Episode 1: Don Craig

Don Craig is proof positive that old guys rule. He honed his silky wave-riding style in Hermosa Beach back in the 1950s, when that corner of LA’s South Bay was the epicenter of California’s fledgling surf industry. Coming of age he roamed the early shops of shaping icons like Dale Velzy, Hap Jacobs, Dewey Weber, and Bing Copeland.

When he’s not busy getting toes over, Craig is heels up at his home office in San Clemente. Photo: OC Register

During that colorful era, Don and his little brother Tom became hot surfing recruits. They were the sons of a South Bay surfing pioneer; their father Doug was surfing during the depression. Not surprisingly, Doug made his boys their first boards.

Don Craig has been on point for six decades.

Don was pegged as a master of style at the offset. In his teens he was recruited to the prestigious WindanSea Surf Club, where he surfed under the watchful gaze of notables like Skip Frye, Mike Hynson, Ron Stoner, and Henry Ford. 

The Craig family started making treks to San Onofre in the 50s. Don’s father Doug Craig (in brown tank top) was president of the legendary surf club from 1969-1973.

When it came time to get a job he played key roles in the birth of the modern day industry. He was one of the first to be hired by Quiksilver in the United States, but played a more pivotal role in cementing a beachhead for their sister company at the time: Rip Curl.

In his teen years, Craig rode for the Jacobs’ surf team.

Craig opened Rip Curl’s flagship store above Trestles and immediately nurtured local talent, aligning them with pro surfing’s pioneers. Over the next 30 years, he did a variety of stints at O’Neill, Instinct, and HIC, becoming one of the most familiar and friendly faces in the industry. Don knows everyone, and everyone loves Don.

Don (second from left) posing for a Lunada Bay Westuits ad alongside Donald Takayama, Collie Raglan, Mike Purpose and Dewey Weber. Photo: Grannis

In 2003 — on a whim– he paid tribute to his father and some of the old guards at San Onofre by getting stickers made that said, “Old Guys Rule.” They were so well received he had a run of T-Shirts made too. When his accounts sold out of those in one weekend he trademarked the phrase and expanded the line. Today that former side hustle is his annuity plan.

Craig (far left, midway up, sitting in the grey jacket) was part of the legendary Windansea Surf Club of the 1960s. This outing to Todos Santos included guys like Mike Hynson, Skip Fry, Rusty Miller, Ron Stoner, and Henry Ford. Can you find them?

At 70, Craig is now the embodiment of his brand. He’s an easy guy to find at San Onofre. If he’s not gliding through the lineup, he’s hanging with his buddies on the beach, and doing his part to keep it clean. Being that he’s been surfing there since the 50s, (his dad was president of the San Onofre Surf Club for four years) it’s a place that’s dear to him.

Don with his first board, shaped by his father Doug Craig. In the late 90s he tracked the board down and had it restored. Today it’s proudly displayed in his man cave, which is home to an amazing collection of surfing memorabilia.

Host Chris Mauro caught up with Don at his home in San Clemente to talk about his six decades of riding surf industry waves. Enjoy this people’s history of the California surf scene.