In an anonymous industrial building near the 101 freeway just south of Santa Cruz, Ashley Lloyd builds surfboards by hand, one by one. As she finishes each board she signs it, "made with love." Lloyd's specialty is longboards, and over the past five years, she's melded classic design with innovative, environmentally friendly materials.
A self-described "Valley Girl," Lloyd grew up in Northridge. On summer days, Lloyd's mom drove the curving canyon roads west to Malibu. "I feel like I was raised at Malibu, because I was there so often," she says. When Lloyd's brother Tim started surfing, she readily followed him into the lineup.
Her first encounter with shaping came when a board flew off the family car on the way to the beach. Lloyd's brother and dad teamed up to reshape the damaged board. Intrigued by the process, Lloyd got her own chance to experiment when yet another board launched off the racks.
"We had boards that would fly off our car a lot," she says, laughing. "We figured out why bungee cords don't work!"
In Malibu-based shaper Danny Tarampi, Lloyd found a mentor. Tarampi helped Lloyd learn to work patiently, step by step. Tarampi taught her how to "listen to the tools," she says. "Every board I shaped, he would look at it." Years later, Tarampi gave her his treasured Skil-100 planer.
Before Tarampi could teach her to shape in any systematic way, Lloyd moved north to study music at Santa Barbara City College. Once there, she continued to experiment with shaping.
While living in Santa Barbara, Lloyd made her first complete board at the Wilderness, the original home of the brand George Greenough and Michael Cundith founded in 1966. Remnants of that storied history still remained when Lloyd arrived in roughly 2001. "I would see all this cool old stuff on the walls like, I remember this Pat Curren boat-building business card," she recalls.
The phone book listed the Wilderness as a shop and gave the address. Periodically, random people would show up and ask to buy one of the rusty bikes parked out front. The space served as a hang out for a crew of surfers and skaters, who worked in the factory at Channel Islands Surfboards. Lloyd remembers the scene as "super hard core," and she soaked up as much knowledge as she could.
"My first board, it took me a lot of different go's to shape it," she says. "I remember just hearing the skateboard wheels right outside the shaping room, and the loud music. The shaping room was black."
After four years in Santa Barbara, Lloyd moved to Santa Cruz in 2006. Though that first board she built at the Wilderness remains invaluable to her, Lloyd is driven to improve. "I still think I have a long way to go - and I probably always will, as far as my shaping refinement goes," she says.
Recently, Lloyd set out to make her building process more environmentally friendly. "I think we forget just how precious our bodies, our temples are," she says. Traditional surfboard production combines polyurethane foam and polyester resin in a dizzying stew of toxic materials.
Determinedly chipping away at the problem, Lloyd sources EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) blanks from Marko Foam that contain a percentage of recycled material and from US Blanks, who use solar energy to power their factory. For the glassing process, Lloyd uses Entropy Bio-Resin, a plant-based epoxy. Flax cloth helps her to replicate the weight and feel of a traditional longboard.
"When you tap a board, the EPS sounds different and it changes the way the vibrations are in the water," she says. "The flax has a dampening aspect and depending on how you lay it, it feels different. I want that feeling of glide."
These days, Lloyd slides her own pursuit of the magic glide between her hours in the shaping room and raising her six-year-old son Odin. She has not lost the love for surfing she first found as a young girl at Malibu. But the intervening years in the water and in the shaping room have taught her a greater patience and perspective.
"You don't want to mess up this beautiful board," she says. "You do the best you can with what you have, and you treat it with care. And when it doesn't work out perfectly, you're compassionate with yourself - and just know, everything's going to be okay."