Don Hansen "2023 Honor Roll"

His designs blended traditional elements with innovative concepts

PHOTO: Courtesy of Don Hansen

A shaper and purveyor of surfboards of legendary status, few have had such a profound impact on California surf culture like Don Hansen. Born in South Dakota in 1937, it’s a safe bet that no other shaper of his stature started their career off as a mink trapper, but Hansen’s always been exceptional. After graduating high school, at age 18 he hitchhiked west, eventually landing in San Diego and falling in with the burgeoning surf scene.

Shaping his first board in 1958 for Jack O’Neill’s surf shop in Northern California while stationed at Fort Ord, by the early ‘60s Hansen was back down in Southern California, where he further developed his shaping chops with both Hobie Alter and Hap Jacobs. After spending the winter of ’61 on the hallowed North Shore of Oahu, Hansen continued his Southern California migration, and landed back in Cardiff, where he opened Hansen Surfboards.

The timing and location couldn’t have been better as North San Diego County was emerging as a hotbed of rising talent. With notable names such as Mike Doyle, John Peck, Rusty Miller, Linda Benson, and Margo Godfrey on his designs, the nascent surf media took notice. His boards could be seen throughout the earliest surf magazines and movies. It’s during this period that Hansen would create some of his most popular models, including the 50-50, Competitor, Classic, and Superlight, all three of which are still being produced today.

But it wasn’t all hard work for Hansen, during this time he continued to surf regularly, and in 1967, he and Diane Bolton won the tandem event at the United States Surfing Championships. A master of media control and an early surf industry player, in the early ‘70s Hansen would be one of Ocean Pacific’s early investors.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Don Hansen

Eventually Hansen Surfboards settled in Encinitas and quickly became a hub for the local surf community, attracting surfers from all walks of life. Renowned for its welcoming atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, and unparalleled selection of surfboards and gear, Hansen’s dedication to quality and his ability to understand the needs of surfers ensured that every customer who walked through the doors left with a board perfectly suited to their individual style and preferences.

Beyond the surfboards, Hansen Surfboards became a vibrant gathering place, fostering a sense of community among surfers. It was a space where people could swap stories, share tips, and immerse themselves in the vibrant surf culture. But Hansen’s influence extended far beyond his local community. As his reputation grew, so did the demand for his surfboards. Surfers from around the world sought out Hansen’s designs, eager to experience the magic of his craftsmanship firsthand. His designs blended traditional elements with innovative concepts, constantly pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible in surfboard design.

Over the years, Don's innovative spirit never waned. He continued to refine his techniques, experimenting with new materials and shapes, always striving to create the ultimate surfing experience. His contributions to the industry earned him accolades and respect from his peers, solidifying his place as a true pioneer in surfboard shaping.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Don Hansen
Hansen Surfboards advertisement. PHOTO: Courtesy of Don Hansen

PHOTO: Courtesy of Don Hansen