By Thomas Takao
There have been many events in the surfboard industry that have occurred since the time when Danny Brawner made his first surfboard for himself. When balsa surfboards were the norm and it’s redwood brother and the kookbox paddleboard faded from the beach scene. It was a period when polyurethane foam was beginning to be used as the core for surfboards. Longboards became short and single fins became twins and then tri’s. What this adds up to is that Danny can say he saw it coming, was there when it happened and can look back on it with fond memories.
Doheny Beach is where Dan began surfing in 1951. It was at Doheny where he first met his friend Rex McMullen, whose father was the Park Ranger at Doheny Beach. Having a dad who was a Ranger meant that Rex and his family were living there. The Parks Department would house the Rangers at the campgrounds in a designated cottage. How lucky could you be, having waves breaking in your front yard and surfing it too.
The possibility of stepping on a sea urchin was very likely if you weren’t careful. There were sea urchins in between or on the river rocks that line the coastal waters from Doheny Beach to Dana Point Cove. If you were to step on one and have a thorn or two break off in your foot, it was painful experience.
It was 1954 Danny shaped and glassed his first balsa surfboard for himself, then he would do it for his brother. The boards that he made were OK, considering that he had no prior experience in surfboard building. After making his surfboard, he appreciated the skill that it took to make one that was of surf shop quality. He decided to get a Hobie Balsa Surfboard at the Hobie’s surf shop which was 5 minutes west of Doheny on Pacific Coast Highway. The board cost him $50.00 and back then that was a lot of money.
While in High School Danny who had the experience of working on surfboards, got a job at Hobie’s repairing balsa surfboards. By being around the other employees of Hobie, Dan would learn the ways of surfboard building. Surfing became very popular among the youth scene. Parents started buying surfboards for their kids and taking them to the beach. The orders continued to increase as surfing took off.
One day Danny ran into Dale Velzy at the beach and the conversation turned to surfboard building. As they talked Dan mentioned that he had glassed a few surfboards. After hearing that, Dale told Danny to come on down to his shop and glass some boards for him and he would do just that after their talk, the year was 1958.
Dale had a crew of notable craftsmen working for him at the time. Along with Danny, there was Al Nelson, Carl Ekstrom, Rennie Yater, Sandy Banks, Harold Igge, Donald Takayama, Del Cannon, Bill Cooper, Bob Cooper, George Kapo’o, Bobby Patternson and others during the years that the shop was in business. Dan blended in and began glassing for Dale.
Many of these craftsmen would go on to work for Hobie Alter, Bing Copeland, Dewey Weber, Greg Noll and the other name brands surfboards of the 60s and some would start they own shops in the 1970s. Velzy had shops in Venice,S an Clemente, San Diego and Hawaii. All the shops closed after some bad luck with the economy and a divorce from his first wife.
In 1960 after Velzy closed his shop, Dan went to work for a company named Bohemian making pop out surfboards. The foam was brick hard and had to be sanded before any glassing could be done. Dan recalled those board had a layer of 20 ounce fiberglass on the top and 20 oz. on the bottom and weighed a ton.
After working for Bohemian for 9 months, he went to work for Holden Surfboards in 1961.That didn’t last and would be looking for another job. Meanwhile Velzy had open a surfboard building school in Newport Beach and Danny became a temporary glassing instructor for him. During his time he taught a couple guys how to glass. One of those individuals was from the Middle East and whose name was difficult to pronounce. So Dale just gave him the nick name of Accu Ba Ba.
Accu Ba Ba would go on to another occupation and became a successful business owner. (As mentioned by Velzy) Every so often Velzy and Danny would go to a clothing company not far from the shop. There were shoes placed near the entrance of the store. Danny would try on some and if he liked them, he would place his old glassing shoes in the same spot where the new shoes were and walk out the door. In Danny’s mind back then it was kinda like if don’t like what you have, just bring your old shoes and they will replace them for free.
Danny was surfing, glassing and playing the drums for a trio in 1961. In 1962 Danny got married and an opportunity to work for Hobie again at his new 5000 sq. ft. building came up. He would glass for Hobie from 1962 until 1989. Some memorable times at Hobie Surfboards were during those years. Also in 1962 Danny joined another band whose name were the Sandells.
Their music would become the sound track for Bruce Brown’s movie “The Endless Summer”. When the film first came out the band would play the music, while Bruce did the commentary. Not too many people knew of this, but the original album cover for The Endless Summer album had a motorcycle on it. Originally a motorcycle sort of album, but turned out to be an album relating to surfing, same songs but a different cover.
Popularity Rides on the ‘Beatle Beat’ Coattails
An article by Cathy O’Toole
Register Staff writer 1964
San Clemente—There’s one too many and their hair’s too short to be Beatles but their Orange County brand of rock and roll will bug you just the same. By adding a cha-cha beat, a South American swing and the haunting tones of the claviota to their version of rock and roll, this city’s “Sandells” during their eight month existence have snared resounding applause from adults as well as teenagers.
A successful debut before an adult audience (Orange County League of Cities) has been repeated at Balboa Island’s Rendezvous Ballroom, Anaheim’s Harmony Park, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Long Beach Municipal Auditorium and Riverside Civic Auditorium, the latter a double bill with Nelson Riddle.
The local five-man combo, consisting of Walter and Gaston Georis, John Blakely, Danny Brawner, and John Gibson, are finding recent bookings include an increasing number of adult dance as well as teenage hops. Other successes include the sound track for Bruce Brown’s surfing film, “The Endless Summer,” and two albums, “Scambler,” already released and selling well, and another scheduled for release next month and yet unnamed by World Pacific records. Their new album features such colorful numbers as California Sun, Pink Panther, and Walk on the Wild Side.
The young musicians claim “to present a different rock and roll…. clean cut … with a slight European touch…. and more musical theory.” In blending their voices with the music, they maintain, “Pure instrumentals have gone out in Southern California. The kids are tired of hearing them.” “The Beatles use the same technique,” they add.
Although they formed the “Sandells” eight months ago, the young musicians have been playing together since grade school days in this city’s Concordia School. The group was actually born when John Blakely saved his quarter a week allowance in the fifth grade for a year to buy a guitar. After he taught himself to play, he began teaching schoolmates John Gibson and Walter Georis.
The only formal musical education is possessed by Gaston Georis, 23, who took piano lessons for five years and music theory in college. Gaston, who alternates between a variety of rhythm instruments, is a high school teacher in Riverside and studying at San Diego State College for his master’s degree in literature.
His brother Walter, 19, who plays the rhythm guitar and harmonica, graduated from Capistrano Union High School and plans to attend Riverside City College, majoring in photography. John Blakely, 18, who graduated with Walter, will major in psychology, when he starts at University of California at Berkeley next month. John Gibson, 17, still a high school student here, plays bass guitar. Danny Brawner, 24 year old drummer, is following his well-known drummer father’s footstep. Known as one of the southland’s top surfboard makers, he makes his home in Capistrano Beach. (End of Article)
Danny would quit the band in 1967 because practice sessions were out in Riverside and his wife was expecting their second child. He didn’t want to travel that far from home to practice. The band got another drummer who unfortunately died in a foggy day car accident commuting to practice. In April 2002 the band had a reunion in Santa Ana, California, which brought back memories to all who attended. Getting back to glassing.
Besides laminating, Danny glossed at Hobie. In the sixties Danny considers glossing as an art, the tints, the solid colors, were in the gloss. One time Danny and Raymond Patternson painted a short stocky Batman with different color pigments on one of those boards back then. The Huntington Beach Surf Museum was the last place Danny had seen it.
In the mid-1960s during lunch breaks if his schedule permitted, Danny and a few of the other guys would go to Doheny for a surf session. Doheny before the Harbor broke completely different than today, it would break reform, break reform at least three to four times. During a big south swell Danny would go to Killer Dana. Anybody who rode big waves was there, at least 10 surfers.
On Father’s Day 1969, Richard Nixon received from his daughters a Hobie Surfboard for his birthday, actually a miniature surfboard. The story behind the miniature surfboard came about on the day before. While the present, a full size surfboard waited to be picked up by the secret service for the next day’s presentation, something happened. For an unknown reasons the surfboard fell from the board rack. The board had the Presidential Seal, the Hobie decal, some snackles and a ding. It was unacceptable to give a used surfboard to the President of the United States since they paid for a new one. An alternative plan was in order.
Well, things became hectic. Having less than 24 hours before the presentation, something needed to be done. Hobie’s solution was a miniature surfboard to fill in for the original board until another one could be made. So Danny and a couple of other guys would work into the night to produce the miniature surfboard. The outer edges of this story were blurred due to the years that have passed, but the center of the picture was reconstructed for a glimpse of what it must have been like.
A template needed to be done somewhat to scale, a piece of foam was needed, an overall color scheme and decals. Since time was of the essence Hobie decided who would do what. Once things got under way everyone on the project knew the most important concept to keep in mind was to think small. Most of the shapers at the factory had orders they were doing or they had left for the day.
So Danny doesn’t recall who shaped the miniature surfboard that afternoon. Whoever that ghost shaper was, it would have been unimaginable for him to be using his planer. But if he did, it would have been unreal. Like a Titan from a Greek mythology story, the ghost shaper towered over the president’s miniature surfboard, using the tips of the thumb and index finger to feel the rail contours. Twisting it with one hand to look at the top and bottom contours, all 26 plus inches. With a careful eye and a sensitive touch, everything started to blend towards the final shape. After the fine sanding it was ready to be glassed.
Into the laminating room the mini surfboard went, being placed on a modified glassing rack that would hold the mini surfboard. While the fiberglass laid on this miniature surfboard waiting for the resin. Dan was in the background stirring the resin and catalyst. In another room someone else was making the wooden fin, rushing to keep on this unexpected schedule of presidential importance.
After the curing of the resin on the laminating coat, the board was ready for the fin and decals. After the decals, the fin was tacked on with a little resin and leveled perpendicular to the bottom surface of the board with masking tape, as the minutes ticked away. The reception was a little fuzzy on whether the radio was on or off during this time, no matter, work continued on its pace. A small amount of fiberglass rope was placed on both sides of the base of the fin, and then the fin was covered with a layer of cloth, that was cut out in the shape of the fin with some excess cloth at the base.
All along the way the ratio of catalyst to resin was carefully converted. Into the early morning hours the hot coat kicking off as its milky transparent wobbly skirt of resin on the masking tape border solidified. After 2 hours, the miniature surfboard was ready to be sanded. Having done all of the above and to be gouge by a 7” sanding disc pad was not to be, in other words it was hand sanded before being sent to the glossing room.
After the curing of the final coat, the very small surfboard awaited the polisher in the morning. The board was finished on time and guarded against any mishap until the Secret Service picked it up. The miniature surfboard was presented to President Nixon for Father’s Day. After receiving the gift, it was anybody’s guess what the President was thinking. Another full size board was built a short time later and was picked up to end the story of The President’s Surfboard.
After the unknown historical surfing moment in United States history, Danny continued glassing for Hobie into the 70s and 80s, where in 1978 he went to the East Coast trade show and was caught on photo with others from another booth. There was a contest to see if anyone could determine the real Gerry Lopez signature out of one hundred. Gerry signed his name once and Dan did it ninety-nine times. The prize was a surfboard. Someone did find the correct signature and the board was given away.
The 80s took off with the 3 fin thruster movement and the longboard revival. After which in the 90s and into the 2000s Dan would be restoring old surfboards. After that Danny would glass boards for Dewey Weber Surfboards in the early 2000’s. Danny Brawner is one of the legendary glassers in the surfboard building industry. The Surfboard Building history that has flowed from his squeegee is over a half century. With all that resin that has dripped onto the floors of the shops that he has worked for, very few in the industry can match the number of glassing shoes worn by Danny Brawner.
A 1962 Ralph Parker shaped Hobie being restored