When Steve Mangiagli, a founder of Becker Surfboards, was nearing retirement last year and considering what to do with his surfboard factory in Hermosa Beach, his son Jon felt a calling.
Jon Mangiagli, 30, had worked at the shop for the past eight years and grown up around the shaping bays and glassing operations since he was a kid. The shop, located on Cypress Avenue, has been around since the 1950s.
Earlier this month, Jon took over full-time for his father who retired Jan. 1, hoping to breath new life into a business that once represented the heart of Hermosa Beach, but is increasingly squeezed by larger international competitors.
“He just loves it and wanted to continue,” Steve said.
For Jon, who drives a classic car and collects vinyl records, continuing in the family tradition was a natural fit. It wasn’t the first choice, however, for his father who encouraged his son to go to college.
After graduating from University of California Santa Barbara with a sociology degree, Jon said the field just wasn’t for him so he returned to Hermosa Beach to work in the surfboard shop where he felt most at home.
“There's a lot of history in the factory,” he said. “I feel like a lot of places have not stuck around as long. I'd like to keep it as original as possible.”
Mangiagli Surfboards, located in the tiny industrial section in South Hermosa Beach off Valley Drive, was originally called Rick Surfboards in the 1950s. At the time it was built by Rick Stoner, surfboard factories dominated Cypress Avenue with shops run by other surfing legends such as Hap Jacobs, Greg Noll and Ben Copeland.
After Stoner passed away in 1974, Steve bought the factory from his widow with partner Phil Becker and they began what would become Becker Surfboards. About 35 years later, the pair sold the brand along with six retail shops to Australia-based Billabong.
Steve kept control of the surfboard shop, however, and continued to shape and glass boards for Becker along with his own line of surfboards they sold out of the small factory outlet onsite they call Cypress Surf Shop.
For about 10 years in the 1980s, the shop produced more than 100 boards per week. Now they are down to about half that. But Jon hopes he can bring in new clients and continue to expand the brand.
“I’m trying to feel everything out,” Jon said. “I'd like to do more work, try to find new accounts, but for the most part will keep it the same.”
Nearly all of the 10 shapers and glassers who work at the shop have been around for as long as Jon has been alive, including Steve “Birdie” Burdette, who started at age 19.
Now 59, Burdette worked at several other surfboard shops before returning to work for Steve around 1976 where he’s been glassing boards ever since.
Standing on top of sticky resin that litters the floor in a colorful mess, Burdette and another shaper on a recent weekday wear respirators as they smooth out the gooey substance over newly shaped boards.
They only have a few minutes to even out the substance over a layer of fiberglass, which will soon dry and be ready for the final steps of sanding and then airbrushing.
Burdette, who’s seen the business slow down in recent years, said it’s a big deal that someone like Jon wants to continue such a longstanding business.
“For Steve to allow someone to come in and do what he did is a compliment because Steve is very particular,” Burdette said. “Jon earned it and he deserves it.”
For more visit MangiagliSurfboards.com.