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Donald Takayama, one of the greatest surfers of our time, was celebrated at the 13th annual California Surf Museum gala on Nov. 6 in Oceanside. Photo courtesy of the Takayama collection
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surfing celebrates a godfather

To surfers, time is measured in moving salt water, not air molecules. So excuse me when I break with the “time flies” cliché and say that “time breaks.”

Time to many of us is like a wave that peaks, peels, turns to whitewater and becomes a memory as it fades into the sand.

A lot of waves have broken since I first became aware of California Surf Museum’s “Silver Surfers,” who gathered on the evening of Nov. 6 for the museum’s 13th annual gala and fundraiser.

Those being honored — two-time Women’s World Surfing Champion Lynne Boyer, along with world champions Debbie Melville Beacham, Kim Mearig and three-time Longboarding champ Joel Tudor — have done things on surfboards that few of us have even attempted. Just as many of us look to them for inspiration, they have benefited from the men the evening was dedicated to, Tom Morey and Donald Takayama.

Donald was the first surf star I ever saw in person, attempting a spinner as he approached the Huntington Beach Pier for the 1962 (it might have been 1963) U.S. Championships. He didn’t complete the move and he didn’t win the event, but that’s all it took for me to rank among his legions of fans.

No Donald, No David Nuuhiwa. No David Nuuhiwa, and Joel Tudor may not have taken the direction he did, helping bring back the almost lost art of traditional longboarding in the early ’90s.

Like many others, I too tried to imitate Donald’s quick turns and float-like-a-butterfly noseriding. Where David and Joel succeeded, however, I failed. Try as I did, I was as far from surfing like Donald as I was from throwing a pass like Tom Brady. With all the hours I spent in the water, I never got much better than average at surfing.

That didn’t matter to D.T., however. He was forever kind to me, offering tips and surfboards when I couldn’t afford to pay for them. Many of you reading this have also been recipients of his boundless generosity.

Donald left the surfing world poorer when he passed on Oct. 22, 2012. I don’t make much of the 10/22 being my birthday, but every year for the past nine, I pause to remember him standing eternally on the nose, calling at 4 a.m. to wake me with a joke, or building some of the best surfboards of all time.

To me, they are more than surfboards, however. More too than fine sculpture. They are evidence that a humble man can attain near perfection on earth.

Those in attendance for CSM’s big night were a registry of some of the greatest surfers ever to place their feet on wax.

Mickey Munoz, Pat Curren, Paul Strauch, L.J. Richards, Linda Benson, Jericho Poplar and David Nuuhiwa are all worthy of their own books. Also in attendance were Donald’s wife, Syd, and his daughter, Lelani.

It was not just Donald’s night, of course, but I cannot imagine anyone else bringing that many people together in shoes.

To learn more about Donald Takayama’s more than half-century making surfboards, try to make CSM’s upcoming exhibit on D.T. Even if you never had the pleasure of knowing the man, his boards will tell a portion of the tale.

While the dates of the Takayama exhibit are not yet posted, please keep: https://surfmuseum.org/exhibits/current-exhibits/ bookmarked.

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