Mark Angell has been living a surfer’s dream for over four decades. He began building surfboards in the Sixties and is still shaping today. When he first arrived in Hawaii in 1968, surfing was not yet the industry it is today. Mark helped pioneer the legitimacy of surfing as a business. George Olson was Mark’s influence as a kid. George is a master craftsman (who’s works include the famous “Santa Cruz 50” boat), and his influence led Mark to make shaping surfboards his career. Many of the shapers from Santa Cruz, where Mark is from, were not interested in showing him the trade. They were intimidated by his eagerness to learn and his ability to catch on too fast.
While shaping a board on the Northshore of Oahu at the age of 25, Mark had a revelation; he was living his childhood dream. “I walked out the door, overlooking Sunset Beach and saw Michael Ho dropping in on a wave on one of my boards,” he said. “Everything for me clicked, I was living in Hawaii, in a house I bought with money made from my craft, and that I was shaping boards for the best surfers in the world. My purpose in life made perfect sense.”
Seeing top pros on the covers of surfing magazines or in the winners circle with one of his boards has been one of Mark’s most rewarding experiences. Over the years he has shaped boards for the Ho brothers, Dane Kealoha, ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, Chappy Jennings and Hans Hedemann, and now he’s building boards for the old and new generations of rippers on Maui.
Mark lives and works in Haiku, 10 minutes from Ho`okipa, where he regularly surfs. In between sessions, he practices his art and life’s work, putting his experience into every board he shapes. Mark is in a perfect working situation; now in a full production working facility, (Ho`omana glassing and fin foils) Mark is able to keep production at a steady flow.
In 1966, Mark was actively competing in contests, and to this day, he still holds the record for the longest nose ride: 39.9 seconds. Nowadays, he still surfs in longboard competitions in the summer and has been to known to win on occasion.
Mark feels the positive side of surfing lies within the kids. “I think the kids are starting to realize the dangers of drugs and violence, and are putting their energy into their surfing,” he said. “I really hope sportsmanship will be prominent in the future of surfing.”
Mark sees the negative aspects to surfing that there are too many shapers popping out inexpensive boards that aren’t built to last, which lessens the value of a true craftsman.
Passing on advice to someone wanting to learn shaping, Mark says to strip the fiberglass off an old board, use a planer and get a feel for the foam; shaping takes a lot of practice and patience.
“Living life by my own schedule is what Maui Time is all about, I couldn’t live it any other way,” he said. Mark Angell is a man who followed his dream to live the lifestyle and support it doing what he loves to do.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s October 14, 1997 issue.
Photos: Ron Loomis