Bing Surfboards is a family-run business. Can you give us a bit of insight on how it all started?
Bing Surfboards was founded in 1959 by Bing Copeland in the South Bay of Los Angeles. The original storefront was right on the strand in Hermosa Beach. It was quite small, with about 15-20 boards in the showroom and the shaping rooms were in the back just behind the register. Back then we didn’t sell any type of clothing or accessories, just surfboards.
There were a few different stores over the first 20 years, but Bing retired and moved his family to Idaho in the late 70’s. The boards were built only as custom orders by Mike Eaton for the next few decades until our current owner and head shaper, Matt Calvani, took over in 2000. Matt reinvigorated the brand immediately and when his now wife, Margaret joined the business, things really started to take off. A new retail store was re-opened in 2011 and we stayed there until 2019 when we moved just down the street to our current store.
We have always thought of ourselves as a global small business since we have less than 20 employees total, but we do business in over 30 countries. We all wear quite a few hats to get the job done every day!
Bing has become a world-renowned surfboard brand. What are the main driving factors in how the Bing name has become so sought after?
Bing was one of the first surfboard production companies to make the highest quality surfboards available to the public during the surfing boom of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Anyone will tell you that Bing Copeland was a very smart and honest businessman who garnered a ton of respect from his peers and helped the business grow.
Our current head shaper, Matt Calvani, is known to be one of the smartest and most talented shapers of the last 25 years. His ability to pay respect to the Bing brand by carrying on the tradition of high-quality boards built in the USA is only matched by his level of knowledge and ability when it comes to shaping and designing new surfboard models that keep Bing Surfboards relevant on the global stage.
Bing focuses on selling higher quality, niche brands rather than the ‘bigger’ surf brands. When did this approach get started in the shop and how has it differentiated you from others?
People have always associated our brand with quality, and when you enter the showroom, you notice that right away. Beautiful surfboards line the walls and there is little to no brand advertising anywhere in the store. We like to carry brands that fit the aesthetic and quality level we have for our surfboards. Unlike most big-box stores that look more like a Walmart with endless goods piled high to the ceiling, we buy smaller quantities from companies that tell a great story and deliver beautiful products.
We love when new customers come into the shop, and they are blown away by the range of items we have on offer. Many times, that will start a conversation and a person might leave our shop a bit more educated about surf history, culture, art, or board design. That is a very special feeling. We have always built our customer base through genuine interaction, education, and community.
Out of all the iconic Bing Surfboard shapes, which one do you think was the most influential?
In a historical sense, we’d have to say the Nuuhiwa Noserider would be the most iconic, but the amount of history that flows through this company is immense. Many very special people have ridden our boards over the years. Some of our newer models like the Continental designed by Mick Rodgers, the Izzy Rider II designed by Israel Preciado, and the Pocket Knife designed by Mele Saili are all contenders to be in that “iconic” category as well. They are a perfect blend of nostalgic yet modern at the same time.
How do you feel your business fits and reflects the community?
Our business has always been a direct reflection of our community of Leucadia. Matt and Margaret work well over 50 hours a week without fail. Everyone at our factory puts in honest, hard work 7 days a week. Our retail store is known to be somewhere you can come and enjoy the surfing experience no matter what your skill level might be, or if you surf at all. We understand how lucky we are to run a successful brick-and-mortar surf shop, and we’re proud to say we know almost every single person on a first-name basis. No matter how our neighborhood grows and changes, we’ll always just be the local surf shop in the center of town.