DONALD TAKAYAMA: Legendary Surfer, Shaper & Ambassador of Aloha

Waves of sorrow are hitting shores throughout the world after the passing of iconic surfboard shaper Donald Takayama. The 68-year-old from Honolulu died of a heart attack, leaving a footprint of the Aloha spirit on the surfing industry for generations to come.

Donald surfing his homebreak in Waikiki.

For those dreaming of one day learning to surf – whether it be in Waikiki or in Malibu – there’s no doubt you’ll encounter remnants of Donald through the people you meet or the boards you ride. This Hawaiian goofyfooter was more than just a behind-the-scenes artist shaping one prized surfboard after another; Donald helped transform surfing into what it is today.

As a kid, he had a gift for surfing but more so, for shaping surfboards. People in the industry called him a child prodigy when he became the Beethoven to surfing – a classical composer of some of the most premiere boards out there. All of this at an age when most kids are still learning to read. Several years later and barely in his teens, Donald used his paper route money to buy a one-way ticket to Venice Beach, where he splashed right into the surfboard shaping scene. It’s this kind of ambition both in and out of the water that got people noticing this young Hawaiian.

That, and his down-the-line speed, agility and infamous “soul arch” pose when he surfed. Many who knew him say that he made surfing better; he was – and still is – someone admired. Groms growing up in the 60s and 70s not only remember Donald for his mad surf skills but also for his weekly barbecues and famed teriyaki sauce. He was like their hanai (adopted) dad, who took them under his wing and shaped them boards without asking for anything in return. All he wanted was to see them progress as the young crusaders of surfing that they were quickly becoming.

It was this type of generosity and his kind heart – whether noseriding Malibu or crafting his next log – that inspired a new generation to find the glide. Rest in Peace, DT!

Photo Courtesy: Hawaiian Pro Design Surfboards Facebook

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