March 08, 2021
Surfing is much more than riding waves; it is our lifestyle, our culture, a fraternity / sorority, a club, and most importantly, our big family. The tightknit surfing community of Southern California is a group of young and old men, women and kids that enjoy sharing each other's lives, experiences, joys and sorrows, ups and downs, and whatever else comes down the line throughout the journey; from the take-off until the kickout.
While eternally optimistic, today our family at Bing is trying to maneuver through two devastating realities that have hit us especially hard this last week as we mourn the passing of two of our longstanding family members, mentors, and respected elders Mike Eaton and Phil Becker.
If you think it's a small world in our surf community today, reflect for a minute on what it must have been like in the late 50's / early 60's... Bing Copeland, Hap Jacobs, Rick Stoner, Phil Becker and Mike Eaton all grew up together spending their formative years in the South Bay. They literally worked a stone's throw from each other while socializing and surfing together often. What started as Velzy/Jacobs Surfboards would become Jacobs Surfboards. What started as Bing & Rick Surfboards would become Bing Surfboards and Rick Surfboards. Along with the founders of these longstanding iconic brands; shapers Bing Copeland, Hap Jacobs and Rick Stoner, the two most prolific shapers to come out of the group were Phil Becker and Mike Eaton... cornerstones of the surfboard industry, friends and mentors to many, and individuals we all feel had to kick out a little too soon.
The leaves don't fall far from the tree... both Mike and Phil had a profound influence on our own Matt Calvani, current owner and head shaper here at Bing Surfboards since the 2000. More than any other shaper Phil Becker was Matt's mentor and friend for many years before Matt struck out on his own. And if it wasn't for the generosity of Mike Eaton, and his passion for keeping the Bing brand healthy and alive, Matt may not have been able to accomplish the success he has achieved today.
In 1993, Matt was offered a full-time shaping position at Becker Surfboards as Phil Becker's main production shaper. Matt was hand-shaping more than 25 shortboards a week in addition to longboards and midlengths at Becker. At the same time Matt continued to shape for Hap Jacobs, Lance Carson and Rick Surfboards.
In 2000, Matt's friend Dan Bendicksen, head shaper for Bing Surfboards in the late 60s, introduced Matt to Bing Copeland and Mike Eaton, resulting in Matt's inheritance of Bing Surfboards. Then in 2004 Hap Jacobs decided to retire and asked Matt to take over Jacobs Surfboards. The Bing and Jacobs Surfboards torch was passed one more time..
Matt opened a surfboard shaping and glassing facility next to friend and foam supplier, Jeff Stoner, Rick Stoner's son, in Gardena, CA. Eventually, in November of 2010, Matt and his wife Margaret were able to move the factory to the hill in Encinitas, CA., the current home of Bing Surfboards.
To say it's a small world in our surfing community is an understatement. It is difficult to express the sorrow we feel today as our family mourns and tries to accept the loss of Mike Eaton and Phil Becker.
"Outside of Bing Copeland himself, Phil Becker and Mike Eaton were two of the most influential people in my shaping career. As I mourn their passing, I reflect on their talent and generosity. I worked for Phil for almost ten years which felt like ten years of shaping boot camp. Working for the most prolific shaper in history (having shaped upwards of 130,000 boards by hand), who hand-shaped anywhere from 11 to 20 boards a day, 6 days a week, I remember being trained to fill those shoes as his only shaper. The challenge was physical, mental, and were some of the best and worst times of my life. Phil's standards were way high as a board builder, but I remember once he brought me to his house in Costa Rica and was the kindest most generous friend. Every night he would play classical guitar with such ease and perfection, I thought I was at a concert. Apparently, his entire family played some sort of musical instrument, and he claimed his musical achievement was an embarrassment to his family. Before he became a surfboard shaper, Phil did a lot of wood carvings, multiple coworkers that saw his work claimed that he carved a perfect human hand out of wood. He was a man of so many talents, many of which most people wouldn't know about because the man was so humble and low-key. Phil had the most significant impact on my career as a surfboard builder because he mentored me during my most formative years as a shaper, instilling in me a work ethic and design philosophy that has resonated in all my shapes and designs since."
Mike Eaton played an integral role in the evolution of the Bing Surfboards legacy, having built Bing boards for the longest period in history (1968-2000). I didn't have the honor of knowing Mike as intimately as the shapers who mentored me, but his reputation was legendary, and his generosity and kindness were immeasurable. Mike carried the torch for Bing Surfboards from 1974 up until I took the brand over in 2000 and was best known for his evolution of the Bing Bonzer and his contribution to the peak of the Hawaiian gun era. His stewardship of the Bing brand was critical in maintaining the brand's integrity. When I had my chance run-in on a Baja beach with Bing Copeland and asked him if I could take over the Bing brand for him, he went to Mike and asked him if he would be OK with the transition. Not only did Mike agree whole-heartedly to pass the brand onto me, but he also didn't want any compensation and gave me all of his remaining laminates, board templates, and his account list. I will never forget Mike's kindness and generosity, without which I would not be where I am today. To lose two legends in our craft in a week is a huge loss to our community and industry, and I am forever grateful for how they both touched my life and will immortalize them in my shaping as will many others who were also blessed to know them and be mentored by them. - Matt Calvani
"I've known Mike since 1954, when I was in high school. After I got out of the Coast Guard in '58 I was a mailman during Christmas and remember delivering mail to Mike when he was living in Hermosa Beach building outrigger canoes in his garage. We developed a mutual interest in boats and craftsmanship.
We stayed in touch but went our separate ways until one day in 1968 when he came by my shop and I was looking for an additional shaper. It was like my prayers were answered and for the next seven years Mike became my main shaper and was more like a partner helping me run the business and designing the board models.
When Mike retired, he moved to Hawaii, so I took a trip to visit Mike and his wife Marianne and his brother Jared. Several years later Mike had a stroke, and his wonderful wife Marianne took incredible care of him. Three years ago with Marianne's help Mike was able to take part in our video of the history of Bing Surfboards. Unfortunately, March 2nd Mike had a second stroke and he passed on the 3rd. He will always be remembered as a great friend and a very important part of my life." - Bing Copeland
October 14, 2021
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