HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — From sweeping floors in a South Bay surf shop to becoming a primary shaper for Becker Surfboards, Jose Barahona says that Phil Becker — a legend in surf culture who is believed to have created over 100,000 surfboards in his lifetime — helped him turn his passion into a career.
Becker began mentoring Barahona more than 40 years ago, when Barahona attempted to shape a broken board on his own. After seeing his work, Becker offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.
"He goes, 'Well, you know, Jose, you’ve got potential. So, if you really want to do it, let’s meet here tomorrow, and I’ll show you some tricks and I’ll work with you to show you what we do and, you know, see how we do it.' So, you know, I was pretty stoked," Barahona said.
Forty years later, Barahona continues his work as a primary shaper for Becker Surfboards and has also created his own line, Barahona Surfboards. Before Becker’s retirement, the surf legend would begin shaping boards in the shop at 7 a.m. sharp. Barahona said that Becker would create 11 boards per day, four days a week.
“The moment you put your feet on a wave or you paddle out, you feel that stoke. And that stoke was created by his hands and his creativity,” said Barahona.
After a cancer diagnosis, Becker recently died at the age of 81. His passing left a mark on many throughout the surf industry. Becker’s mentorship helped Barahona to become the board shaper that he is today.
“He had such a, work ethic, which pretty much made everybody in the shop just stoked to be here, you know. And we all learned that work ethic from him, you know. So we’re still here, and we miss him dearly,” Barahona said.
Barahona described Becker as someone who kept a low-profile and remained humble, even as he received many accolades like his bronze plaque highlighting his induction to the Surfers Walk of Fame that remains on the Hermosa Beach Pier. Surf culture lost a legend, but Becker’s legacy will continue to live on through board shapers and surfers like Barahona.