REMEMBERING A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ICON
Dudley George “Hap” Jacobs passed away on December 19...soft-spoken, yet one of the most widely recognized and highly respected craftsmen in the surfboard building business. He was 91. From what I could learn, his nickname “Hap” is an abbreviation of the word “happy.” Pretty cool…
Hap was born in 1930 in Los Angeles, and moved to Hermosa Beach when he was eight. He started surfing at age 16 and began shaping in 1953. He rented a shop in Redondo Beach with Bev Morgan, a diver/writer/photographer from Santa Barbara, California. Appropriately, they called their shop Dive ‘N’ Surf. Among other things, Morgan was building custom wetsuits at the time, and it was out of that shop that Body Glove Wetsuits was born. How did that happen?
Well, future Body Glove co-founders Bill and Bob Meistrell bought out Hap’s interest in Dive ‘N’ Surf, Bill Meistrell introduced Hap to Dale Velzy, and by 1954 Velzy-Jacobs Surfboards had opened a shop in Venice, California. In a recent article written by former Jacobs team rider Mike Purpus, he recalls, “Hap told me one of the hardest things he ever had to do was tell his mother that Velzy was his new partner. His mother thought Velzy was a bad influence.”
From left to right, Dale Velzy, Hap Jacobs, Bill Meistrell and Bev Morgan outside Dive 'N' Surf, 1954. Photo credit: Encyclopedia of Surfing
As the age of the shortboard began to take hold in the early ‘70s, Jacobs joined several other surfing notables - including Dewey Weber, Greg Noll and Bruce Brown - and left the surfboard business in favor of commercial fishing. As the popularity of longboard surfing began its resurgence in the early ‘90s, Hap started shaping again. He finally retired after finding a suitable shaping talent to perpetuate the Jacobs Surfboards name - Matt Calvani. Below are excerpts from Matt’s recent tribute to Hap Jacobs, well written and genuine:
"I first met Hap in 1991 when I was 21. He decided to get back into board building after walking away from the surfboard business in 1970. Hap's level of craftsmanship and attention to detail was like nothing I'd seen up until that point, having come from the shortboard world of production at the time.
This mild-mannered, humble man with stories about the golden era of surfing and board building created the most exciting and fun time in my career. I truly owe my knowledge, success and love of longboarding to Hap and through him I met Margaret, his team rider and now my wife. Margaret and I collectively owe so much to this man, we even named our son Jacob after him. The world has lost a true legend, yet his legacy and contributions to surfing will never be forgotten."
Mid-60s Jacobs Surf Team feature some familiar faces - John Ho (far left), Robert August (far right), and a very youthful Donald Takayama at the center bottom.
Margaret Yao Calvani is Matt’s wife and business partner. She is a very talented surfer and astute businesswoman, who enjoyed an extraordinary friendship with Hap. She also joins the long list of gifted Jacobs team riders. Her words below reflect the warmth and generosity that defined Hap Jacobs:
"To say that my heart is broken is a gross understatement. I don't even think I've really accepted the reality that he's gone. I'll be forever grateful to Hap Jacobs for taking me on as a team rider and giving me a place in the history and long legacy of Jacobs Surfboards, generously building me surfboard after surfboard…never asking for anything in return, and for being there for me when I lost my dad unexpectedly. But his greatest gift reaches far beyond just surfing. Hap gifted me a family, a better half, and a lifelong passion for surfboards by casually introducing me to his young apprentice, Matt Calvani. For that, I will be forever grateful to Hap.
Hap Jacobs encapsulates everything that is great and legendary. He was quiet, unassuming, meticulous, patient and wise. His presence didn't just command respect but was also comforting in ways I can't even articulate."
Thank you, Matt and Margaret, for allowing me to use your words to reflect whom Hap Jacobs really was. I was lucky enough to meet him briefly on a couple of occasions…the first time at Dale Velzy’s memorial celebration on June 14th, 2005…Hap spoke so articulately of his former business partner, mixing humor with heartfelt memories. The world of surfing will miss Hap Jacobs greatly, and it can be certain that the high standard built into the Jacobs Surfboards name is in good hands.
Until next time,