For those of us who started surfing in the early to mid ‘60s, we’ve recently seen many notable surfboard builders from that period pass away. It seems like every time we mail out a Last Wave newsletter, it’s about the passing of another legendary shaper. This time, I decided to feature Matt Calvani, a shaper who has become a living legend in the modern surfboard building business.
Matt is the shaper behind the Bing and Rick brands. He is an uncompromising craftsman, preferring to perpetuate these established, legacy names instead of promoting his own. As you may remember, Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner started Bing & Rick Surfboards in Hermosa Beach, California in October of 1959. They went their separate ways soon thereafter, but there is still a ton of interesting history in these two great brands.
Calvani grew up just outside of Salem, Massachusetts and moved to Hermosa Beach when he was14. He quickly became fascinated by surfing and the art of building surfboards. Tom Stanton, a familiar South Bay shaper, was Matt’s first mentor. Apparently, Matt would hang around Tom’s shop so much that Tom put him to work as an apprentice airbrusher. The year was 1986.
A quick study, Matt started his own airbrushing business and soon found himself doing color work on hundreds of boards, many for Al Merrick’s Channel Islands brand. Under the trained eye of legendary shaper Wayne Rich, Matt was introduced to the world of shaping, crafting his first board in 1987. Fortuitously, he moved his airbrushing business to Shoreline Glassing, where he met Hap Jacobs. It was one of several introductions that altered the course of Matt’s career. Hap offered him a side job rough shaping blanks, and shortly thereafter Dennis Jarvis of Spyder Surfboards followed suit.
In 1994, Phil Becker made Calvani his full-time production shaper. Becker challenged him to hand shape 11 boards a day, which he did – for six years! Simultaneously, he continued to shape part time for Jacobs, Lance Carson and Rick.
Perhaps the most game-changing moment in Matt’s burgeoning career was when he met Bing Copeland. I didn’t know this until recently, but in 1974, Bing actually licensed his brand to Larry Gordon of Surfboards by Gordon and Smith, and later to Mike Eaton (Bing’s former head shaper). During this time, the Bing name had languished somewhat, needing someone to breathe new life into the legendary name. In the year 2000, Matt Calvani did just that. “I liked him,” said Bing when they first met. “He was the perfect guy for the job.”
Since then, Matt has been taking the diverse shapes offered by Bing Surfboards in the ‘60s and ‘70s, “remaking” them for the modern surfing community. Inspired by the likes of Dale Velzy, Bing Copeland, Hap Jacobs and Phil Becker, Matt strives to offer a wide range of surfboard designs, all well suited to a variety of surf conditions.
Matt Calvani has become a very prolific and influential surfboard shaper for modern surfing. He is proud of his accomplishments and is grateful for what he has. While in high school, a career counselor asked Matt what he planned to do after graduation. “I told him I was going to make surfboards. The counselor told me, ‘You can’t do that!’ Everyone said I couldn’t make a living making surfboards. I’m proud of the fact that I proved them wrong…”
Until next time,