Rest in Peace: Hap Jacobs

December 22, 2021

The loss of legendary shaper Hap Jacobs has been another blow to the Bing Surfboards family. Hap passed away on December 19th at the age of 91. His early friendship with Bing Copeland, and his mentorship of Matt and Margaret Calvani helped pave the way for the resurgence of the Bing brand over the last 20 years. Matt + Margaret Calvani and Bing Copeland share their thoughts of his passing.

Bing Surfboards Matt Margaret Calvani Hap Jacobs

MATT CALVANI

I first met Hap in 1991 when I was 21. He decided to get back into board building after walking away from the surfboard business in 1970 to become a commercial swordfish boat operator. Longboards had just started it resurgence, and I was fascinated by the 60's era considering LA's South Bay was the epicenter where 70% of the boards were built in the US.

Hap's level of craftsmanship and attention to detail was like nothing I'd seen up until that point, having come from the shortboard world of production at the time. Let's just say I changed directions and wanted to learn from Hap and make longboards my focus.

The real adventure started when I started airbrushing for Hap then rough shaping. The focus wasn't how fast and efficient you could make a board, but taking the time to make the board as perfect and aesthetically pleasing as possible, more of an art form than a piece of sporting equipment.

This mild-mannered, humble man with stories about the golden era of surfing and board building created the most exciting and fun time in my board building career. I truly owe my knowledge, success and love of longboarding to Hap and through him I met Margaret, his team rider and my now wife. Margaret and I collectively owe so much to this man, we even named our son Jacob after him.

The world has lost a true legend, yet his legacy and contributions to surfing will never be forgotten by me. - Matt Calvani


MARGARET CALVANI

I was just thinking to myself a couple mornings ago that we should try and stop by Hap and Pat's for a visit while we're in the South Bay next week, it's been awhile. To say that my heart is broken is a gross understatement. Not one to wear a lot of emotions out in the open, I don't even think I've really accepted the reality that he's gone. When I heard the news this week, I immediately flashed back to memories of sitting out on the little porch outside of 717 Valley Drive while Hap took a break from shaping my board to have lunch. He'd open up his large blue Igloo cooler and pull out one tiny Tupperware after another. Each one would have 1-2 bites of something meticulously packed like a couple sushi rolls or half a sandwich with the crusts cut off. I was always too embarrassed to ask him why he ate so many tiny things instead of one big thing, and this morning when I realized I wouldn't be able to ask him, I was clouded by sadness. I turned to Matt and asked him if he remembered Hap eating lunch like that, and he chuckled and said "Yeah, I do. He said it was because it was better to portion-control when you eat to keep from getting fat."

That's when it dawned on me... of course I'll always be forever grateful to Hap Jacobs for taking me on as a team rider and giving me a place in the history and long legacy of Jacobs Surfboards, generously building me surfboard and after surfboard for this trip or that contest, never asking for anything in return, and for being there for me when I lost my dad unexpectedly, quietly comforting me on the porch at 717 Valley Drive and becoming a father figure in his own way. But his greatest gift reaches far beyond just surfing. Hap gifted me a family, a better half, and a lifelong passion for surfboards by casually introducing me to his young apprentice, Matt Calvani one day when I was picking up one of my boards. Matt and I were both with other people at the time, but somehow we found our way back to each other and our love poured into building surfboards and a business at the factory Hap left to Matt, then into our marriage and eventually to our kids. When we found out we were going to have a son, we both wanted to name him after Hap, so we called him Jacob. For that, I will be forever grateful to Hap.

Hap Jacobs encapsulates everything that is great and legendary. He was quiet, unassuming, meticulous, patient and wise. His presence didn't just command respect but was also comforting in ways I can't even articulate. I wish life hadn't gotten so busy that our visits became less frequent, but I'm going to pass every memory of him to my kids and their kids, starting with that lunch box. - Margaret Yao Calvani


BING COPELAND

I learned to surf in Manhattan Beach in 1949. I knew of Hap Jacobs who was a surfer in Hermosa. At that time I was learning to surf with Greg Noll in Manhattan Beach. Not too long after, Hap joined the Coast Guard in Hawaii. I didn't see him again until the spring of 1954 when he got back and we took the LA County lifeguard test together. After life guarding that summer I went to Hawaii to surf and eventually joined the Coast Guard myself. As it turned out, we both served on Buoy Tenders in Honolulu. After serving two years in the Coast Guard, and a year sailing a yacht in the South Pacific, I returned to California and opened a little surfboard shop on the Strand near the Hermosa pier. Hap had been partners with Velzy building Velzy Jacobs balsa boards in Venice. About that same time they ended their partnership and Hap opened his shop, Jacob's Surfboards, on Pacific Coast Highway. Around 1953, I opened my own surf shop on the Highway. We were competitors but there was plenty of business and we always remained good friends. Hap was six years older than I was and I looked up to him. We had many years of friendly competition until the early 1970's when the shortboards affected the surfboard business.

Hap, Dewey & Greg Noll all closed down and went into the commercial fishing business and I moved to Idaho and into another business venture. Fast forward to the 1990's when longboards began making a comeback, Hap got back into building his custom Jacobs surfboards and was mentoring a young Matt Calvani.

In the year 2000, I met Matt while surfing in Baja. He told me that he had been shaping for Hap and Becker and that he would like to bring the Bing brand back into production. I knew right away, if he had been working with Hap, that he was a good shaper. We made a deal, and have had a successful partnership for the last twenty years. Matt, Margaret and I are grateful for Hap's mentoring and friendship. He will be remembered as a great surfer, shaper and friend. - Bing Copeland


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