A Legacy in Southern California Beach Lifestyle
In the Southern California surfing world, the Brawner family has a rich and deep heritage. From the Endless Summer soundtrack, to President Nixon’s personal surfboard, from Sandells’ 50’s instrumentals to Jane’s Addiction concerts, from balsa wood classics to state-of-the-art stand-up paddleboards, this family has pioneered Southern California’s surf and music lifestyle since it’s inception. Father Danny and son Damian have been instrumental in shaping both the boards and local beach culture of coastal California.
Danny Brawner, the family’s legendary patriarch, was born and raised in Orange County’s beaches, building his first board in 1952. Cutting his board manufacturing teeth with master shaper and surf legend Dale Velzy during the late 1950’s, Danny also played the drums for the Sandells’ whose music became the soundtrack for Bruce Brown’s seminal film The Endless Summer. While honing his craft over that decade, he was soon drafted by Hobie Alter to serve as the lynchpin craftsman for Hobie’s new Dana Point factory which was supplying the exploding demand for the new fiberglass surfboards of the 1960’s. As the factory manager at Hobie, he made surfboards for thousands of young surfers for more than 4 decades.
By the time Richard Nixon was President, the Hobie brand had become synonymous with surfing. Having just moved into their new home, “the Western White House” at Cotton’s Point, Nixon’s daughter Tricia ordered her famous father a new Hobie longboard as a house-warming present. The story of how that board almost didn’t make it to the President could fill a book but suffice it to say Danny managed to save the day for what some say was the most important surfboard the company has ever made.
Danny’s career as a renowned board builder spanned half a century, encompassing 50’s balsa long-boards, 60’s Corky Carrol mini-guns, 70’s sessions with Gerry Lopez, 80’s collaborations with Terry Martin, and deep friendships with many of California’s best shapers and surfers.
By this time, Danny had married the love of his life, Sharon, and the Brawner blood included 4 kids: son Damian, sisters Jan, Deanne and Danielle. Not surprisingly, they followed in their father’s fabled footsteps. Daughter Danielle married Israel (Izzy) Paskowitz, a World Champion Long boarder with a family legacy as storied as her own. Together they founded Surfer’s Healing, which is a non-profit foundation for Autism. Over the last two decades they have brought the therapeutic power of riding waves to thousands of autistic children.
Son Damian is himself a highly-respected surfboard and SUP builder, having grown up in his dad’s shop along with Timmy Patterson, Josh Martin and other top contemporaries. He’s highly admired as a musician while mastering the drums and playing in a variety of musical groups. He’s also worked with some of the most celebrated musicians in rock history – promoting concerts for Prince, James Brown, Jane’s Addiction, Van Halen, Eddie Money, and even Tony Bennett. Today Damian has opened his own shops Brawner Boards, maintaining the family heritage, while building the craft of the future.
This is a family who has lived their life by following their hearts – riding surf, making music and building some of the world’s finest wave riding vehicles. When it comes to helping shape the culture of Southern California the Brawners have earned a genuinely respected reputation.
Jim Kempton (who authored this story) was the Editor & Publisher of Surfer Magazine. He watched surfing’s irresistible lifestyle and colorful characters change the culture of America – and the world. The Brawners are a part of that legacy.