Rest In Peace Donald Takayama.
I asked Cori Schumacher for a comment about Donald for a piece I was writing for Coastalwatch. I had to file yesterday but this came through from Cori this morning. Thought it was too important not to share:
I’ve known Donald since I was about 8 years old. He was absolutely integral to who I am, as a surfer and as a human being. He reminded me of what was important and stubbornly refused to let go of me when I was struggling to erase all traces of surfing from my life. It was around this time that our relationship shifted from shaper/surfer to something more paternal, more fatherly.
There is a certain memory I have of Donald, that for me, really marks this turning-point, or my realization of it.
See, Donald was a big joker and had the ability to turn a heavy conversation into something lighthearted without hurting any feelings. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk about heavy, deep subjects, he just knew how short life is and how important time spent with friends was to one’s health. He was one of the youngest of a generation of legends and he had to watch as many of his friends and elders passed before him. You could see the toll it was taking on him over the years, but none so much as when Dale Velzy passed.
Dale was the guy who gave him his first hand-plane and let him borrow a shaping bay when Donald flew over from Oahu for the first time (after saving up money on a paper-delivery route when he was 12!). Dale was more than this too. He was a mentor, a father-figure, and stand-up guy who taught Donald to back up his words with action: “You say you’re going to do somethin’ and you do it.”
My mom and I arrived at Dale’s memorial at Doheny State Park late, just as the speakers were wrapping up. I hadn’t seen Donald in awhile, having tried to build a wall between myself and all things surfing related. When I approached him, he was having a conversation with someone, jovially cracking jokes per the usual. When he saw me, he didn’t stop the conversation. He just grabbed my hands in a death-grip and pulled me close as he finished the conversation. I was important, but so was this other. Donald had time for everyone, and that sometimes caused him stress but he knew the importance of human connection.
That death-grip, that blood-stopping grip… let me know that he needed me just as much as I needed him. It was in that moment that I understood that our connection was more than boards, more than a sponsorship, more than friendship… we were family. He just knew it before I did. We were able to talk more deeply after this experience because I had started to grow up, to appreciate his stories, and to appreciate the gift of knowing him over the course of decades.
Don’t know if it’s too late, but there ya go, Tim. I’ve lost one of the most important people in my life and I’m doing my best to make it through.