Shaping Legendary Surfboards
Ankle deep in foam planed from the surface of a 7-foot plank at the Becker Surf factory in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Few manufacturers hand-shape surfboards anymore, but the craftsmen at Becker Surf always have. Working as a team, Becker shaped the boards, Mangiagli coated them with waterproof fiberglass and Hollander painted them with spectacular designs. Today, the Becker Surf factory employs 10 craftsmen who produce about 4, surfboards each year. After shaping, the boards are painted, covered with fiberglass and sanded satin smooth before they receive a gloss coat of resin for protection against the sun, surf and sand. Their passion and expertise are valued by a company that prides itself on manufacturing boards of consistent quality, from high-performance shortboards to nostalgic longboards, like the ones favored by surfer Roger Hoyt. Hoyt, who purchased his first surfboard shaped by Phil Becker in the s, has watched the sport evolve since he rode his first wave at age Despite industry trends, the desire to build a better board endures at Becker Surf, where catering to surfing purists remains a legendary—and enjoyable—labor of love.
As surfers ride waves a few blocks away, Phil Becker holes himself up in a factory workroom, where plastic foam shavings cover the floor and a yellowed newspaper photo of Lyndon Johnson is posted on the wall. Most every day he carves rectangular sheets of the plastic foam and shapes them into the product his Hermosa Beach-based company is famous for: Becker Surfboards, built at a rate of 11 a day, about 2, a year. It is a routine that Becker has followed for 30 years, broken only for annual surfing vacations and an ill-fated attempt to retire to Hawaii. The company does little advertising, almost never sponsors events or surfing pros and shies away from offshoot crazes. Because each board takes about an hour to shape, many surf shops employ several different people to do the task. Becker, soft-spoken and somewhat blunt, has almost always done that job alone. Pacing back and forth along sawhorses holding the plastic foam, Becker uses sandpaper and planes to get boards smooth and precisely curved.
Hardworking and intensely private surfboard shaper from Hermosa Beach, California; best known for his longboards and easy-to-ride funboards; thought to have shaped more boards than anyone in the world. Becker learned his craft as a teenager in the early '50s from California board-building pioneers Dale Velzy and Hap Jacobs, and was the head shaper for Rick Surfboards in Hermosa from to Becker and fellow Californian Mike Eaton were the only two full-time shapers to make longboards throughout the '70s. Working at a rate of roughly 10 boards a day, Becker likely passed the ,board mark sometime around the year - nobody else in the world was close. In , Surfing magazine estimated that Becker had shaped , boards; Al Merrick, in second, was at 45,
Legendary craftsman Pat Rawson is one of the most sought-after shapers in the world. A Rawson gun is synonymous with the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaiian winters, and big-wave performance surfing. We caught up with the master craftsman while he was here in Southern California during a shaping tour de force. Longboards were starting to go short. It was good because I caught the tail end of the longboard era.
Surfing Attraction - Capitulo 6