Kristy Murphy’s Endless Summer

Two of my favorite people to hang at the beach and surf with are Kristy Murphy and Cat Slatinskly of Siren Surf Adventures. Both are super positive, smart, great surfers with great attitudes–and pioneers in women’s surfing and women-owned surf business. Here’s my interview with Kristy who was the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champ. Cat grew up in my hometown of Imperial Beach.

Kristy Murphy, the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champion talks about women’s professional surfing and running Siren Surf Adventures, an international surf, Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and yoga tour and retreat company.

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Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Kristy Murphy: I started surfing in my hometown of Jupiter, FL in 1999, around my senior year in college. As a kid, I grew up bodyboarding, fishing and free diving with my family. My brother surfed all the time and I was always temped to try. My best friend’s dad was a big surfer in the 70s in Jupiter, and had just bought a new Donald Takayama Model T. We thought it was the coolest and would try to use it every chance we got! My first wave on a longboard I was up and riding.

Dedina: Were there any particular women surfer role models for you when you were into surfing.

Murphy: I loved watching Mary Bagalso (who is now a good friend and continues to inspire me), Julie Whitegon, Cori Schumacher, Ashley Lloyd, Kassia Meador, Julie Cox, Desiree Desoto and Frida Zamba. Thanks to guys like Joel Tudor, by the time I started getting really involved in surfing, the longboarding movement was happening and starting to regain popularity again. It was also right when women’s longboarding was staring to take off as well. I was always drawn to longboarding, ever since that first ride on a longboard, I knew I wanted to noseride.

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Me with Kristy and friends last year in Saladita (Kristy second from left).

Dedina: How did you get into competitive surfing?

Murphy: I first began locally in West Palm Beach, with the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA). I met another Jupiter local girl Jenni Flanigan, and we would go to all the local events together every weekend. It was a blast meeting people, surfing together and creating lasting friendships. After winning the ESA Championship Women’s longboard division in 2000, I decided I wanted to go out and give it a try on the West Coast. Jenni and I decided to take a trip together to California one summer and try to do some of the professional events out there.

Dedina: In 2005 you became the Women’s World Longboard Champion. Did winning the world championship create career opportunities for you?

Murphy: Obviously when you are competing at anything the goal is try to be number one. And after four days of surfing well and keeping it all together in 2005 I did it! It was awesome. I had dreamed of being a “pro” surfer and this was my breakthrough. I figured the sponsorships would come rolling in and I would be paid to surf.  It was funny; although longboarding became more and more popular, that did not mean more opportunities for the surfers. Actually just the opposite happened.

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Kristy cheering on a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

No new sponsors came knocking on my door. However, with my new title in hand, I did not give up and went out looking for sponsors and ending up working out some relationships, most importantly Costa Del Mar sunglasses whom I still work with today. Also, my surfboard sponsor, Siren Surfboards, has always supported me since the beginning to today and Kialoa Paddles for stand up paddling.

I was bummed that I did not get the overwhelming sponsorship support I thought I would after winning the World [Championship]. I was inspired to go out and keep surfing by doing it on my own. I worked at surf camps between competitions and eventually, after enough experience, opened my own surf camp/tour business, Siren Surf Adventures. My championship title has been important to my business, as it has given me credibility in the surf world and with all our clients.

Dedina: What do you think of the new school of women pro surfers?

Murphy: They are so talented. The progress that has been made from only a few years ago is amazing. The women are surfing more progressively and beautifully at the same time. It is awesome to watch! I wish surfing would be more based on talent, when it has the tendency to be based on looks.

Dedina: You and Cat Slatinsky have a solid business with Siren Surf Adventures and what seems to be an “Endless Summer” lifestyle with women’s surfing, yoga and SUP retreats to Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Who is attracted to your retreats?

Murphy: Mostly adventurous, fun, outdoorsy type ladies who are ready to try something new, plus gals who have been surfing a while, but cannot seem to get to the next level. They are all looking to experience surfing in an authentic, fun, safe atmosphere and meet new surf buddies. Our retreats are a unique VIP surf experience. Our group numbers are small (3-4 clients in each group) and Cat and I combined have over 20 years experience in surf coaching. We find that the ladies who come to our camp really want to learn or get better.

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Kristy helping a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

Dedina: And what is a typical Siren Surf Adventures surf retreat like?

Murphy: Most days are like this: You wake up in a beautiful, relaxing, beachfront setting. We prepare coffee, teas, fruits and yogurt in the morning while excitedly chatting about the days surf session. We usually do land lessons and visualization before we paddle out, and by land lessons we don’t mean only working on the pop-up. We find it easier to work on turning methods on land before we enter the water. Then it is just surf, surf, and surf until we are hungry. Then into town for the best local flavors. In the afternoons we usually offer a yoga session, some flat water SUPing or napping and relaxing. It is a super mellow environment and we always want our guests to feel like it is their time to do what they want. Basically our daily retreat schedules have been molded from our personal experiences as professional surfers in surf travel. Surf, eat, sleep, stretch, and then surf some more!

Dedina: What is the key to getting more women in surfing and sustaining their interest in the sport?

Murphy: Programs like ours help to safely introduce women to the surf. Surfing can be so intimidating, especially when you go at it alone. To be able to experience it with people you trust and respect that you can learn heaps from as well, is priceless.

Dedina: One of the reasons I’ve been so impressed with your work is because it goes beyond surfing into community building and making sure your business has a positive impact on communities and the coastal environment. What are some of the ways you and Cat give back?

Murphy: One of the great pleasures that is a benefit of our constant travelling is having a chance to meet new people all over the world. We learn a lot from them and we try to teach them about what we know as well–and that’s surfing. We do a Dia de los Niños, in Mexico, where we teach all the kids in the area how to surf. Lourdes at La Saladita, helps us heaps with that day. We’ve also had a great partnership with WILDCOAST as well as other organizations like Azulita, The Humane Society, and Women for Whales. It’s not even something we think about doing. We enjoy it and do it for the love of our natural world.

Dedina: So what is next? Are there new retreat locations on the horizon?

Murphy: In the future, we are going to have a few special retreat trips, but for now we are enjoying the locations and adventures we have. We feel so blessed to be able to work doing something we truly love.

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

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Stu Kenson’s Passion for Making Surfboards

10225_101732346509928_6369969_nLongtime surfer Stu Kenson has always been one of San Diego’s most respected custom surfboard builders. The founder of Evening Glass, Stu has worked with Weber Surfboards, Rusty, and Joel Tudor and his own label Stu Kenson Surfboards.

Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Stu Kenson: Doheny Beach, Orange County in 1970.

Dedina: How did you get started shaping?

Kenson: I did my first board during the summer of 1971.

I had an older mentor/friend that asked a few friends and myself if we wanted to make our own boards. I lived near Clark Foam, where at the time you could buy blanks direct from them. We could get a second quality blank for twelve dollars and a reject for less than that. Resin and cloth would run another twelve dollars or so. Shaped them with hand tools, surforms, and sandpaper. Made our own fins, which I had help on big time.

Sean Fowler with his SK quiver. Photo courtesy S. Fowler.

Sean Fowler with his SK quiver. Photo courtesy S. Fowler.

Dedina: Who inspired you when you started shaping and what shapers inspire you now?

Kenson: Making my own surfboard had a huge impact on me. The blanks at the time were very unrefined, bumpy and thick from end to end. It really took a great deal of talent to shape a good surfboard. I started doing ding repair at around 13 to 14 a years old and had access to many different boards. I would occasionally pick up broken and badly damaged boards for cheap. So pretty quickly I was able to try lots of different designs.

My surfboard collection grew from working in a surf shop. I spent just about every dollar I made on surfboards. Terry Martin was our in house shaper, and he could make anything you wanted, and I was able to try loads of different boards.

As far as who has influenced me, there are quite a few guys that made me some insane surfboards thru the years prior to my picking up the planer to build my own. Max McDonald, Jeff Mack, back in the day were really open to trying different things. We had a great time doing trippy boards that worked really well. Rusty Priesendorfer has been a huge influence. I probably learned more from him than anyone–incredible design knowledge, and great planer work.

When I decided to try and start shaping myself a few boards again in 1986 I had been getting boards from Dave Craig, which were some of the best boards I have ever had. I always sat in while he shaped my boards and told him I wanted to try and do a few. He hooked me up with a couple of templates and away I went.

Chris Russell on a SK longboard. Photo courtesy Jeff Wallis.

Chris Russell on a SK longboard. Photo courtesy Jeff Wallis.

Dedina: It seems like you were one of the early adopters of advanced materials such as carbon fiber. What types of material are you using for blanks and for glassing now?

Kenson: I had a team rider that wanted to try an epoxy style board so I shaped one for him and he loved it, so we started doing quite a few. At the same time Future Fins had come out with their Vector foil fins, which were made out of G10 fiberglass. They were very stiff with no flex, which was part of their design theory.

With these fins you were able to generate an extreme amount of drive and speed, which sometimes led to the surfboard breaking down due to the load that the fins put on the fin box and surfboard itself. At the time I was heavily involved with EPS/epoxy surfboards and looking into alternative glass/fabrics to build in additional performance into the boards we were building. We laid one up with carbon and it went unreal, in addition to it holding up really well. IB surfer Dave Parra had the first one.

The only problem with using advanced materials for surfboards is the cost. The fabrics we have used which included carbon and Kevlar are expensive, so they are not for every one. I am currently offering EPS/epoxy or Poly blank/ epoxy glassing, unless the customer prefers poly blank and Poly glassing.

The SK Pleasure Pig.

The SK Pleasure Pig.

Dedina: People rarely discuss the health aspects of shaping and glassing. Is that something you are worried about? Has the use of new less toxic or volatile materials reduced your health risk?

Kenson: As a kid I was always elbow deep in resin and solvents; not a good combination. I got much more serious about gloves and wearing a respirator when I got back into making surfboards in the early 80s. Years ago I participated in a study with a guy doing grad school research on dust produced from shaping surfboards. His findings were that it was not toxic as long as you took precautions, wore a mask and didn’t eat it.

Dedina: How has the evolution of social media allowed you to promote your business? Has it made it easier?

Kenson: I started with a web site, which went thru the process of constant design change, and it was fairly expensive to start with. It has progressed through blogs. Now I pretty much use Facebook to feature and promote my surfboards. It enables me to get new designs out as soon as I shape them.

Stu at work. Courtesy of Stu Kenson.

Stu at work. Courtesy of Stu Kenson.

Dedina: You always seem to be “pre-cutting edge” in what you are shaping—whether it was high-performance longboards,  SUPs, carbon fiber short boards, and now with the hybrid mini-Simmons and fishes.

How do you stay ahead of the game in order to anticipate what your clients want?

Kenson: I still get my time out in the water–when the powers that be don’t feel like destroying the beach–and have some of the best surfers–Sean Fowler, Chris Russell, Jason Ronis, Derek Dunfee, Mark Stone, Dave Parra and Bill Lerner–throughout San Diego riding my boards. I get bored riding the same old thing. I like to experiment with different materials and designs. I have a great crew of surfers and craftsmen that I work with, and we are constantly trying different things. Just trying to keep everything interesting.

Dedina: What are the shapes/designs surfers are into at the moment? And how do you test your designs and boards?

Kenson: The Pleasure Pig is one of my most popular small wave designs that I offer right now. I wanted to have a board that was easy to catch waves with, that had to be fast and very maneuverable. The board features a very wide template to accommodate quite a bit of volume, and a concave deck to keep the board very sensitive under feet.

Bottom design features a modified Bonzer concave in the tail, adding to the maneuverability and speed. I built the first one about four years ago and it went unreal in absolute junk, blown out summer surf, maybe knee high. A friend of mine saw me surf it and called it the “Pleasure Pig” and the name stuck.

Quads are also at the forefront right now. Many of the boards I make now have five fin boxes in them so you can tune your board better to the conditions. Quads are faster than tri fins, and sometimes that will make a huge difference

Sean Fowler test-driving a SK shape. Courtesy Sean Fowler.

Sean Fowler test-driving a SK shape. Courtesy Sean Fowler.

Dedina: Where do you think custom shaping is headed? 

Kenson: If you make good surfboards and believe in what you are doing, the possibilities are endless.

Dedina: With all the obstacles to making and selling custom surfboards, why do you continue?

Kenson: Some people worry about imported boards. That doesn’t concern me. I’m not building boards for that part of the market. I have always tried to be innovative with my surfboard designs. As long as I still enjoy what I do for a living, I won’t be ready for anything else just quite yet.

A custom SK paddleboard.

A custom SK paddleboard.

Taylor Jensen’s Professional Surfing Life

From my Coronado and Imperial Beach Patch Surfing Column of the week of March 16th:

Coronado’s Taylor Jensen is one of the most accomplished surfers to have come out of South County. Whether he is on a powering new school maneuvers on a longboard or ripping on his shortboard, Taylor, who holds 6 U.S. National longboard titles, mixes an impressive blend of athleticism, power and style into his surfing. He continues the long line of Coronado competitive new school longboarders including Mike and Terry Gillard and Dan Mann. When I caught up with Taylor, he was on his way to compete in the Noosa Festival of Surfing in Queensland, Australia.

When did you start surfing? And when did you get serious about professional surfing and why?

I started surfing at about 6yrs old. My Dad used to take me down to the beach and push me into waves on a blue body board. I was hooked from then on. I got serious about it when I got my first sponsor at 13. John Gillem hooked me up with Rusty Surfboards and that was it. I was sold on the idea of surfing for a living.

It seems as thought the Professional Longboard circuit is in a period of flux. To me you represent the best of “New School” longboarders carrying out high-performance maneuvers, but it seems as thought the sport is moving back to the traditionalist style as exemplified by the Vans Duct Tape Invitational that Joel Tudor organizes. Where is professional longboarding heading now?

Longboarding is sort of at a crossroads now. There has always been this divide between the traditional single fin side of things and the high performance side. There is no use trying to argue for one side or the other. That’s like someone who rides a twin fin telling someone who rides a thruster that they are wrong. It is surfing no matter what you ride. Longboarding, from a marketing standpoint, needs to head in the traditional direction. We need to differentiate from the shortboard side of things. People see me as the high performance guy, and yes I love riding a high performance longboard when the waves are good, but I also love riding a traditional single fin and noseriding.  Joel’s Duct Tape tour is a great thing for the sport. I’m heading to Spain later this year to be a part of it and am really looking forward to it.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Australia. Why does it seem that surfing and especially professional surfing is taken much more seriously Down Under than in California?

Just about everyone lives on the coast in Australia. Surfing is a part of everyone’s life here, whether they realize it or not. Surfing in Australia is a sport in which training facilities are dedicated to. Guys are signing multi million dollar deals at the age of 16 now. It is a great thing to see.

With the rise in retro shortboads that are wider and thicker than modern shortboards and allow high-performance surfing in small waves, is longboarding really even valid anymore?

Longboarding is a preference. There is no need to validate it. Ride whatever you have the most fun on. That is the whole reason any of us ever started surfing. Everyone should have as many boards as they can fit in their garage and ride them all. Every craft brings a different feeling of stoke. That is what we are looking for every time we enter the water. Longboarding, either high performance or traditional, is something different and it is where surfing started.

Taylor's Quiver

What types of boards are you riding, and who is shaping them? And how do you work with your shaper to obtain the shapes and boards that work for you?

I’m currently riding Firewire Surfboards. And I have almost every board in their range. Dan Mann shaped my longboard model. The relationship between a shaper and a rider is key to getting the best result. I always looked up to Dan’s surfing as a kid and he has seen me grow up so we have that hometown bond that allows us to create a great board.

You are one of the more athletic surfers on the professional circuit at any level. How are you staying in shape for surfing? And do you think most surfers are ignoring the importance of working out and diet to stay fit for surfing?

I had a severe ankle injury for the past three months so I got really out of shape. Getting back into peak performance is a lot harder than I remember. I’m getting into yoga and stretching a lot. Eating really healthy and taking care of your body is critical for surfing. Surfers are fit because of the exercise they do while surfing. If you combine that with stretching and eating right you’ll be looking at a new you.

Who are the surfers who have influenced you? And who is moving surfing forward today?

I have never really looked towards longboarding for influence. They guys who are pushing shortboarding are who influence me. Guys like Christian Wach have taken noseriding to a whole new level? The stuff he is doing on the front of his board is amazing! Also I like to see people who ride everything and who just don’t conform to some BS image for the media. Be you and do what you want to do, have fun with it!

One of the things that I admire most about your surfing is your ability to absolutely rip in any medium on shortboards and longboards? Do you find it hard to go back and forth? Is there a period of adjustment you have to make to surf well when go from a longboard to a shortboard?

I love shortboarding. That’s a huge part of my enjoyment in surfing. I’ll generally go weeks without riding a longboard and when I go back I surf better than ever before. Taking time to ride different boards is a huge part of developing your surfing. It is how you learn to get speed from different sections of waves and its how you find your own style. That’s a quest that never stops in your surfing, that journey to find your own style is something you can always work on and refine.

Where is your absolute favorite place to surf?

A certain place in Australia. It is the most magical place I have ever been. The waves are amazing, the people are wonderful, and the whole vibe is so laid back. I’m in love with this place. It is what California would have been like if we didn’t stuff it up with all the concrete, freeways, and pollution.

Best surf trip ever?

Two years ago I ended up on a trip to Micronesia with Mick Fanning, Beau Young, and Steph Gilmore. I have no idea why but it was amazing. You learn a lot by watching people like that. I took a lot of knowledge away from that and I gained some great new friends!

Who sponsors you and how do you work with your sponsors to have a long-term mutually productive professional relationship?

Currently my sponsors include Firewire Surfboards, Ocean Current Clothing, On A Mission, Kicker Audio, Coral Reef Wetsuits, and Surfride Boardshop. The relationships differ from sponsor to sponsor but all of them are like family to me. We have lunches, go for surfs, hang out and chat. But at the end of the day I am not employed to just surf. I get photos in magazines, go on editorial trips, shot videos for sections in movies, write a blog, test out future designs and give them feedback from an athlete’s point of view. There really is a lot involved in it but its always going to be better than sitting behind a desk.

What advice would you give a young surfer thinking about making the leap into professional surfing?

If you are really serious about it, take the time to test out the different career paths within the sport. There is always the chance to be a free surfer if contest aren’t your thing. And focus on having fun, as long as you are having fun it is worth it. The minute you stop having fun is when it turns from a job you love into the job you hate and then there is no point doing it. Get out there and go for it!

Dan Mann and the Future of Surfboards

Dan Mann of Mannkine Surfboards. Photo: Mannkine Surfboards

This is from my Imperial Beach Patch Column of December 8, 2010

Dann Mann is the founder, owner and head shaper of Mannkine Surfboards. A longtime Coronado and Imperial Beach local, he is always one of the standouts in a lineup, whether he is on a shortboard, longboard or paddleboard racing.

Dan grew up in Maui where his dad Lance taught him to surf at the age of two. He moved to Coronado at the age of 10, competed professionally from 1994 to 2000. Dan started shaping Mannkine Surfboards in 1996. He has also shaped for Channel Islands, Rusty, Joel Tudor and Xanadu.

Until 2008, he worked as the head of Design, Research and Development for Firewire. Dan currently lives in Coronado with his wife Kara and children Lance and Lily. When he is not surfing IB and Nado, he loves to find waves in Australia and Mexico.

Q. Why did you start shaping surfboards and when?

A. I started shaping in 1996 because along with paddling a long distance, I feel it is something every surfer should do.

Q. What shapers influenced you starting out and currently?

A. Starting out, Mike Eaton and Stu Kenson.  Now, Matt Biolas and whoever it is that designed the Oracle trimeran

Q. What sort of designs are you are working on?

A. Right now there’s a board I call the Chum Lee for Mannkine. I did a similar design for Firewire called the Sweet Potato.  It is 6 to 8 inches shorter than the rider and is a 4 finner.  It changed my mind as to what really makes a surfboard work.

Q. How was it working on the new Firewire Taylor Jensen model?

A. It was cool.  Taylor was a good friend of my brother when they were five and up so I’ve known him a long time and like his surfing a lot.  He loves surfing and has an intense sense of what works and doesn’t work in his boards.

Q. Describe some of the innovative work you are doing on board design and development?

A. I feel like we are only now scratching the surface on what surfboards can and should be.  The first thing that needs to change is the process to make a board.   Processes need to change so surfboards can be made more cleanly (eco-friendly), easily and with more consistency so that surfers know what they are going to get when they buy it.  This will increase the surfboard’s value for surfers, inject more excitement and creativity into the industry and make it an inventive vibrant industry again.

Along with changes in surfboard manufacturing processes, we need to use more sophisticated materials in surfboards.  There’s nothing like the dynamics of riding a wave on a board, so the improvements made to surfboards needs to come from those who make them and more importantly, surf them.  I love my old PU boards with a wood stringer, but if we want to experience what a surfboard really can be, we have to use carbon fiber.

This doesn’t mean just make a board and have some sort of carbon somewhere on it.  The carbon needs to be the main force behind the structure and more importantly  the way the board is bending or flexing – the feel of the board. This is the difference between a magic board versus an OK one.

This must be done in a way that does not interfere with the shapers ability to design. I have spent most of my time since 2003 making boards with this sort of stuff in mind and have a patent on a technology I call ‘Incide’ technology that addresses these issues.

Q. Where did the collapse of Clark Foam leave the surfboard industry?

A. It left the industry scrambling in good ways, bad ways and every way in between.  Ultimately we are here (five years to the day!) with several other companies, occupying the void Clark left with essentially the same product with very little meaningful innovation. So, things are a bit flat in the industry.

Q. How do you test-drive your designs? Is it your own feedback or that of key surfers that matter?

A. I definitely love surfing my own designs and ideas but the best and most meaningful feedback comes from other surfers. I feel like the best ideas and interpretations come from the end users.

Q. Handmade vs. computer designed and machine shaped?

A. Depends on what the guy who orders the board is looking for. I find most guys are pretty serious about getting something they are REALLY going to like and for this I think you can’t say enough about a computer aided, properly designed, machine cut board.

Q. Is there a future for the small “handcrafted” surfboard shaper/manufacturer?

A. For sure. I think if young guys want to get into it they simply need to be better than the generation ahead of them. They will need to know about the ENTIRE board and board building process. They also will need to be more inventive and creative.  The big guys are definitely getting bigger though.

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