Superbowl Surf Weekend.

The weather and surf were great over the Superbowl Weekend in Southern California. In Imperial Beach, the groms were having a great time.

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Magnificent Animals: Why Sharks are Good for the Ocean and For Us

Dovi Kacev at work. Courtesy: Dovi Kacev.

Dovi Kacev grew up in South Africa and San Diego. A longtime La Jolla surfer, Dovi is finishing up a joint SDSU-UC-Davis Ph.D. in Ecology. For the past 11 years he has carried out research on shark ecology and conservation which has allowed him to study sharks in the wild in San Diego, Baja California, and the Caribbean.

Serge Dedina: As a surfer who grew up in South Africa where there are a lot of sharks, why did you choose to make your life’s work the study of the ocean’s apex predators?

Dovi Kacev: From as early as I can remember I have been interested in sharks, but I did not think of becoming a shark biologist until I was in college. Learning about how important their roles are to maintaining balanced ecosystems, how little we know about their biology, and how much trouble they face due to human pressures, led me to realize that there is a lot that we need to understand better about sharks.  This led me to a career in shark biology.

Dedina: On Tuesday, surfers and a photographer spotted what appears to be shark in Imperial Beach. What is the typical migratory pattern of these animals and what is their conservation status?

Kacev: We have many different species of shark in Southern Californian waters and each species has different migratory behavior and habitat preferences. The shark in the photograph in question looks like it is either a white shark or a basking shark, both of which are known to use local waters and both are protected species due to conservation concerns. Recent tagging studies have shown that adult white sharks tend to come to California in the fall but migrate offshore to an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for much of the year. Juvenile white sharks are known to spend more time in the the Southern California Bight. Much less is known about the behavior of basking sharks, but scientists are trying to learn more about them with a new tagging study. Much like it is difficult to identify the species from the photo, it is not possible to estimate the size without some sort of reference.

Dedina: Is it likely the shark is still hanging out in Imperial Beach? Is there enough food locally to sustain them? And what are they typically feeding on?

Kacev: This all depends on the size and species. Last year basking sharks were sighted spending time off of Imperial Beach. They primarily filter feed on small copepods in the water column. Juvenile white sharks seem to take up residency in Southern Californian waters. As juveniles, they are fish feeders, and pose little risk to people. Adult white sharks are known to be seasonal residents in certain locations in central California and Mexico, but to the best of our knowledge tend to be just transient in our waters. If that was an adult white shark, there is no reason to expect that it is still in the area.

Dedina: How many white sharks are out there along our coast?

Kacev: This is a difficult question to answer as sightings are so rare and therefore data on white shark abundance is hard to come by. The most recent study of adult white shark abundance in Northern Californian waters estimated that there are between 200 and 300 adult individuals, which is a pretty small population. Another recent study suggests that the population size may be growing, but growth of shark populations happens at such a slow rate because they take a long time to mature and reproduce at a slow rate. The simplest answer to this question is that the population is likely quite small and that they are more threatened by people than they are a threat to us.

Dedina: Are there any locations in Southern California and especially in San Diego County that you have identified as having larger numbers of sharks?

Kacev: There are areas of seasonal aggregations of leopard sharks and smoothhounds, but none for the larger, more pelagic sharks.

Photo courtesy Dovi Kacev.

Dedina: You have been carrying out research outside of Black’s Beach. What are you and your colleagues observing there?

Kacev: The area off of Black’s Beach is interesting because of a large submarine canyon. We see a lot of leopard sharks, guitarfish, and bat rays. We occasionally catch juvenile thresher sharks in the area, which we tag and track.  In all of my time surfing, diving and fishing in that area, I have yet to see any large, potentially dangerous sharks.  This is not to say they do not exist there, but not in particularly high densities.

Dedina: What is the role of sharks in maintaining the balance of the ocean? Do we really need sharks?

Kacev: Sharks often act as apex predators and as such they are important for controlling the population sizes and behaviors of the species they feed upon.  Research on the East Coast has shown that in certain areas where sharks have been over fished, populations of rays have blossomed leading to the collapse of shell fish fisheries, because the rays feed on the shell fish. Healthy ecosystems need to be in balance and this requires maintenance of all the levels of the food web.

Shark carcasses in Mexico. Courtesy Dovi Kacev

Dedina: You have been traveling down the coast of Baja California to carry out shark research. What have you found there?

Kacev: We have found that in Baja there are a lot of fishing camps that catch a lot of sharks and rays, particularly juveniles. These fisheries are likely to have a large impact in the shark populations in the region. We have also found that in general the fishermen in Baja understand the importance of sustainable fisheries because their livelihoods depend on there being healthy populations of these fish. As a result, most of the fishing camps have been very accommodating to our research.

Dedina: There seems to be a lot of documentation and reporting now about shark sightings along the California coast. Is the population of sharks increasing?

Photo courtesy of Dovi Kacev.

Kacev: It is difficult to say whether shark populations are increasing, the population of ocean users is increasing, or the likelihood of people reporting sightings is increasing. It may also be a combination of all three factors. It is important to note that most shark populations are low relative to historical abundances, so even if their populations are increasing they are still of conservation concern. Even if shark populations are increasing, they do so at a very slow rate. Also, since sharks play such an important role in our coastal ecosystems and many species are of conservation concern, we should be celebrating if their population are indeed increasing. I hope that with continued increase in public curiosity and education, people will realize that sharks are a welcome part of our ocean system.  Instead of fearing them, we should respect them.

Dedina: California just passed a ban on the sale of shark fins. Why should we care about the plight of these animals?

Kacev: We should care about the plight of sharks because they are magnificent animals and our ocean ecosystems rely on them. Beyond just the value of sharks for their ecosystem services, it is important to remember that many people’s livelihoods revolve around the oceans and fisheries. Any disturbance that effects the balance of the ecosystem could eventually lead to the collapse of various fisheries.

Photo courtesy of Dovi Kacev.

Surfing at its Best: Katy’s Endless Summer Surf Contest

Katy Fallon of Katy's Cafe with a local grom and my son Daniel on the right.

Katy Fallon of Katy’s Cafe in my hometown of Imperial Beach is one of the nicest and community-minded surfers around. On Sunday she held her second free surf contest for children, Katy’s Endless Summer Surf Contest. More than 75 groms (boys and girls) surfed fun 2-4′ waves at the north end of Imperial Beach. For a while the waves were fun and offshore. Then the tide dropped and a wicked south wind hit. But the conditions were surfable to the end and everyone had a great time. My longtime friend Manny Vargas was the contest Director, with a great crew of hardcore IB surfers acting as judges.

Since the month before I had been immersed in the WiLDCOAST Dempsey Holder Surf Contest and Ocean Festival, this was a great opportunity just to watch my sons and surf and hang out with longtime friends and my family.

Longtime IB surfer Manny Vargas who was the contest director.

I was really proud of both my sons who won wetsuits as prizes for winning and quickly donated them to other kids. This event is all about giving back. And I am thankful that Katy and Manny set the right tone for this gem of an event.

My son Daniel in his first heat when the waves were fun and offshore. Before the south wind and then later a huge strorm hit San Diego.

There is a nice tradition of free events for kids in San Diego. The Dempsey is free to any child who can’t afford to pay. And the Jetty Kids Contest in Mission Beach is the same.

Thankfully there are lots of surfers out there who have remembered that our sport and lifestyle are about giving back and working with the next generation of surfers.

Mahalo to Katy and Manny!!

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Surfing the Day After the Storm

Normally you are not supposed to surf within 72 hours of rainfall hitting southern California. Runoff from storm drains, streets and everything else washes into the ocean. But the Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado, just up the beach from where we live in Imperial Beach, is almost free of development. There is no runoff to speak of, since the parking lots drain east toward the bay. Unless the sewage plume from the Tijuana River travels north, the Silver Strand can be a good bet.

Most of the time the Strand is a horrible place to surf. The waves are almost always closed out. I worked as a lifeguard there for eight years and rarely saw it good. But with the rain and storm swell that hit Southern California yesterday, the waves at the Strand were a little broken up this morning and the groms scored some fun corners that were helped out by an offshore wind.

A Great Day at the Dempsey

More than 150 surfers participated in the 8th Annual WiLDCOAST Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest–the largest field ever for the Dempsey. The surf sort of cooperated with 2-4′ south swell peaks. Unfortunately it was a bit windy all day. But the competitors made the most of it.

Surfers from Mexico and Venezuela showed up to participate as well, making this truly an international surfing event thanks to a partnership with United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO).

Thanks to all the Dempsey sponsors such as the County of San Diego, REI, Oakley, Billabong, Emerald City, Alan Cuniff, Pacific Realty, Pacifica Companies, URT, Cowabunga and all of the scholarship supporters and everyone who pitched in to make it “the best day ever!”

 

Waterman: Dempsey Holder and the Tijuana Sloughs

Dempsey Holder. Photo courtesy of John Elwell.

This is from my Patch.com column of October 5, 2011. This is excerpted from my book, Wild Sea. It originally appeared in Longboard Magazine in the fall of 1993 and helped to inspire the Surhenge Monument at the Imperial Beach Pier.

With the upcoming 8th Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest (there is still space avaialable so register now!) scheduled for Oct. 16 at the Imperial Beach Pier, I thought it was important to remind readers what a legendary surfer Allen “Dempsey” Holder was.

A California ocean lifeguard and big wave surfer, Dempsey was among the elite club of surfing pioneers that included such men as Don Oakey, Lorrin Harrison, and Pete Peterson who were protype watermen.

I first met Dempsey when I was a kid and got to know him better in 1981, when I became an Imperial Beach lifeguard at the age of seventeen. Retired, Dempsey lived in a huge wooden white house on the beach (appropriately called “The White House”) a couple of doors down from the old Imperial Beach Lifeguard Station at the end of Palm Avenue.

One summer Dempsey cleared out the laundry room and charged me a dollar a day to stay there.

In 1984, I interviewed Dempsey for an oral history project while an undergraduate at UC San Diego. By listening to his stories for hours, I uncovered Dempsey’s remarkable history of athletic prowess and his unique depression-era way of looking at and respecting the ocean.

Surfing a small day at the Sloughs in December 1967. Photo courtesy of Bill Gove.

To gather material on the Sloughs, I spent a summer interviewed surfing pioneers and legends such as Peter Cole, Lorrin Harrison, Flippy Hoffman, Dorian Paskowitz, Ron Drummond, and others who had surfed with Dempsey. I was impressed by their admiration for Dempsey’s surfing skills and ocean prowess. Dempsey, who was a generous and kind man, died in 1997 at the age of 77.

THE IRONMAN

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz: There are two kinds of surfers. There’s the Buzzy Trent type who surf big waves but aren’t really into walking the nose. Then there’s the Phil Edwards types who are blessed with amazing ability. Their surfing is like ballet. Dempsey was a big wave surfer. A big solid guy. Low-key. Not much for bragging.

Dempsey Holder: Back in West Texas where I was raised there were lots of cowboys, but that didn’t mean too much. The thing that was a real compliment was to be a stockman. That’s like a waterman—somebody that can handle themselves in the water. Emergency come along—you can take care of yourself.

Flippy Hoffman: Dempsey was the guru down there.

John Elwell: Around ’47, ’48, we met a guy named Storm Surf Taylor. He said, “Go down there and see Dempsey if you want to start surfing.” Dempsey was known as the guy who takes off on big waves. He’d been down at the Sloughs since 1939.

John Blankenship: Dempsey was just unbelievable. There wasn’t anybody else for sheer guts. He was the ultimate big wave rider. No fancy moves. He caught the biggest waves and went surfing. The closest guy to Dempsey was Gard Chapin, although Gard never tackled waves as big as Dempsey.

Bobby Goldsmith: Dempsey was an iron man. He was fearless and brave and he had the guts. He took off on anything and could push through anything in any kind of surf.

Chuck Quinn: Dempsey rode the biggest waves back further than anybody.

Buddy Hull: He’d take off even if he only had a 20 percent chance of making it. Dempsey would take off on anything, always deeper than he should have.

Jack “Woody” Eckstrom: I remember him saying, “If you make every wave you’re not calling it close enough.”

Dempsey's lifeguard truck at the Sloughs either in the 1940s or early 1950s.


THE SLOUGHS AND FIRST ENCOUNTERS

Dempsey Holder: In the summer of ’37 I went down to the Sloughs and camped with my family. Well, I saw big waves breaking out at outside shorebreak and went bodysurfing. I never did get out to the outside of it. A big set came and I was still inside of it. Well, I sort of made note of that. Boy, you know surf breaking out that far.

Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison: Back in the early ’40s, I surfed the Sloughs when it was huge. It was all you could do to get out. Really big. We were way the hell out there. Canoe Drummond came down.

Ron “Canoe” Drummond: We pulled out and the surf was probably about twenty feet high or so. I looked out about a mile and there where some tremendously big waves were breaking. I asked if anybody wanted to go out there with me, but nobody did. So I went in my canoe and paddled out there.

Jim “Burrhead” Drever: One time about 1947, I was sleeping in my ’39 convertible right on the beach at Windansea, and I heard these guys pounding on the car. I’d heard about the Sloughs and they were going, so I followed them. It was pretty damn big. This was before I went over to the Hawaiian Islands, and I’d never seen waves that big around here.

Peter Cole: I was out there surfing with Chuck Quinn and Dempsey Holder in the ’50s. The surf was about 15 foot, Hawaiian size. Chuck and Dempsey went out and got stuck in the shorebreak, but I managed to paddle out in the rip. I was out riding the smaller waves, when I heard someone yell, “Outside.” I looked out and all I saw was whitewater everywhere. I lost my board and had to swim in.

Chuck Quinn: We were out there surfing on a big day and Pat Curren lost his board. Pat was frustrated and feeling lousy. He didn’t have any money and it wasn’t like today when they break a board and go buy another one. We all looked for Pat’s board, but that board just disappeared.

Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest

On October 16th, 2011 WiLDCOAST will hold the 8th Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest in Imperial Beach, California from 7am-3pm at the Imperial Beach Pier. This annual family friendly charity event has become the largest surf contest in south San Diego County with over 120 competitors in ten different divisions and hundreds of spectators as well as music, prizes and other entertainment.

Proceeds from the event support WiLDCOAST’s efforts to protect the most threatened and ecologically important coastal areas and wildlife in Southern California and Mexico.  Since 2,000 WiLDCOAST has helped to conserve over two million acres of beautiful bays, beaches, islands and lagoons.

In 2011, the Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf Contest will expand internationally. WiLDCOAST is partnering with the United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO), a bi-national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide surfing youths in Mexico and the United States opportunities in competitive surfing and cultural exchange.

Imperial Beach, California The symbol of this ...

Image via Wikipedia

Generous Dempsey sponsors include Billabong, County of San Diego, Pacific Realty, REI, Emerald City the Boarding Source, Oakley, Southwest Airlines, URT, Ocean Minded, The Surfer’s Journal, Pacifica Companies, Alan Cunniff Construction, APS Marine Services and Equipment, Firewire, Matuse, and PAWA. Additionally Cowabunga and Katy’s Café will be providing support and treats for the contestants. Jay Novak of Novak Surf Designs and Brett Bender of Natural Selection Surfboards have shaped boards especially for the junior winners.

Community residents can also sponsor a child for the Dempsey. This helps to provide scholarships for local needy children to participate. Over the past eight years hundreds of children have participated in the Dempsey thanks to the support of community supporters and sponsors.

Registration is still open but filling up fast. The event once again includes the popular menehune division in which every child receives a medal. This year surfers such as Kyle Knox, Sean Malabanan, Keith McCloskey, Sean Fowler, Josh Johnson, and Terry Gillard among others are expected to compete. Heats will be carried out on the south and north sides of the Imperial Beach pier providing maximum shredding and viewing opportunities.

Registration for the Dempsey can be done at http://www.wildcoast.net or email dempsey@wildcoast.net or call 619.423.8665 ext. 200 for more information. For information on sponsoring a child contact Lenise Andrade at 619.423.8665 ext. 201 or via dempsey@wildcoast.net

WiLDCOAST is an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. www.wildcoast.net

The Ocean Health Index and Cleaning up Our Coast

Paloma Aguirre and Diana Castaneda of WiLDCOAST at a recent Tijuana River Valley cleanup.

Last Friday I missed the first real north swell of the season to attend a meeting organized by the University of California-Santa Barbara on the development of an ocean health index.

The objective of the index is to have a monitoring scorecard that communities, scientists and government agencies can use to determine coastal and ocean health locally, regionally and nationally.

The group included fishermen, seafood harvesters (e.g. shellfish and seaweed), elected officials, energy company representatives, conservationists, scientists and the Chief of State of the Makah tribe.

Community members working together for clean water in the Tijuana River Valley.

Everyone in the room, especially the fishermen, made it clear that ocean water quality and biodiversity were the two most important indicators for managing the health of the coast and ocean.

The consensus was that without clean water and healthy marine life, it’s almost impossible to have a vibrant tourism and fishing economy.

Meanwhile many local leaders have spent the last decade in denial about ocean pollution.

They fear that discussing the issue will somehow negatively impact the economy and local property values.

The bay side of Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado was recently shut down due to a sewage spill from the Sept. 8 mass outage.

A cleanup kid.

In 2011 the main beach in Imperial Beach has been closed 56 days. The south end of the beach was closed 224 days.

In 2010 the main beach was closed 26 days. The south end of the beach was closed 226 days (and yes the south end of the beach is still Imperial Beach).

Meanwhile most south swell pollution goes unreported.

Today we continue to work with local residents on both sides of the border to clean up the tons and tons of garbage that wash into the ocean.

Last January WiLDOCAST notified authorities about a sewage spill in Playas de Tijuana that went unchecked for more than three weeks, resulting in more than 31 million gallons of sewage discharged into the surf zone in Imperial Beach and the border area.

Together with local, state and federal agencies on both sides of the border, our collaborative work has resulted in significant achievements.

These include the recent inauguration of a new international sewage treatment plant; the opening of three new sewage plants in Tijuana-Rosarito; progress on stopping the frequent discharges at Playas de Tijuana; and the cleaning up of thousands of waste tires and hundreds of tons of trash in the Tijuana River Valley by community members.

I invite everyone to join to help to clean up our region and make sure that our coast and ocean is as pristine as possible. Because even one day of beach pollution is one day too many.

There are plenty of opportunities to do so in October with Tijuana River Action Month. The next event will be held Oct. 1.

A small fence separates densely populated Tiju...

The U.S.-Mexico border near the TJ River Valley. Image via Wikipedia

Environment and Hope on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA inspects a trash pile in the Tijuana River Valley with reporters from Uniivision-San Diego.

Yesterday my Wildcoast colleagues Ben McCue, Paloma Aguirre and I took a tour of the Tijuana River Valley and Los Laureles Canyon in Tijuana with Regional EPA administrator Jared Blumenfeld. I’ve known Jared since the 1990′s when he ran IFAW‘s San Ignacio Lagoon Campaign. He is a very smart guy who is very adept at getting things done.

Tijuana Estuary's Oscar Romo and a City of Tijuana official in Los Laureles.

The tour was reported on in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Our tour included a site visit to a Community Center Wildcoast has partnered with 4 Walls International, Tijuana Calidad de Vida and the Tijuana Estuary on developing with the Las Hormiguitas Community Group. The  point of the project is to use trash as a building material and then train residents on how to manage trash and human waste.
The Southwest’s top environmental regulator toured the southern edge of San Diego County on Wednesday to promote an eight-year plan for improving water supplies, air quality and energy efficiency along the 2,000-mile boundary between the United States and Mexico.
Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency based in San Francisco, didn’t hit the spots that most visitors go. Instead, he stopped at the corrugated metal border fence, a wastewater treatment plant and a garbage pile in the Tijuana River Valley to build support for a binational blueprint.

My colleagues from Tijuana Calidad de Vida and 4 Walls at the Las Hormiguitas Community Center in Los Laureles.

Called Border 2020, it is the latest in a string of cooperative strategies that goes back to a 1983 agreement between the two countries. The expansive document focuses on climate change, children’s health and environmental education among other priorities. Blumenfeld is working with Mexico, ten border states and 26 border tribes to finalize plans.
He was at once upbeat about the potential for solutions and sober about the difficulty of convincing Congress to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on related projects when funding for the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program has shrunk by 90 percent since the mid-1990s. Border cleanup advocates said Blumenfeld’s interest is enough to boost hope that seemingly intractable problems will continue to shrink even if they won’t disappear.

This is the community center. 4 Walls built it using waste tires they found discarded in the canyons in Tijuana.

The current Border 2012 program expires next year. It’s credited with helping to reduce flooding, improve estuaries, boost drinking water supplies, remove junk tires and prompt other upgrades in the region where 14 million people live.
“Incremental progress can sometimes feel frustratingly slow,” Blumenfeld said, before ducking into the towering brush that hides streams of trash along the Tijuana River. “The needs remain great.”
In few places are the challenges as clear as they are in San Ysidro, which sits downhill from Tijuana and has suffered from sewage and garbage flowing across the border for decades.
“(Similar problems) have been solved in other places,” said Blumenfeld. “It’s not a question of this being the first place to solve them. … Just the fact that now 90 percent of Tijuana residents have access to wastewater treatment systems is a testament to the fact that it can be done.”

There is also a native plant nursery and vegetable greenhouse, proof that despite abject poverty, signs of hope can be found.

He said the biggest issue is financing as his agency and others try to trim costs.
“The amount of money that was being given to this in the last 15 years will be hard to replicate in the next 15 years,” Blumenfeld said. “The real question is how we focus on things that have to be done and at the same time work out funding sources and streams that are sustainable.”
Border 2020 is supposed to be the central forum for how work priorities are set.
[Draft document and directions for how to file comments about it.]
Serge Dedina, a veteran border cleanup advocate with Wildcoast in Imperial Beach, said Border 2012 set a solid foundation. EPA’s website shows it gave Wildcoast $53,000 last year to reduce trash in Tijuana’s Los Laureles Canyon.
“EPA has been really strong understanding the needs on the ground,” Dedina said. “It’s much more effective to train Tijuana residents to deal with trash instead of paying people in the United States to clean up.”

The conditions in Los Laureles are shockingly dismal--sewage in the streets, garbage and graffiti everwhere and substandard homes and plywood shacks. But hope for the future is important and is what drives people to continually improve their homes and communities.

Tim Townsley and the Business of Crafting Surfboards

From my September 14, 2011, Imperial Beach Patch Column:

Back in 1993, Imperial Beach surfer Tim Townsley set up a surfboard factory, TNT Surfboards, in a big empty warehouse at the northern end of 13th Street, next to San Diego Bay. Back in the 1990s TNT was producing between 8-10 surfboards a day according to Imperial Beach Patch. Faced with an economic downturn, dramatic changes in the surfboard industry due to globalization and offshore production, and the development of the Bayshore Bike Village, Tim is closing the 13th Street factory down and looking for new space. The TNT factory has employed some of San Diego County’s elite surfboard shapers including Dave Craig, Jay Novak and Brett Bender. Tim still runs the TNT Surfboard Shop at 206 Palm Ave in Imperial Beach and is shaping boards through his own Townsley label.

Patch: How did you start TNT?

Tim Townsley: I started TNT Surfboards in the 1980′s. My employer at the time Tony Daleo of Star Glassing ran one of the original San Diego surfboard factories and decided to call it quits. When Tony dropped out I started a small glass shop in my mother-in-law’s garage on Ebony Avenue in Imperial Beach. I built boards for locals but other shapers from throughout San Diego County started contracting me to build for them well. Things just kind of blew up from there.

Patch: Who influenced you to get into the surfboard industry and start shaping?

Townsley: I started at the Star factory that was the starting point for many San Diego surfboard makers. Local shaper Brett Bender worked at the Star factory and he encouraged me to apply for an open position. A great deal of what I learned there is what made it possible to start my own shop.

Patch: Do you remember the first board you shaped?

Townsley: Over the years I’ve made thousands of surfboards for some of the world’s most well known shapers and some of the top surfing professionals. When I look back on it I’m astound by the numbers I’ve produced over the years. There were far too many to remember the first one I shaped.

Patch: How did the demise of Clark Foam in 2006 impact your business?

Townsley: TNT was producing thousands of surfboards a year when (Grubby) Clark quit.  Man, what a blow that was. If you can imagine trying to build a car without tires, that is what we were up against. We made it through that hard time.

Surfboard building has never been the same since.  Grubby Clark saw something coming the rest of us didn¹t. It has been a tough go ever since that day

Patch: How has the surfboard industry changed over the past few years?

Townsley: The industry has shrunk today compared to the heyday of the 80′s.The bigger shops have all quit or sold out to larger corporations who quickly moved their operations offshore to China

Patch: Why should surfers work with a local shaper?

Townsley: Buying local is important no matter what you purchase. Buying local stimulates the local economy.  When it comes to surfboards sure you can by a pop-out brand, but in my experience cheaper price usually means lower quality. Buying from your local board maker is going to typically yield a higher quality surfboard that will last and will perform better than your typical mass-produced import model. Board builders are not getting rich at this. It is hard work and you pour a lot of yourself into it both physically and mentally so when we see someone on a board made in China it is heartbreaking.

Patch: You are currently shaping under your own Townsley label. What types of boards are you shaping right now?

Townsley: I¹m going back to basics with the Townsley line–low entry rocker, flat bottom, with vee off the tail. This design is proven to be fast, responsive and it will hold in a tight spot. It worked for Tommy Curren in the 80′s and it works now. I think there are a lot of progressive designs out there but also a lot of gimmicks. It is important for surfers to develop a relationship with their local shaper and work with them over the long term.

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