Hap Jacobs was born in Los Angeles, CA and moved to Hermosa Beach in the fourth grade. Though reluctant to part with his city friends, he grew to love the beach. Growing up on The Strand at 30th Street in Hermosa Beach, Jacobs picked up riding canvas surf mats filled with air. His first job at age 15 was at a surf rental shop called California Surfrider, located near the pier. His duties included inflating surf mats for customers in the morning, then riding them himself in the afternoon.
Jacobs’ early days of surfing were some of the most memorable. Graduating from surf mats to hollow plywood surfboards, Jacobs would drag the boards down to the beach in front of his house. However, these boards would fill up with water and be a nuisance to ride. His next board was a balsa redwood board by Pacific Holmes. Once fiberglass was introduced, surfers could ride balsa surfboards sealed with this material. At the time, he was too young to drive, so some members of the Palos Verdes Surfing Club would take him to Palos Verdes Cove if he promised to stay out of the way and don’t cause any trouble. Being a tide-sensitive spot, sometimes the boys would have to wait out the high tide at nearby Torrance break, Rat Beach. Then they’d make their way down the dirt hill to PV Cove, two boards among every two boys. One would carry the noses and the other the tails.
In 1951, Jacobs moved to Hawaii where he joined the Coast Guard and was stationed on a “buoy-tender” boat. The job title is rather descriptive of the duties, which included repairing and replacing buoys for all the Hawaiian islands. George Downing was also stationed on the same buoy-tender boat and the two became good friends. George would later become instrumental in all beach activities that grew popular over the years in Hawaii, such as surfing, paddling and outrigger-canoeing. Jacobs also befriended Wally Froiseth and Woody Brown. With the help of these three experienced island surfers and board builders, Jacobs began shaping surfboards, at the time when board builders in Hawaii shaped pointy, round-bottom, flat deck boards for Makaha.
During his two-year stint in the islands, Jacobs met his soon-to-be wife, Patricia Barrett, who had moved from Monterey Park, CA to Hawaii. Jacobs and Barrett moved back to the mainland, and after going together for a little over a year the two were married in Santa Barbara, CA in 1954. The newlyweds decided to stay a few days in Santa Barbara after the wedding for a honeymoon, until a surf buddy called Hap to inform him that a south swell had hit, and the beaches were breaking. That’s when Hap packed up his new wife and raced home to catch the surf. Hap and Pat are still married today.