RIP Donald Takayama

Legendary shaper dies at age 68

| posted on October 22, 2012

Donald Takayama earlier this year, still as enthusiastic as ever to talk surfboard design. Photo: Glaser

According to early reports, lifelong shaping icon Donald Takayama passed away due to complications from surgery on October 22, 2012. The Hawaiian goofyfooter showed incredible talent for both riding waves and making surfboards at a young age, and moved from Waikiki to Venice Beach at just 12 years old to make boards under the Velzy-Jacobs label. Since his beginnings behind the planer, he has shaped longboards for some of the most iconic surfers of all time, from Miki Dora to Joel Tudor. Takayama was responsible for some of the greatest innovations in longboard design, and will be missed as one of surfing’s most cherished icons.

  • Jimmy Regan

    So sad to hear of Donald’s passing. Condolences to his family. A righteous surfer and surfboard innovator who was always ahead of the pack. We never met, though I’m told he was a nice guy. Rest in peace and thanks for all the great shapes. Reg in Manly, Australia.

  • zeno malan

    RIP DT.
    Close up view of DT shredding Seaside Reef in ’71. No one came close to his ability in his prime. What a pleasure to have witnessed!

  • R Munson

    Donald, RIP and condolences to your family and close friends. Thanks for your aloha and shaping some great (Surfboards Hawaii) boards for a surf stoked kid back in the 60’s and early 70’s.
    You are one of my all time surf heros ….
    R Munson

  • bob deweese

    wow, im in shock apart from all the surfing and shaping kudos, donald was truly one of the nicest, and sincere people in the biz. . i was lucky enough to have him and his wife live near me right at stone steps, there were some late nights and early sessions, but dt was always just one of the guys. surfing lost one of a kind.

  • JJ

    Aloha, Donald – Originally met him well off the beaten path somewhere in Hawaii, then a few times early AM on the sand in Oside. Always so full of aloha. Thoughts and prayers to his friends and family –

  • Michael Brennan

    So saddened to hear of Donald Takayama’s death. Since the 60’s, in Santa Monica, I knew of Donald’s skills on and love of the ocean! He made surfing better. And I am sure that he made living better for many who knew him.

  • http://pm chris sesma

    DT showed what ‘aloha’ meant to mainlanders and always made you feel welcomed. Waves of sorrow are hitting the shores of the world over the passing of DT…. miss you brah!

  • danny norman

    legend….. RIP Mr Takayama. total respect from the UK surf scene..

  • Devon Howard

    Thanks for posting this photo. I am thankful Todd Glaser took this recently. Donald was a giver. He mentored so many people like Joel Tudor, Mitch Abshere, Kassia Meador, Jen Smith, Summer Romero, Erik Sommer, Brendan White, Noah Shimabukuro, Joey Buran, Dale Dobson, Larry Bertleman, David Nuuhiwa, Rell Sunn, and I can go on forever. Hundreds of great surfers. We are all so lucky to have been influenced by this man’s boards, but more importantly his words of wisdom and stoke for riding waves. Best surfer/shaper of all time. Aloha DT. You are loved and missed by so many.

  • http://nada... dave kAwiki kAneshiero

    ….Who’s gonna make the Teriyaki Sauce now…..?? Ala Mo lost it’s funnest, finest bro!! So So Sad to hear the So So Sad news……Aloha Spirit @ It’s HIGHEST level… bros, keep this SPIRIT alive for Uncle D ! Respect, Care for EVERYONE you cross paths with…True Hawaiian Style..That would truly honor this fine soul who we had the luck to experience….Uncle D grew up in the Honolulu @ a great time…..back in da day as dey say… Rest Up Uncle D…sincere condolences to Family….from da Kaneshiro Ohana, Palolo Valley, Honolulu, Hi.

  • renato

    Rip. form Italy

  • Marty

    Thank-you for your Aloha! Rest in Peace Donald.

  • Burr M Cox

    Aloha to a great surfer and shaper, since I am 66 and DT was 68 his death is a huge shock to me, 50 years of surfing and you were an icon to me, someone to emulate and admire, my best to your family. You will be missed, for sure your riding waves in heaven, where age has no barrier. God Bless.

  • Graham bray

    I met Donald at the Festival of Surfing here in Noosa, he actually dropped in on me, he was right front of me . At the end of wave he apologized, I said ” it was a pleasure watching you at close range”. Every time he ran into me at the Festival we woulld talk. The next year when he came back he remembered me. He was really nice guy and I’m so glad I got to meet him. RIP Donald.

  • Brendon

    There are boards and there are boards.There (in my opinion)will never be a shaper /craftsman with the magic touch that Donald Takayama had.His shapes are pure genius.R.I.P.From Brendon.England

  • Kip Kennedy

    Aloha Donald,

    We will miss your smiling face, quick wit, and great sense of humor. Besides Phil Edwards you have shaped me some of the greatest boards that I have ever surfed, Kip Kennedy

  • mike pepin

    You are a legend to my family and many others ! R.I.p and give my boy emery kauanui some love up there@

  • mike hayman

    I am deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Takayama….one of the sports great influences in so many ways….his contributions are immeasurable and I pray his reward in heaven is the same….he embodied the Spirit of Surfing….God Bless his Family & Friends

  • Ian Gibson

    Our hearts ache for Donald’s family, friends, and all those who were lucky enough to ever meet him. Aloha friend.

  • John Bautista Virata

    I am shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of DT. I am honored to have met you and got the chance to surf with you. I also remember the time that your nephew Michael and I went to the factory in 1984 to pick up our Safety nose thrusters. You were mowing the foam for those boards when we got there. Aloha DT. Your shapes, which are the best of any longboard shaper out there, and your aloha spirit, will live on forever.–Bautista

  • Sandra

    Such wonderful memories, I will miss you.

  • Carla Hunt & Family

    Remembering when Donald ask me to take his Hawaiian Bro’s to a surf spot because he had to go to work. I chose Coronado Island by the jetty. After we had all returned, they replied, leave it to a girl to bring us to the best surf spot in California. Donald had the best & nicest spirit of all. Hang 10 will live on forever just not with his expertise. Heartfelt sympathy to Sid, Lailani, Alana, & Family. We loved him dearly. Kalapano.

  • John and Barbara Holly

    Truly a great man, father , friend , surfer , master shaper. Aloha Donald. Just a quick story, my wife and I are at his surf contest the sand is so hot that sandals are a must, we stop to chat and Donald notices my wife hoping up and down Donald slips off his flops and gave them to Barb, when I told her of Donald’s passing a tear welled up, always a smile with Aloha spirit.

  • Jeffrey

    Can’t believe this. Prayers to his family and loved ones. The entire surf industry and all of us who cherish his shapes will miss him for eternity. Enjoy the big cleans sets up there! From the east coast, mahalo for all you have done to the art of shaping. Riding my ITP really rediscoverd the enjoyment for me, along with the classic Egg and DT lines. I’ll never sell them. Aloha…

  • Raphael Delstanche

    Donald is now shaping for Kahuna. R.I.P.
    From Raphael in Belgium

  • Kieron OShea

    You shaped more than boards. You shaped us with your spirit.

    I’ll always remember you sitting on the floor of the SPS to play with Sailor, and talking story in the shaping room. Heaven has the pleasure of your company now. I’m sure God’s stoked. Wish you a sunny morning with the wind offshore and a clean left under you. aloha oe Donald.

  • David

    Surfed with you at d&w in the 60’s.The boards you shaped for me in the 80’s 90’s were excellent.My present day 9 4 in the pink is the one my son loves the best.My favorite is the blue 9 0 double wood pintail you hand shaped for me.Rest in peace, I will miss you.

  • Claudia

    Donald impacted my life since the first minute I met him, I have not forgotten him ever since. A year ago he made a board for me, and he died on my btday.He is forever in my heart and our prayers. We all recognize that he is the father of surfing in our time and he did it so easyly and effortless at the same time very spiritually!



  • Ryan Manglona

    He will be missed by many , but more by those hearts he touched.

  • John fordy

    Very sad to here of another great legend in our sport to pass away I met Donald a few years ago and had the great privilege to sign his shaping room wall he was a lovely kind and generouse man , I’ve had many of Donald’s boards over the years will cherish them forever r.i.p Donald we will meet again

  • Marty

    RIP Donald!,keep riding in the fluid blue-you will be missed!Thoughts and prayers to your family.We haven’t lost a friend but gained a bigger inspiration.

  • Josh Dyer

    You were the best longboard shaper ever!!!!


    i HEARD OF THIS GUY when i was in highschool in Kailua i was a gemmie surfer who surfed with michael and derek ho’s father chico Ho’s nalo surfing society, he was always talked about even then, in the early 60’s..
    My brother inlaw Spike and i was checking waves out at the Tamarack cliffs in carlsbad, sitting and watching we see this oriental older looking guy pull up with an old stationwaqgon full of surfboards by himself, we started chatting with him and realize who we were talking to the grt takiyama to us ,thats who he was in our mine !! the man was so humble and graciuos to us , with out knowing us without a blink of an eye he offered both spike and I any board he had with him to go out and surf with him!!! WE THOUGHT THAT WAS WAY TO COOL I STILL HAVE A 9’6”TAKIYAMA NOSERIDER TO THIS DAY…RIP DONALD

  • Rick “The Trader” Skillman

    Donald made my second board in 1963 and just made another one me last month, still in glass. He has been an influence for all my life. Such a positive man in so many ways. Surfing has lost one of the pillars on the sport. So sad!

  • Roby LaPorte

    I met DT in the early 60’s as a young kid. I was lucky enough to have met him and surfed with him a few times in the South the breakwater. I first met him at his home, where his mom made surf trunks, they were called ‘Takies’ and were the first official surf wear ever. If you look at the famous “Endless Summer’ poster, all three of those dudes are wearing Takies… i had four pairs by the time she passed. Donald was a great shaper, yeah, no doubt, but was one of the great pioneers of Cali surfing and had a fluidity like no other, just like his boards. To this day I can see his smiling face and overwellming generousity. There was peace in his eyes, I’ll never forget. Rest in Peace, my brother, see ya on the next level!

  • Peter “Pope” Kahapea

    I shall miss my Friends. Harold “Iggy” and now Donald. Sparky Hudson said to me yesterday as we chatted and remembered Donald from The South Bay, hanging around 22nd St. “Peter, your the last man standing” referring to the the photo taken by LeRoy Grannis at 22nd St, for an ad, for Dewey Weber Surfboards, where the 3 of us are standing on the beach with our surfboards.

    Kevin Eide, I remember you and your brother well, from our old days hanging around the Marina Fountain in Playa Del Rey, hanging around Dewey’s Shop on Lincoln Blvd, Toes Over and D & W’s. I hope You and Your Ohana are well, my Friend.

    Aloha noo, Donald
    Aloha nooo, My Friend!

  • Peter K

    Not only crazy in the shaping room ,but wooped our butts in that porsche! Tak,for those that missed your persnality-wow,for those that never rode one of your boards-wow,but for those that tried to live like you did-as we joined-good luck!!!! Talk about under the radar************* Bless you,Peter K

  • Peter MacRae

    Donny Mulhern..Where are you..? GREAT MATE of Donald’s..Please add your ‘comments’ for the sake of History, and the information of those to come!
    (Dewey Webers ‘Glasser’, and GREAT Friend of Donald’s.)
    We have to catch up.Your ‘Aussie’ Mate..Peter MacRae.
    P.S. Could anyone noseride.. longboards better than Donald T…?

  • ron horner

    you believed in me as my first sponsor, shaped my first shortboard , gave us your truck and entry fee into the katin at huntington in the first week i knew you!I was never so surf stoked in my life and that meant more to you than my result afterwards.Love and Surfing you gave me that 30yrs ago that gift is still giving.I will always remember you Thanks Donald

  • Don Cooper

    DT shreaded Stone Steps Summer Chug a Lug Contest in the early 70’s. Hangin 5 with 5 pitchers down his gullet!

  • Ted Roets

    RIP DT I have 1973 5’10” twin fin you shaped that I have saved along with a Ben Aipa 7’6″ winger pipeline gun. I will never let these boards go … I can still feel energy from them.

  • Freakfish

    I loved his boards. Its his shapes which turned me to Surftech. The Scorpion board is soooooo much fun. I wasnt a fan of surftech, but this board got me into Donalds boards. One of the funnest boards i have ever ridden.

    Damn shame hes gone!

  • Eduardo

    In Brazil… the 80’s to 12 years old I bought a Vintage Ben Aipa Surf Board Blue Wing Stinger from the late ’70s. 6’7 x 21 “x 3.” Shaped By Donald Takayama. And
    I’m wanting to sell it but do not know the actual market value of this gem.
    Could you help me? I have the original fin laminated fiberglass black. Wait
    contact. Thank you and a big Brazilian hug!!