Featured Ambassador: Don Craig

April 23, 2021

Interview by Royce Cansler

Don Craig is a soft-spoken, well-mannered gentleman and an excellent surfer. He's been involved in the surf industry in some shape or form since it's early beginnings in the 1950's. A fixture at San Onofre, you'll find Don posted up in front of four-doors in his Ford van, surfing, socializing and sharing stories, almost every day; he's definitely "the Greeter" at SanO.

Bing Floral Band Photo Paul Nett

Don's career began as a salesman on the floor of Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach. It wasn't long before his easy-going casual nature and his talent as a surf "businessman" made him the perfect candidate to become a sales rep for some of the most popular brands around, so in the mid 70's he began traveling up and down the California coast selling Quiksilver, (their first rep), Rip Curl, O'Neill, Instinct, and later HIC and Surf More leashes and other surfing products.

In 2003 Don founded "Old Guys Rule", a little line of surf related tee shirts and stickers, that would become a major success story. Today, Don is the owner and licensing director of the brand that has branched out into multiple markets across the USA and Globally. Don spends most of his time in his office on the beach at SanO and hanging out with his wife Robi and friends in San Clemente.

San Onofre Don Craig

Don's story in his own words:

"I was lucky enough to be born into a surfing family and grow up in Hermosa Beach. The timing and location couldn't have been better, it was during the surf boom of the 50's and 60's and for my brother Tom and I, the Strand, the pier, 22nd St., the local surfboard factories and shops, were the center of it all.

In the beginning my Dad made all our boards, my first 5 surfboards were made of balsa, it wasn't until my 6th board I got one out of foam, all of them were shaped and glassed in our garage.

Don Craig in the Bing Floral Band - Photo Paul Nett

Our situation allowed us to pick up surfing pretty quickly at our young age, living on 19th Street, a half block from the beach, we were guided and influenced by the best surfers in the South Bay. Leroy Grannis lived right up the hill from 22nd St. and would come down on weekends and shoot photos of all the guys. We surfed with guys like Dewey Weber, Ricky Hatch, Peff Eick, Barry Bagley, Tom Brooks, Hoppy & Buzz Swarts, Bing Copeland, Rob Stidem, and many others. The South Bay was a hot bed of surfing talent at the time, and Hermosa was a beach break that on occasion did get pretty good.

Bing Surfboards Don Craig

In the late 50's Dewey Weber was working for Dale Velzy in the winter, in the summer he was the lifeguard at 19th Street, just down from our house. Dewey would watch Tom and I surf in the mornings before the blackball flags would go up. When he decided to start making his own boards, Dewey approached us and said he'd build us any size/shape board for $83.50; we decided it was time to step up to a professional board! That was just the beginning for us. Not long after that Dewey moved out of Hermosa to his new shop in Playa Del Rey.

About that same time Bing and his family moved in over on 20th St., he saw my brother & I surf and invited me up to his factory to pick out a new board, so I gave him my old Dewey board in trade and got my first Bing. Bing's boards worked great, and I noticed right away that they really improved my surfing.

Our family was lucky enough to be members of the San Onofre Surfing Club, a private club that provided us access to SanO, Church, and Trestles in the 50's, 60's and into the 70's. We'd pack up on Friday afternoon and wait for my Dad to get home, load up the boards and head south down the old Coast Highway to SanO, camping anywhere that was free. We were up early, and we'd hit the beach at 6am to get in an early session and then surf all day.

Don Craig Man Cave

When I was in the 8th grade I was invited to join the Jacobs Surf Team along with my close friends Sparky Hudson and Mike Purpus. While I'm sure Bing wasn't stoked, it was a choice I made at the time and my friends and I started competing. Surfing up and down the West Coast allowed me to get to know many good surfers from all over, people I'm still friendly with today. Those were some incredibly fun times, traveling and surfing great breaks like Santa Cruz, Rincon, Malibu, Swamis, etc., with minimal crowds, nothing like what we experience today.

After graduating from Mira Costa High School in 1966 our family moved to Newport Beach. I knew the two best surfers in the area from surfing contests and they introduced my brother and I around, we were instantly in with the 'in' crowd. Soon I was asked to be on the Harbour Surf Team and eventually ended up working as a salesman in Rich Harbour's shop in Seal Beach.

Bing Nuiihiwa Lightweight

One winter I decided to go to Hawaii leaving college and my 2-S student deferment, almost immediately I got a notice stating I was 1-A and would have to report for active duty in the Army. I freaked out and my friend, Ed Farwell and I joined the Naval Air Reserve to avoid going to Vietnam. It was a radical time and surfboards were about to enter a new phase that would be known as the 'transitional era'. Surfboards started going from long to short, pintails in Hawaii, V Bottoms in Australia, round and diamond tails in California.

Bing's proven shapes have truly stood the test of time. Many of the shapes he pioneered back in the 60's are still as popular today as they were back then.

I had been riding a 9'6" when I went in the Naval Air Reserve and came back to an 8'0", a big leap in those days. I sold off my long boards and started riding shorter boards, my only problem was that I really liked surfing at San Onofre, and it just isn't a good short board wave.

A friend in Newport was offloading an old Bing Nuuhiwa Lightweight which I bought for $35, and it turned out to be a 'Magic Board'. Longboard surf contests started happening again I thought what the hell I'll give it a shot. I was showing up with my Bing and my friends would snicker; 'you're going to ride that old board?', then I'd beat them and say it's my 'Magic Board'. Since that day I've always kept my eye out for Bing Lightweights and Noseriders and today I have a great quiver of 11 original Bings

Don Craig David Nuuihiwa Noserider by Paul Nett

Bing's proven shapes have truly stood the test of time. Many of the shapes he pioneered back in the 60's are still as popular today as they were back then. I'm very happy to represent Bing as an Ambassador, throughout my surfing career my Bing's have served me well, I can honestly say they are some of the best boards I've ever ridden and still ride today.

Bing himself has been a great friend over the years. He made a fantastic decision when he passed his brand on to Matt and Margaret Calvani. Matt's designs and craftsmanship have kept the Bing name relevant. He has done an excellent job of keeping quality construction and function at the forefront of surfboard manufacturing while upholding the heritage and tradition of the past. I'm sure Bing is very proud to see his legacy live on!"

Don Craig David Nuuihiwa Noserider by Paul Nett

Don's favorite Bing Model is the Bing Lightweight. You can catch him styling and noseriding anytime you're at SanO or in the Trestles area. We're proud to have Don as a longtime Bing Ambassador, and hope you enjoy his story. If you see him on the beach walk up and introduce yourself, there's a good chance you'll get a story or two, and if you're lucky a Bing and an Old Guys Rule sticker.

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