early 60s when I was a kid, we surfed 22nd St. Donald lived above the railroad tracks and was shaping for Hap Jacobs. He rode a beautiful red board.
He was such an incredible surfer that my dad would be stoked whenever Donald was out in the water. It was amazing how someone so young could surf so well, especially when the boards were straight with no rocker, had 50/50 rails, and were real heavy. He’d just throw them around.
We’d see him in every pro WSA contest Hoppy Schwartz used to run up and down the coast, from Santa Cruz to San Diego. He wasn’t flashy but he flowed with the wave and rode in the perfect spot.”
In an era when noseriding was supreme, the equivalent to today’s aerial antics, Donald never fell victim to exaggerating the maneuver. His noseriding wasn’t a pose. He approached it from a functional perspective.
He’d get up there and lean back and ride up there forever.
In the ‘70s, Donald made the transition to the shortboard with a model called the Scorpion — a 5-foot-10 round nose with a pintail. Local skateboard legends Bruce and Brad Logan were on his team.
While most surfers rode Lopez-inspired 7-footers meant Pipeline, equipment not made for day-to-day surf combat, Donald’s Scorpion excelled at your average beach break.
Donald tore it up, straight up and down with gnarly cutbacks, and noserides that lasted a city block. Everybody knows Donald made the best surf crafts on earth.
All through the ‘80s and ‘90s I would see Donald at the Dewey Weber Classic Long board events, his legendary BBQ’s, the Oceanside contests, and visiting my dad inCarlsbad
When long boards made a revival, Donald was at the forefront. He was always making my dad boards. All the best rode his long boards. He ripped well into his 50s at all the Ocean side contests.
In my dad’s later years, Donald surfed a spot called Stone steps, close to my dad’s house.
Donald would meet my dad at the Beach Break Café for breakfast in Oceanside on a weekly basis.
Other legendary surfers joined them, including LJ Richards, Pat Curran, Carl and Woody Elkstrom and Linda Benson.
When my dad passed away, I called up Donald and said, “Hey Donald what’s up, you want to speak at Dad’s memorial.”
He said, “I’m not really good at that, John.”
He ended up giving the second longest speech of the memorial, about how he loved Dad, and how Leroy was helpful to all the Hawaiians coming over to the mainland. DZ
Hotdogger and hot rodder
by John McFarlane
I lifeguarded for 33 years and my 10 years at Torrance Beach were my most memorable. Leroy Grannis, a lifetime friend, instructed me to call him if the surf was good so he could come down and shoot. One day, circa 1965, the surf was good – four- to five-feet with a medium high tide. Rick Irons and Steve Dabney, two local standouts were already in the water.
So I made the call to Leroy Grannis. Leroy showed up with his tri-pod in hand ready to shoot. He came up to my tower to say hello and inform me that he called Donald, who was coming down. But Donald only had 15 to 20 minutes to surf because he had an appointment.
Donald arrives on the beach and runs in the water with one of his beautiful, three stringer models. Every time he took a wave he went up to the nose — a real beauty. He caught four to five lefts, the waves of the day.
Then he got out of the water, said goodbye to Leroy, and sprinted off to make his appointment.
After the shoot I went to go talk to Leroy.
Leroy said, “Did you notice Donald? He never got his hair wet. I’ll never see that again.”
Donald and I both had 1955 Chevy nomads. They looked the same but were very different. Mine was completely stock. Donald’s was lowered with the biggest Chevy engine you could find. He was always tinkering with it.
I’d always joke with him, “How the nomad running? Hell of a time keeping it in tune…..my old stocker runs like a watch.”
A few years went by, and Donald came up to me and said, “To think my ride cost me a fortune. I was always trying to get it to run smooth like your stocker.”
Donald was an exceptional human being. He was always smiling, in a good mood, and happy at whatever surf spot up and down the coast. DZ
The Barbecue Man
by Chris Bredesen, Sr.
The California surfing community was tight knit in the 1960s because there just weren’t that many of us. When Donald arrived fromHawaiiduring this period there weren’t many Hawaiians, either, especially in Hermosa Beach.
Donald was a few years older than me and already famous in the surfing world. We were on the Jacobs Surf Team together, probably the number one team in the world.
During this period, the top shapers in the world were also in Hermosa, including Hap Jacobs, Greg Noll, Bing Copeland, Dewey Webber and Rick Stoner.
Donald learned to shape from Hap and Dale Velzy, eventually becoming a top shaper himself.
It all came down to surf contests. We went to Makaha (on Oahu) for their annual contest, and to Malibu,Huntington,DelMar, and then in the early ‘80s, to the Oceanside surf club contest. With the resurgence of longboarding, the Oceanside Longboard Contest was for many years where the best of the best would show up. It was such a big event that it went on for four days. You never wanted Donald in your heat. Donald and I competed against each other at all of these contests for many many years.
The parties were also great. Donald was always in charge of the barbecue. The Donald Takayama Teriyaki Sauce would later find its way to the shelves of major supermarkets.
The biggest get together we had was in the ‘90s when we went to Australia for the Noosa Contest. Greg Noll convinced all the South Bay guys to attend. The contest celebrated the 1966 world championships in San Diego. The top five guys that year were Nat Young, Midget Farley, Mick Dooley, Mike Doyle, and LJ Richards.
But who got the most attention on the beach (besides Greg Noll)? Donald Takayama.
For the finals, all famous surfers of the world brought their surfboards to the waters edge. I thought my new Jacobs was the prettiest of them all, but the local Aussies were enamored with Donald and his quiver of boards (no offense Hap). I think he signed more autographs than anyone else.
Donald recently bought a condo in Waikiki from a real estate friend of mine. I am pretty sure he got some good use out of it before we lost him. It is so important at this age to enjoy every day. Enjoy your family, your friends, and of course great waves. I feel blessed to be have been born and raised in theSouthBay. It really is the best place in the world to live.
We will miss you Donald. You are and always will be a true legend.