Why so many L.A. surfers are riding ‘foamie’ surfboards

Cabrillo Beach is not a great surf spot. And Allison Scinta is still not a great surfer.

Despite the tiny waves at the San Pedro spot that only lasted a few seconds, she was able to get up and have fun thanks to a well-used softtop surfboard she bought on Craigslist for $40 la. Instead of being surrounded by other new riders on soft jerseys, Scinta was happy to see more experienced surfers on similar boards.

“I think those people are giving the rest of us softtop riders a nice name and making it sound like we really are legit,” she said.

Different views of a soft surfboard.

The 8-foot Wavestorm Classic Surfboard sells at Costco for $99, but after switching manufacturers, they’re currently between $215 and $360, depending on model and size. Costco no longer carries foam boards.

(Stan Moniz)

Riding a softtop board used to be like surfing under a giant neon sign declaring that there was a beginner in the lineup. Now, a bunch of new surfboard companies are selling higher-performance softboards that everyone from weekend warriors to pro surfers wants to see.

As Scinta gets better at surfing, she’s considering buying a new board. But it won’t be the traditional one made of fiberglass or epoxy, a typical next step for many surfers.

“I know a lot of people who are really excited about their first epoxy board,” she says. “But I’ll probably just get another soft-top that isn’t as highly rated as my current one.”

Foam boards – commonly known as foam boards – are lighter and safer for beginners, with softer materials that are less likely to injure riders in falls and can be as little as half the cost. hard skateboard. They are also often prone to flooding and difficult to maneuver in waves. Advancements in shape, fin design and foam type have improved their buoyancy and agility, making those slow, wet boards a thing of the past.

A young girl surfs in front of the Santa Monica Pier.

May Gong, 10, of New York learned to surf in Santa Monica with Go Surf LA.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Wavestorm launched this new foam era in 2006 when AGIT Global, a Taiwanese sportswear company, placed about 400 blue 8-foot planks at 10 Costcos across California to test the market for sustainability. their creativity.

“After a few days, I got a call asking, ‘How quickly can you earn more of these things? “.

The board took off. Costco sold Wavestorms for $99 through 2020, when the retailer, declining to comment for this story, switched to a new surfboard maker. Wavestorms are currently around $215 to $360, depending on model and size, on Amazon and at surf stores. Zilinskas says AGIT Global is ending the sale of more than 1 million Wavestorms globally.

With all those new tables there will be more people in the country. Some surfers grumbled about the crowded lineup, blaming the soft-shirt boom, a complaint that Zilinskas had heard a lot and dismissed.

Many people surf on the ocean

Natasha “Tashi” Smith, center, surfs on a sponge surfboard at Topanga State Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“The ocean belongs to everyone,” he said.

Daniel Bennett, who grew up in LA, doesn’t mind crowds or soft tops. Bennett switches between hanging out on the Wavestorm or shorter hardwear depending on the conditions, and says the beach has always been an attraction in Southern California.

“People move here and say they want to try surfing,” he said. “I think that’s where Wavestorms comes in handy. You can’t hate someone for trying. “

Sponges catch waves and kill people

In addition to attracting more people, Wavestorms helped create a market for softboard manufacturers. Competitor Catch the surf, based in San Clemente, is known for its various colorful shapes and designs. Its first board, the Beater, can be ridden like a surfboard or used as a bodyboard or skateboard after the fins are removed. It was a hit in 2008 during its first summer, a time when everyone wanted to play at the beach regardless of the waves.

Blue front and checkered back of foam surfboard

Catch Surf’s Odysea LOG surfboard.

(Catch Surfing)

“We keep it fun and bright, but we want these to work as best they can,” said Chris Monroe, vice president of marketing at Catch Surf.

Currently Catch Surf has 50 different board shapes, including the popular Odysea line; in partnership with Red Bull for softsurf competitions; has one of its models as the first soft board at the Surfing Cultural and Heritage Center in San Clemente; and worked with Lost Surfboards, a leading stiff top surfboard company, to create a sponge version of one of its popular shapes.

Matt Warshaw, a surfing historian and author of “The Encyclopedia of Surfing,” says the first softtop was born in the 1970s when Tom Morey, who had a bodyboard workshop, and Mike Doyle, a surfing athlete. It wasn’t until the last 15 years that the industry started developing boards that could do more than these early models.

“Without cutting any safety or softness elements, these new manufacturers have made the circuit board less sluggish,” he said. “They’ve pushed them closer to being regular surfboards.”

A man holding a surfboard sits in the back of a truck with surf gear.

Peter Paris, owner of Go Surf LA surf school, poses with his soft surfboard between classes on a weekend in Santa Monica.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The difference is obvious to Peter Paris, who owns Surfing LA, a surf school in Santa Monica. When schools switched to Wavestorms more than a decade ago, classes just got easier.

“People are doing it faster,” he said. “People are getting more from their first hour.”

It’s not just beginners. Paris, a lifelong surfer, said the first time he went out on a Wavestorm was a revelation.

A stack of soft surfboards

Peter Paris, owner of Go Surf LA surf school, teaches with soft surfboards.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

He said: “I was really excited to get a smooth ride on a softtop. “I thought, ‘Whoa, this could be better than a hard-top.’

Paris rarely goes out in sturdy shirts anymore and even has a frivolous license plate that says “Sponge”. He said he also noticed a change in other surfers. He attributes the rise of soft jackets and COVID-19 to a shift in surf vibes.

“Everybody wanted to be Kelly Slater,” he said of the professional surfer with a record 11 World Windsurfing Championships. “Now they want to go out in the ocean and hit some waves and not be stressed.”

Even expert surfers have fun in soft tops

But no one has done more to legalize surf flops than Jamie O’Brien, a professional surfer from Hawaii who grew up near Pipeline, a popular surfing venue hosted by the surf. professional competitions. In 2011, he surfed Pipeline on Wavestorm; video of that session shows a combination of him walking around and getting shot.

“My whole goal with surfing has always been to have the most fun,” he says. “I don’t know why, but I have the most fun of my life on these placards.”

Now, he’s sponsored by Catch Surf and has his own line of boards with the OC branding. He also teaches on one of his Catch Surf boards at his Oahu surf schoolwhich he thinks is part of the attraction for new surfers.

“It’s sad that I can ride a board at Pipeline that I’m teaching someone how to surf [on] their first time,” he said.

A person poses in front of a surfboard and the ocean.

Natasha “Tashi” Smith with a sponge surfboard at Topanga State Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

One of the people who was inspired by O’Brien wearing soft tops was Natasha Smith, who said she watched his YouTube videos of his Wavestorm antics not long after she tried it on. surfed for the first time on a business trip to California in 2017. She took a surf lesson and was hooked. Smith moved to Los Angeles six months later and has been surfing most days on one of her five soft jackets since.

“If I were on a regular surfboard, I could rip it off like that,” she said. But “soft shirts are a passion of mine.”

She loves how cheap they are and how she can catch waves no matter how small. She was also in the air with others on the same board.

“Everybody has a Wavestorm in their quiver now,” Smith said. “It’s not that much of a stigma.”

A person lying on a surfboard and rowing in the ocean

Natasha “Tashi” Smith surfs on a foam surfboard at Topanga State Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2022-07-28/soft-top-surfboards-foamies-arent-just-for-beginners Why so many L.A. surfers are riding ‘foamie’ surfboards

Russell Falcon

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