2023 SWOF Inductee – Mangiagli was low profile, top producing board builder
Becker Surf partners Steve Mangiagli, Phil Becker, and Dave Hollander made more hand-shaped surfboards boards than any other board builder in the sport’s history
by Mike Purpus
“In 1969, I asked Phil Becker, who was shaping for Rick Stoner, to shape me a blank,” Hermosa Surfer Walk of Fame 2023 inductee Steve Mangiagli said in recalling how he became a professional surfboard glasser.
‘I glassed the board Phil shaped for me at home, but I didn’t want to sand it. So I asked if it was alright if the Rick factory sanded it. Mike Bright, the factory manager, asked Phil, ‘Who laminated this board?’ Phil told him I did. Bright asked if I wanted a job. It was my first time in a glassing factory, and my first time meeting Mike Bright. I was elated,’ Mangiagli said.
When Bright quit a year later to open a dive shop in Malibu, Stoner asked Mangiagli to manage his factory,
The factory was located on what is known as Shapers Alley, at 640 Cypress in Hermosa Beach.
Mangiagli came late to surfing. He was 15, and living in Torrance, when he started patching friends’ boards with resin, and fiberglass his father brought home from his job at Northrop Aviation.
His surf buddy’s hung out at 4th Street in Hermosa Beach. Steve Clark and Pud Allen were the standouts of the group. They were on the Rick Surf team.
Mangiagli’s first board was a 9-foot-6 Bing Donald Takayama. It was too heavy. So he bought a 7-foot-10 V-bottom off of Dick Mobley
“I loved it and was on my way,” Mangiagli said.
“It was ’68 and one of my friends, Mike Noble, hung out in Ventura with the William Dennis Surf Team. Dennis took over Ventura and wanted to expand to Hermosa Beach. He opened a surf shop on the corner of Hermosa Avenue and Lyndon Street. I got a job there. The shop and I lasted a year. I got a nice new board and went to Hawaii. I lived right between Sunset Beach and Velzyland in one of Mad John’s cottages.
In 1977, Stoner, died of a brain aneurysm while on a surf trip in Mexico.
“The Hamilton family owned Reef Surf on First Street and Hermosa Avenue. They sold Rick Surfboards, WAVE Hollow Surfboards and their own Reef Surfboards. Rick made their boards and put the Reef logo on them. The Hamiltons bought Rick Surfboards from Rick’s wife, Eilene.
“Dave Hollander arrived on the scene and began glossing and pin striping boards. John Leininger had always been Rick’s star salesman, running the shop. In 1980, Mr. Hamilton came down to the factory, and said ‘I am selling the shop. Is anyone interested?’ Becker, Hollander and I said, “We’ll take it.”
“We each put up $8,000 and agreed if there was a dispute it would be resolved by majority vote,” Hollander recalled in a 2021 Easy Reader interview.
“Over the next 30 years, we had two votes and Phil lost both of them. One was about the name. The other was about whether or not to buy a new shop van. Phil didn’t think we needed one,” Hollander said.
“That was the start of the Mangiagli Glassing factory and Becker Surfboards. In addition to Becker boards, we glassed surfboards for Rick, Natural Progression, Val Surfboards, and Kanoa Surfboards, owned by Tuzo and Kip Jerger, from Palos Verdes,” Mangiagli recalled.
He also helped out the local underground shapers, including Pat Reardon and Wayne Okomoto, when other large board makers felt threatened by underground shapers.
When “Blue Crush” came out in 2002, Becker Surf began building boards designed for women and girls. Soars sailed, as did sales of women’s surf apparel. During their three decade partnership, Becker Surf expanded to seven stores and over 150 employees. In 2007, its online holiday sales were second in the surf industry to Pacific Sunwear, a billion dollar company with 800 retail stores.
“The three were a perfect team,” recalled longtime employee Fred Williams. “If you asked Phil how the future looks, he’d say, ‘I don’t know. We might be out of business tomorrow.’ Ask Dave, and he’d say, “We’re going to conquer the world.’ Steve would tell it the way it was.”
“All three were workhorses. Phil would arrive at the factory at 7 a.m. and not leave ‘til 7 p.m. And Steve arrived ahead of Phil. Dave would have sold his house to save the business,” Williams said.
In 2008, when the economy tanked, Becker retired and moved to Hawaii. In 2011, Mangiagli and Hollander sold Becker Surf to Billabong. Hollander retired. Mangiagli continued running Mangiagli Glassing until 2019, when his son Jon took over the business.
“Phil bicycled to the factory on Cypress from his duplex on 24th, carrying a peanut butter and banana sandwich in a brown paper bag, and shaped 11 boards a day, four days a week for five decades,” Mangiagli recalled.
The deliberately low profile Becker shaped an estimated 130,000 boards, making him the most prolific shaper in surfing history. All were hand shaped. He disdained the shaping machine.
Most of Becker’s boards were glassed by the equally low profile Mangiagli, making him the most prolific glasser in surfing history. SWOF