Hap Jacobs, a craftsman who helped mold surf culture as it is today and an icon among early innovators who transformed the surfboard-shaping industry as the sport gained popularity, has died. He was 91 years old.
Jacobs, who died on Saturday, December 18, was among the first crop of inductees into the Hermosa Beach Surfers Hall of Fame.
“I am saddened, not only because he was an incredible craftsman, but he had the kindest heart,” said Dennis Jarvis, owner of Spider Surfboards and founder of the Surfers Hall of Fame.
Dudley “Happy” Jacobs was born in Los Angeles before his family moved to Hermosa Beach in 1938, when Jacobs was in fourth grade.
It wasn’t long before she got a job at California Surfriders in Manhattan Beach, 16 years old, before drenching in the surf lifestyle, swapping out and racking up surf mat rents. As a perk of the job, he would take Matt out to catch the waves. Jacobs began to take notice of a group of surfers – including South Bay hot shot del Velzi – on heavy redwood boards at the Hermosa Beach Pier.
After graduating from Redondo Union High School in 1951, he enlisted in the US Coast Guard, where he began riding the waves in Makaha, Hawaii with others, among them big-wave rider and South Bay pioneer Greg Knoll. .
It was here that he also met his wife Patricia. The two moved back to Hermosa Beach, where he began a carpenter’s apprenticeship at UCLA. It was not long before he left office.
His first major foray into surf retail was when he and South Bay diver Bev Morgan pooled their resources in 1953 and went into business to form Dive ‘n Surf in Redondo Beach.
He sold his share to twin brothers Bob and Bill Mistrell, who built the body glove empire.
Jacobs wanted to make quality surfboards, so he teamed up with Welzi to start the Welzzi-Jacos Surf Shop in Venice Beach. But by the early ’60s, Jacobs had his own surf shop in Hermosa Beach. He called it the Jacobs Surfboard.
“He was in the right business at the right place at the right time,” Southern California Newsgroup history columnist Sam Gainere once wrote of him. “The surfing craze rocked Southern California and the country in the early 1960s, and for a while, Hermosa Beach was ground zero.”
But by 1971, as smaller, more progressive board designs began to take shape, Jacobs sold shares of his business.
He became a commercial fisherman for the next 20 years and operated a fuel dock in King Harbor, calling the nearby Palos Verdes Estates home.
In 1991, Jacobs came out of retirement to return to board shaping, Jarvis said, possibly because he saw a resurgence in longboarding, which would be a shaping bay right next to Jacobs’ location in Hermosa Beach.
Even before this, Jarvis was no stranger to Jacobs’ influence. Like many other South Bay surfers, he was the first wave rider on one of Jacobs’ designs.
“My whole life revolves around that man and what he did for me,” Jarvis said.
They quickly became friends while working next to each other, with Jacobs asking Jarvis for advice on contemporary shortboard designs, while the old shaper shared his passion for stories and his longboard craftsmanship.
“All the bells and whistles, he didn’t get it. He knew to be successful, he had to get it,” Jarvis said, noting that they spent the afternoon talking about the tri-fin setup and shortboard design. will sit at the meal. “That’s when I fell in love with the guy. He was ready to learn about new concepts and innovations.”
Jarvis described him as “confidently sweet” and “full of love and light”, a clown with a goofy side who always made people smile. They took shape until a few years ago.
Jacobs, along with the likes of Greg Knoll and Dale Velzi, made the sport accessible to the masses, shaping thousands of boards in the late 50s and 60s, referred to as surfing, in popularity around the world.
“When you take a look at the label out of Hermosa Beach,” Jarvis said, “there isn’t one that can touch the legacy of those who first joined many years ago.”
Peter “PT” Townend, who recently created an installation at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum called “Finding California Surf,” spoke about Jacobs’ influence and the importance of remembering the early icon.
“We are losing them all, there are not many people left in that generation,” he said.
“I think it’s incredibly important,” Townend said. “It is really nice to go back and reflect on the impact these people have had. They were the pioneers of the surfboard manufacturing industry we have today.”
In addition to the Surfers Hall of Fame, Jacobs was also inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame in 2002.
A post on Jacobs Surfboards Facebook page praising the South Bay legend described him as a hero and a teacher. He had two sons, Dean and Kent, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, according to his grandson Mike.
“Hap wasn’t afraid to chase his dreams and he proved it,” Post said. “He always inspired us to be better. He inspired us to chase our dreams and live our best life trying to follow in his footsteps. Only by being ourselves.”