In Celebration of Donald Takayama: Part three with Hap Jacobs and Sparky Hudson
Jacobs recalls Takayama as Longboarding’s Savior
by Eddie Solt
Hap Jacobs helped teach Donald Takayama to shape surfboards in the early 1960s, shortly after Takayama moved to California from Hawaii.
“Donald was a part of a trend when Hawaiians who would come to the mainland in groups of three or four. He first lived and worked in Dale Velzy’s factory inSan Clemente,” Jacobs recalled.
“Donald came up as a great shaper. He was as accurate as a shaping machine of today, with a style of his own board.”
In 1960, Jacobs bought a lot and opened a store front at the legendary address of 422 PCH. Donald worked in the front the store as well as in the shaping bay.
“Donald was a very good guy,” Jacobs said. “But sometimes he got a little too much into cars, girls, and surfing.”
“Donald had a green ’55 Nomad with a big, noisy engine and wide tires,” Jacobs said. “The problem was when he came to the store in the morning to load up his car with boards to go surfing, he’d leave the door open. I’d come in around 11 and the store would be filled with people, with no one manning the store.”
“So, after three times, I had to have a talk with Donald and he looked at me like I was from outer space,” Jacobs laughed. “It took a while, but Donald got used to using the back door in the alley.”
“Donald shaped right beside me and I could keep an eye on him,” Jacobs said. “Man, he was fast at shaping and he had a following with his different, thin little shapes with pointy noses that weren’t easy surfboards to learn on. But good surfers loved them.”
By 1970, with the increased popularity of shortboarding, longboards were deemed relics. Jacobs and many of his contemporaries folded their cards, and in Jacobs’s case, went sword fishing.
Takayama opened his own surf shop in Redondo Beach.
“A bunch shapers and board builders were on Donald’s case about something and were tellingWalkernot sell him any blanks,” Jacobs said. “He moved to Oceanside and gained a big following there.”
In the late ‘80s, Takayama phoned Jacobs and told him, “Get down toOceanside. I’m throwing a longboard contest.”
Takayama’s contests were legendary. He invited all the stand-outs from the ‘60s Golden Age of Surfing.
Jacobs described it as “a whole lot of fun,” meeting up with old friends and enjoying Takayama’s famous BBQ at the after contest party.
“Donald hired great entertainment with Hawaiian hula dancers, fresh abalone and bands on a big a stage.”
At one of these parties, Takayama suggested Jacobs come out of retirement.”
“Later, Dale Velzy and I want back down there to help him out with his orders to Japan,” Jacobs said.
During our visit, Donald said to me ‘I’ve got a skill planer here and a bucket full of parts — here you go.”
Jacobs brought home the jigsaw puzzle of a planer and had it put back together.
“I started making a few boards and Donald kept calling and asking, ‘How’s it going?” Jacobs said, “I told him it was really going good and I kept making more and more boards. This was in ‘91.”
Jacobs credits Takayama with keeping longboard alive.
“Shoot, Phil Edwards said you couldn’t give away longboards in the ‘70s. “Donald was always going full-bore with the longboard. He’s the one who kept them going.”
A Kind and Real Character
by Sparky Hudson
Donald was a close friend from the time we were about 16. He and Harold Iggy lived on The Strand, at the bottom of17th Streetin Hermosa, where I lived.
Donald and his wife Diane visited me in Hawaii just last month and he was as funny and healthy as ever. Donald was a bigger than life person, yet his feet were firmly planted on the ground. He was a one of a kindest people I have ever known. And a real character. He was a master craftsman and surfer. He was one of my hero’s from the very start. The old, classic surf photos of him surfing Ala Moana are still embedded in my mind.
In 1967, when I was moving to Hawaii. Donald was working for Bing. I wanted Donald to shape me an island board. Hap agreed to let Donald come up to his shop and shape one for me. (At that time shapers were jumping around a lot — Bing to Jacobs to Weber to Noll to Rick and back to Jacobs). Donald made me a beautiful 9-foot-10 transparent board, one of the best boards I have ever. During his shaping career he probably shaped at least one board for every famous surfer on earth.
Donald and Diane had recently bought a condo in Waikiki. I was starting to see a lot more of them. He was a very humble, real and generous person, rare traits these days. I still have a knot in my stomach from his passing. I will miss the smiles and laughter he radiated. He is gone way before his time.