The Coast News Group
Michael Takayama with his own “Michael Surfboards.” Photo by Chris Ahrens

Waterspot: Surfboards worthy of the Takayama name

The late, great Donald Takayama came to prominence in a time when many of the best surfers — Dewey Weber, Greg Noll, Phil Edwards, Lance Carson and others — shaped their own surfboards.

Shaping was a natural extension of surfing then, but in our time, when surfers are elite athletes complete with their own personal trainers, nobody has the time or inclination to be in a shaping stall eight hours a day.

As such, the surfer/shaper trend left the building in the mid ’70s with Australia’s Terry Fitzgerald and Hawaii’s Barry Kaniaupuni.

Like many from his generation, Donald first began building surfboards for established companies like Bing and Jacobs in South Bay, before moving on to start his own Donald Takayama Surfboards, then MTB, Surfing’s New Image and finally, Hawaiian Pro Designs.

Donald’s nephew, Guy Takayama, followed his famous uncle into surfing and board design and became a top performing longboarder and board builder by the early ’90s.

Also in the Takayama line is Donald’s nephew Michael Takayama, an outstanding surfer and board builder whose designs and unique color combinations are making waves in the upper end longboarding market.

Instead of taking advantage of the famous family name, however, Michael Takayama, like few others before him — Bing Copeland, Con Coburn and Rick Stoner (Stoner Surfboards might have limited their clientele to those inclined toward celebrating 4/20 as a national holiday) — chose to go first name only.

Michael Takayama’s surfboards are called simply, “Michael Surfboards.” If you aren’t familiar with them by name, certainly the unique diamond shape covering the length of the board’s deck and bottom has caught your eye in local lineups.

I’m not sure if Michael intended it this way, but to me that design is a tribute to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth-styled hotrods from the ’50s and ’60s and does justice to the less noticeable qualities built into his boards.

I first met Michael 30 years ago when he picked Steve Cleveland, Joel Tudor Wingnut and me up on the side of the freeway after the van I had borrowed caught fire and burned right down to the tires.

He drove us all to San Onofre, where we surfed together, and I noticed that Michael surfed identically to Donald (who joined us at San Onofre that afternoon) from his first bottom turn, nose ride and cutback right down to the final kickout.

As a board builder, Michael has also incorporated much of Uncle Donald’s style in his use of nose and tail rocker, rail contours and outlines, while adding his own personal touch to each of his beautiful custom surfboards.

I haven’t witnessed this myself, but I am told Michael himself builds every board by hand, from shaping the blank, glassing and pin lining, to rubbing out the rails.

Regardless, the care and craftsmanship involved in each board is evident upon examination and makes Michael Surfboards worthy of the Takayama name, which is saying a lot.

To learn more about Michael Surfboards, visit