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Copeland, Bing


Market-wise surfboard manufacturer from Hermosa Beach, California; founder of Bing Surfboards, one of the sport's best-known brands in the 1960s. Copeland was born (1936) in the Los Angeles County oceanfront suburb of Torrance, raised in nearby Manhattan Beach, and began surfing at age 13, with future big-wave crusher Greg Noll. Copeland and Noll both learned how to make surfboards from American board-manufacturing pioneer Dale Velzy.

Copeland joined the Coast Guard and was stationed in Hawaii from 1955 to 1957; the following year he and surfing friend Rick Stoner set out on a six-month oceangoing surf cruise across the Pacific, with stops in Hawaii, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, and Fiji. They ended their journey with a two-month stay in New Zealand, where they introduced the Malibu surfing style to the wave-ski-riding locals, and together built about 10 boards to leave behind as gifts.

In September 1959, a few months after returning home, Copeland opened Bing Surfboards on the Hermosa beachfront (Stoner opened Rick Surfboards shortly after); in 1963 he moved the shop to Pacific Coast Highway and went on to become one of the most popular boardmakers of the decade. Surfer/shaper Donald Takayama was an early Bing team rider; shaper Dick Brewer produced the Bing Pipeliner model in 1967 (a board, as surf historian Mark Fragale later noted, that "forever changed the parameters for big-wave guns and speed designs"); California surfer Rolf Aurness won the 1970 World Surfing Championships on a Bing surfboard.

The company's most famous surfer was Hawaiian-born David Nuuhiwa, who fixed his name to two hot-selling Bing models, the Noserider and the Lightweight. Both came out of the gates strong in terms of sales, but the shortboard revolution was about to overhaul all surfing design parameters, and by early 1968 the Nuuhiwa models were all but forgotten.

The late '60s shortboard revolution was disastrous for all established board manufacturers, as surfers by the thousands flocked to small label "backyard" builders, who were quicker to pick up on the newest designs. Bing Surfboards survived, and in 1973 began to market the bonzer, a futuristic board invented by Malcolm and Duncan Campbell, with a double-concave bottom and three fins—design features that would later become standard. But Copeland had by that time grown tired of the business, and was feeling estranged from the longhaired surf scene; in 1974 he licensed the shop name and moved with his wife and three children to Ketchum, Idaho, where he became a partner in a moving and storage business.

In 2003, Copeland was inducted to the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame. Bing Surfboards: Fifty Years of Craftsmanship and Innovation was published in 2008.

Since 2000, with Copeland's go-ahead, South Bay shaper Matt Calvani has made replica Bing surfboards. In 2013, a new Bing Surfboards retail store opened in the north San Diego County town of Leucadia,