Meet: A woman who builds healthier surfboards!

Healthier for our planet! Healthier for your fun!

Ashley Lloyd Thompson wants to make surfboard building more sustainable. She builds the majority of her boards from recycled EPS foam blanks and glasses them with a plant-based resin. Her original love is longboards, but she lives to build and ride just about anything.

Women shapers remain a rare breed. Thompson got interested in building boards while surfing Malibu as a teenager. After her board hit the point’s rock bottom a few too many times, she learned ding repair, which in turn, inspired her to learn how to make a board of her own. Along the way, she also competed in longboard events — and most recently, was one of the women invited to last week’s Vans Duct Tape Invitational.

After a stop in Santa Barbara, Thompson moved north to Santa Cruz, where she’s been making boards for the past 15 years. Built out by her husband, her workshop is on the second floor of an industrial building hard by the freeway. The loftlike space houses a shaping room, glassing area, and serves as a practice space The Shapes, Thompson’s band.

A few months ago, I caught up with her to talk surfboards. Here’s an excerpt.

“My friend Danny Tarampi from Malibu taught me how to shape. And then I was friends with these guys that lived at The Wilderness [in Santa Barbara], which now has the 101 freeway over it. That’s where I shaped my first board. They taught me a lot about surfboard shaping in between rounds of skating in their backyard pool. It was a really great introduction.

All the guys that lived at the Wilderness or came through there — they all had huge influences for me. Some of them worked for Haakenson’s glass shop who was doing the large majority of Channel Islands boards at the time. They were working for the biggest in the business, but no one had necessarily had heard of their names. I got a lot of knowledge from them that I will forever cherish, just in their after hours.

My first board was the Blue Otter Pop. It is a 9’7” and double-stringer. I always loved longboarding. I didn’t really know what I was doing beyond just sculpting at that point in time. And trying to make something that I thought that looked cool.

Now I have a much better understanding of numbers and function and dimensions and you know, different engineering properties — in terms of what it is to be good hydrodynamics. My first several boards, I still had a lot to learn.

Sometimes people ask me how many women shapers there are. Like it’s a really changing number right now. Everyone used to tell me that I was the only one — but I don’t think I was ever the only one.

Making surfboards is super toxic! And it’s super toxic to the makers, especially the glassing. All of our boards are glassed with a plant-based resin. And a majority of our boards are made with recycled EPS foam. Just as far as our practices and self-awareness and sustainability factor, we try to be on that side of things. I still feel like we have a long way to go with all of that.

When I first heard of it, six or seven years ago, they called it Super Sap. But it was this really amber-colored resin that definitely seemed like it was made from plants. And now it’s just as comparable with other epoxy resin. It is considered an epoxy resin which means it’s a two-to-one ratio. From the manufacturing standpoint, it’s a lot more challenging and time-consuming than polyester and polystyrene and all that.

I started to get some glassers to glass with it, but it was like pulling teeth to get them to do it with my aesthetic or in a timely manner. It was always like, it just wasn’t production level that I wanted. But we wanted to do our boards more sustainably.

So my husband took the bull by the horns and built me this factory, which was amazing and started glassing our boards. In retrospect, I can’t believe we did this. It was challenging, especially the first year. It was pretty much like starting a new business. It’s been two years now.

I feel like, as consumers, a lot of time, people don’t think about the process it takes. They want something that looks cool, that’s trendy and beautiful, and that doesn’t cost any money. There’s nothing good about that for the environment. The only thing that’s good about that is if someone catches a wave and it stokes them out.

I’d like to go a bit further. I care about the people who are making my boards and I care about the environment. So that’s where we’re at. That’s what I’m really passionate about. People have been really stoked on their boards. They’re strong, they’re more sustainable, they’re beautiful. There’s good vibes forming all around them.

And we’re working with flax cloth. That’s one thing, for people who want a classic-feeling log. The flax adds not only another bio-component on your board, but it also helps with the dampening issues. So it’ll feel more like traditional PU foam versus the EPS.

Our resin is considered an epoxy and people immediately associate it with EPS foam — and not everyone likes the feeling of EPS. So we are still boards that are PU foam, but I want to switch over to doing more and more, if not all of my boards, with EPS, because you can get it recycled. But we have to figure out how to get it to feel like the classic boards. So that’s my project right now is to weight it with the flax.

For my personal quiver, right now, I’m building an EPS recycled foam noserider. I’m going to weight really heavy with my flax cloth. That’s probably what I’m most excited about for myself right now.

I like to ride different equipment, to inspire me to not be doing the same thing that I’ve always done. It’s just a matter of finding different lines for the equipment you have. For me, that’s the most intriguing part about it.

I have a shortboard that’s almost like a conventional shortboard, but it’s a 2+1 fin setup. A little bit softer on the nose, so it’s like my version of a standard shortboard. It’s a single to double concave with a kind of tunnel v. It’s really smooth. And it just feels a little more single-finny glide. I call it the Dreamweaver. I really like that board.

I put a lot of love and energy into every board I make, even before I put my hands on the foam. Thinking about the person and what’ll work best for them and my intentions and how it’ll be a really good union — from the designing point to handing over to them. That’s why I write made with love on the stringer. I just started doing it and it felt right.

It’s all in what your trip is, and what path you want to take. We are what we want to be.

Photo by Steve Sherman/@tsherms/WSL | Photo: Steve Sherman @tsherms

Listen: “Some people can dance! Some people can’t!”

"I felt like something took over my body at the end there..."

I thoroughly enjoyed Kanoa Igarashi’s post-US Open of Surfing victory celebration. It was filled with… passion and… passion. So much so, in fact, that the young Huntington Beach local claimed to have blacked out during but don’t take my word for it. Let us turn to his Instagram for various truths and insights.

Still digesting what happened on the weekend. So many different emotions and I truly felt like I wasn’t all there competing that day emotionally. The beach where it all started for me, with the friends and family that have been with me since day one and the crowd that got me hyped up to the max… I felt like something took over my body at the end there and I even blacked out on the beach!

And how are you at dancing? Do you consider yourself a good dancer or a less than good dancer? When the music starts up do you run to the center of the floor or shrink into a corner? I am not a good dancer and dance with much self-awareness when forced. Likely even biting lower lip and snapping fingers.


David Lee Scales and I discussed Kanoa Igarashi’s post-US Open of Surfing victory celebration, anyhow, on a brand new podcast. We also discuss Dirk Ziff and ghosts and surfers who wear gold chains. I’m certainly biased but think it is our best episode yet.

I’m also super sick and not thinking straight.

Battle Royale: Surf Ranch vs. the NFL!

Sept. 06 - 09 will be the monster weekend of your young life!

And so yesterday I was texting with a very wonderful surf photographer friend about surf news and surf gossip and surf jokes and, of course, our conversation bent toward Surf Ranch and the upcoming Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California. Apparently ticket sales are not as… robust as expected. Quite shocking considering a one-day, non-VIP ticket is the most expensive entertainment from Disneyland’s gate all the way up Vancouver B.C.’s famed Opera, Caviar and Cristal nights. Equally shocking considering that Surf Ranch is in Lemoore, California where the only thing exceeding the ticket price will be the temperature.

The very wonderful surf photographer, anyhow, texted “Even Paul Speaker would know that you don’t fuck with NFL Opening Weekend.”

At first I didn’t understand. There is no way the Surf Ranch Pro scheduled itself during the National Football League’s opening weekend. Absolutely no way.

I tossed and turned all night, having the strangest dreams of NFL quarterback Drew Brees messing about in the Surf Ranch, throwing Kelly Slater passes and things before waking in a fevered sweat.

Absolutely no way.

First, I clicked on to my still operational WSL app, made my way to men’s events and saw Sept. 06 – 09. Next, I Googled “NFL Opening day weekend ’18 – ’19 and saw Sept. 06 (Falcons at Eagles) – Sept. 09 (every other game).


And which fantastic sporting weekend are you more looking forward to? Which will get higher numbers? Most importantly, will any professional surfers take a knee during the playing of the national anthem at Surf Ranch?

So weird how they both fall on the exact same dates but, I suppose, you can’t corral nature.

Greatest show on surf: 80 arrested at US Open!

For all its faults God bless Huntington Beach.

I didn’t make it to the US Open of Surfing this year because I was in Copenhagen, Denmark drinking natural orange wines, swimming beneath a hot late evening sun, shopping for trunks with very clean lines and eating Michelin stars. It was a wonderful time. A perfect time. But I just read a story in the Los Angeles Times that gave me severe FOMO.

Here it is.

Huntington Beach police reported making 80 arrests during the nine-day Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, which ended Sunday, though public safety officials said there was “nothing major or significant” compared with last year’s event.

Police Chief Robert Handy said during Monday night’s City Council meeting that, in addition to the arrests, police recorded:

83 criminal reports

50 criminal citations

260 civil citations

181 alcohol-related citations

368 traffic citations

884 parking violations

Fire Chief David Segura said Fire Department medical personnel saw 38 patients, 26 of whom were taken to hospitals.

First-aid volunteers, who handle minor cuts, bruises and heat issues, treated and released 237 patients, Segura said.

And is the US Open in Huntington Beach the last bastion for bad behavior on tour? And by “on tour” I mean on the Women’s tour? Son of a bitch. I mean daughter of a bitch. I wish I had been there. I did speak with my other favorite surf photographer besides Steve Sherman who worked ten full days and he said there is no longer a ground zero for surfers/surf industry/surf journalists.

Back in my day the Shorebreak was it. Wandering though its lobby was a minefield of dirty looks, elbow jabs, faux shakas and good-natured laughs. The bar was Taj Burrow grinning ear to ear while drinking ghastly Corona. The restaurant, then called Zimzala, is where Joe G. introduced me to the Border Patrol. Half margarita, half beer, tons of hot sauce.

Next year I would like to suggest a BeachGrit Bar where we can all come, drink Border Patrols, then try to get arrested.

Are you in?

What if I throw an STD into the mix?

Introducing: The World Sandcastle Building League!

You can't script this!

I have received a very unexpected outpouring of affection from that little open letter to owner of professional surfing Dirk Ziff. Notes and message from every corner of the globe. Grumpy surfers unburying grumpy hearts and sharing what they love about surfing and what is missing from this current World Surf League iteration.

It has reignited my passions and feel we The People are coalescing around a set of values we’ve always shared just rarely verbalized. That the “hater” opinion is not only negative and nit-picky, as is likely the belief in Santa Monica. That we can either force the WSL to actually and truly engage or hasten its demise.

But then I get sad thinking, “What would Dirk and Natasha Ziff do if they could no longer stomp around blindly in our playground?”

This morning the answer jumped off the newspaper and straight into my fired imagination.

Sandcastle building!

And read a little snippet with me if you would?

Brian Denny and his two sons couldn’t contain their shock Sunday.

The trio had just been announced as the group winner of the of the International Surf Festival’s sand castle design contest for their creation of a giant 10-tentacled octopus.

Along with 200 competitors, teams and individuals gathered near the Manhattan Beach Pier. around 7:30 a.m. for the 58th edition of the sand castle contest. It was all part of the annual 5-day International Surf Festival, which concluded on Sunday.

Contest participants were given just under two hours to build whatever their heart’s desire as spectators watched from the pier above trying to make out who was building what.

Denny, a Redondo Beach resident, often made sand castles while frequenting the beach as a kid, he said.

Sunday’s contest was the first for him and his sons Pierson, 11, and Lincoln, 9.
The family jumped for joy and could hardly contain themselves at the realization of beating out their fellow competitors.

“After the mermaid got fifth place, that mermaid had really great texture and detail and I thought ‘There’s no way ours is as good as that,'” Brian Denny said, adding that they came into the event with a plan.

The elder Denny moved the sand while Lincoln worked on the face, using seaweed for hair and sea shells for teeth, and Pierson created the tentacles. Aside from first place, the Denny’s were medals and a $50 gift to a local restaurant which they plan to use for dinner Sunday.

Do you see it?

Sandcastle building, like surfing, is a pointless, juvenile pastime with no inherent value or benefit to mankind other than providing small bursts of pure joy. The Ziffs, in the service of prosperity, could smash that joy to smithereens with a few already tried and true adjustments.

Here’s how!

Hold the sandcastle building contest over a ten day window with five days being dedicated to the competition. Kieren Perrow can be the commissioner and build a little test sandcastle every day to see if the conditions are right.

Always make sure people know it is a “sport” and sandcastle builders are “athletes.”

Have the judging criteria favor tried and true design over anything progressive and new. Sturdy walls. Moats. Pointy little towers. If successful, professional sandcastle builders will each build a version of the same exact thing.

Hire Turpel and Pottz to call the action.

Give the girls shittier sand far away from everyone.

Penalize individuality and/or genuine opinion so the professional sandcastle builders all say, “Yeah, the sand was good. The competition was rad. Yew…” at the end of the day.

Include Kelly Slater.

Start the few years by holding the sandcastle building competitions in beautiful Tahiti, Maldives, Rio etc. but then shift most focus to Kelly Slater’s Sandcastle Ranch in Tulare, California.

Stream live on Facebook.

Tell potential advertisers that because lots of people build sandcastles, the World Sandcastle Building League has potential to be the biggest sport in the entire world especially among people who have never built a sandcastle themselves.

Actually believe it.

Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains.

What am I missing?