Surfboard Shaper Ashley Lloyd
Just as smooth in the shaping bay as in the water, Ashley Lloyd is a beloved shaper, surfer and musician. Ashley’s passion for the ocean began as a young girl in Malibu, California. By age twenty she was ranked among the world’s top ten women longboarders and began shaping her own surf boards. Over the past ten years, Lloyd’s shaping has transformed from part-time hobby to a full-time career. A rare distinction – few women in the world have pursued the craft of making surfboards.
What made you fall in love with surfing?
I think it was just the lifestyle of my family. My mom always took us to the beach and my brother starting surfing … anything he did I thought was awesome so I followed him out onto the water. I loved being on the beach, playing on the sand, playing in the tide pools. I still do. I guess surfing was the next progression and it became an addiction.
What are the big life lessons you’ve learned in the water?
I’ve learned so much from being in the ocean. Humility – that’s the grand one right there. It’s such an individual sport where you’re working against or with the ocean and the ocean is always going to be more powerful than you. It’s impossible not to be humbled by that. Then there’s the whole social aspect. I grew up surfing Malibu and man, it’s really funny what people bring into the ocean psychologically with them. Some people go there to just to be free. I guess for everyone the ultimate thing is that feeling of being present and doing what you want on the wave, but then throw a crowd into it and people just get kind of nuts sometimes.
I think everyone goes through this at some point where you start taking too much because you can. When you first start out surfing it’s so hard to catch a wave and then finally you get into this rhythm and you want more of it. But I’ve reached a point where, just because I can catch a wave, it doesn’t mean I should. You know, there can be a lot of taking in surfing. And I definitely believe in carpe diem, you’ve got to seize the moment. But, just lately, I’m not so hungry for waves all the time anymore … I guess because I’ve caught a lot of them in my life.
Something that I think is really important is having respect for the ocean, the power of the ocean, taking care of the ocean, as far as not polluting and picking up trash even if it’s not yours, and having respect for other people in the line up whether they are years into it, a veteran, or just a very beginning person. I think that surfing doesn’t just mean surfing the wave. There’s a lot to surfing that goes beyond that and the lessons are really endless. A lot of it’s a psychosocial thing; are you brave enough to go out in huge waves? There have been points in my life where I thought I was going to drown and then I think back on it and I was probably eleven and that wave was probably two foot high (laughs) and would not have hurt me at all. But then a couple years ago when I was surfing pipeline (Oahu, Hawaii), I discovered a whole new realm of bravery. There’s always something that’s going to challenge you.
Why do you think surfing brings out so many different emotions?
It’s like driving. All of a sudden you get in the car and you’re like, whoa, road rage! (laughs) When you’re driving free and you have this feeling of freedom and then you get that taken away from you because someone else has the wave, you have to learn to deal with that. And some people don’t want to be patient with it. It’s easier for them to get upset. I don’t know what it is about being immersed in the water, it does bring up all these emotions and maybe allows people to have some sort of an outlet of pent up emotion. I think it’s different for everyone. I feel like I’ve gone though all of that. I’ve felt, “oh, I can’t catch a wave and this is depressing.” I’ve felt extreme gratitude for catching one wave and I’ve also felt ego for being able to take whatever waves I want. I’ve also felt humbled by something pounding me and wondering when I get to take a breath. I’ve been whacked on the head and gotten a huge egg on my forehead and scar from my surfboard on a really simple day. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s not a controlled environment but we try to somehow harness that power. I was giving a surf lesson the other day and I was trying to explain it as a calm desire. You have that desire but you try to find that calm line inside of you that can take it all in. The best surfers have this focus to them but they look so relaxed and graceful and fluid. There is definitely an adrenaline happening inside them as calm as they may seem. It’s such a contrast but a beautiful one.
People have really different ideas of what makes a great surfer. Has that changed for you over the years?
From town to town that I’ve lived in, I’ve appreciated different kinds of surfers for the different waves we’ll get. In Malibu, for example, I really gathered an appreciation for style and maybe that was ingrained in my head from the opinions around me, “you gotta look calm (laughs)!” I have always loved someone looking like they’re in control but always pushing it, always pushing the line. Josh Farber is a great example of that. I love short boarding too even though longboarding is more my forte … just anyone that’s having a blast. That’s something that is definitely conveyed in people surfing if they’re having a good time and I think that’s very alluring.
Do you have any favorite women surfers?
My neighbor Zeuf Hesson. She’s a life inspiration for me and she’s very smooth and graceful. She’s paddled across the bay here from Santa Cruz to Monterey. She’s just an incredible water woman and right now she’s struggling with cancer, but her inspiration just continues on. Her love of the ocean is really inspiring.
Lynda Benson (World Champion ‘59; US Champion, ’59, ’60, ’61,’64,’68; Surfing Hall of Fame 1992; Director of the Linda Benson Women’s World Longboard Pro). It’s just amazing to me that she surfed Waimea at age 15, the first woman to surf there on an old longboard. Linda really helped us with our World Championship contest over the last decade, helping to reestablish longboard professional surf contests for us ladies. It’s been so in and out throughout the years as far as sponsorship of the events and of the individual surfers. It’s been really fun surfing with her and getting to know her. Linda borrowed a board of mine and it was the coolest day when she tried a few waves. She’s a hero.
The list really goes on … Carla Roland, Julie Cox and Kassia Meador. We were just a gang when we were teenagers. We were each other’s peers as far as surfing goes. I’ll always love their surfing. Also, Heather Tiddens from the movie “The Women and The Waves.”
How has the mainstream perception of women surfers changed over time?
I think it is changing, it’s constantly evolving because the numbers are going up. When I started surfing I felt like I was the only girl out there. And guys, when I’d hear them talking about women surfing, it was always, “oh, she sucks.” It wasn’t the common conception that women could surf and it made me always feel like I had to prove myself or surf as good as the guys. A lot of times there weren’t a lot of gals so, if there was one out, she wasn’t always the best surfer in the line up. Not to say there weren’t great surfers. Throughout the years, I’ve met some amazing, amazing women surfers that have just been core surfers that have been surfing for years. That reminds me of a couple of other of my favorite women surfers … Cori Schumacher and Leah Dawson. They’re amazing water athletes.
Women’s surfing did start to get popular when Lisa Anderson (World Champion, 1994 – 1997) started wearing the board short and Roxy started marketing her. Lisa Anderson was not a flashy model girl. She was a core surfer. It’s interesting because a lot of this popularity started off of her but branched into surfer girl models – all these skinny girls that were surfer girl models. And for me, as a teenager, when this was all getting popular, it was kind of confusing and frustrating and an easy thing to call lame because I wasn’t one of those girls. I wasn’t a tiny model that was cute (laughs). I was whoever I was, a strong surfer girl. But I have friends and I’ve see younger girls get caught up in this image of being this cute little skinny person in a bikini and having eating disorders and that is not what surfing is about. It’s not about how cute you are in your bikini. I think you can look at it a lot of ways. The Surf Industry produces what they think people will glom on to and what causes them to buy a product. So are they making an image that people want or are they making whatever image they want that people are going to follow?
I have a lot of older women friends that say, “I used to paddle out in the line up and people would call me a dyke.” But then it turned into this thing of a surfer girl that’s like a bimbo. (laughs) I don’t know, everyone kind of makes of it whatever they want. And for me, I do appreciate the fact that women’s surfing has gotten popular, even though they’re not always the doors that maybe I could walk through or other surf athletes could walk through. Because these doors for the surf models have been opened, it does allow, down the line, other doors to be opened … I’m hoping. It seems like that’s starting to happen …
STAY TUNED FOR PART II OF THE ASHLEY LLOYD INTERVIEW – more on women in the surf world and Ashley’s shaping career.
• For more info about Ashley’s custom surf boards, music or surf instruction: http://www.ashleylloydmusic.com
• Contact Ashley directly: firstname.lastname@example.org or (831) 566-8759
• Ashley’s boards are also available at Bing: http://www.bingsurf.com/surfboards_ashley, http://bingsurf.com/team_ashleylloyd.html
• Ashley’s music: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ashleylloyd
• Photo credit: Neal Casal http://www.nealcasal.com/about.html