The Women Keeping the Art of Surfboard Making Alive
Handmade surfboards are a rare commodity. Handmade surfboards crafted by women are even more so.
As the surfboard industry moves toward prefabricated, machine-cut mass production, hand-shaping surfboards keeps it tied to its roots. Masters at their craft, these four women—Ashley Lloyd Thompson, Valerie Duprat, Cher Pendarvis, and Dewi Malopsy—represent a small handful of female board builders who prefer making boards (which range in style from the classic San Diego fish to long nose-riders to big-wave guns) the old-fashioned way.
Photo: Valerie Duprat sands in her shop in Encinitas, California.
Growing up on California waves, Ashley Lloyd Thompson wanted to balance her respect for traditional longboard surfing and her commitment to a healthy environment. All Ashley Lloyd Thompson Surfboards are Ecoboards, meaning they’re all green certified by the Sustainable Surf Organization for using bio-based epoxy resins and less toxic materials.
Thompson was first introduced to shaping in 2002. Just three years later, she was signed on as a rider and shaper for Bing Surfboards to design her own models and would eventually start her own business out of Santa Cruz, California. Thompson grew up around art and music, which comes through in her creative process—she often listens to clients’ playlists in the shaping bay to get a better sense of them while she refines their boards. In the early years of her career, Thompson was one of the only female shapers running a business. Today she’s training a female apprentice, helping to shift the industry’s demographic.
A biotech scientist who sequences DNA by day, Valerie Duprat, proprietor of Mere Made Surfboards, began shaping boards as a creative outlet in 2011. She created them for family, then friends, then friends of friends, and now for anyone looking for a special addition to their quiver. Being both a talented shaper and one of the few females in the industry has helped open some doors in the most prestigious shaping rooms of master board builders in France, California, Oahu, and Maui. Here she stands in her backyard shaping bay in Encinitas.
“A board built with traditional craftsmanship, a soulful object of stoke,” says Duprat. She traces a template for a double-winger fish.
If you think finding a female shaper is hard, try finding a female glasser. Dewi Malopsy is one of those rare finds. Studying under old-school shaper Jeff Alexander, she began glassing surfboards on the North Shore of Oahu after moving there from Indonesia. Now, 20 years later, she does the work in her own shop, Tiger G Glassing, in San Diego.
At age 13, Cher Pendarvis caught her first wave on a wooden paddleboard that she borrowed from a lifeguard. Today, fifty-some years later, she’s a revered pioneer of women’s surfing. She and her husband, Steve, are the team behind Pendo and Pendoflex Surfboards in San Diego. Pendarvis is a shaper, artist, and glasser. She was the first female team rider and shaper for Channin Surfboards and the first female staff member at Surfing magazine, hired as an art associate. Pendarvis continues to contribute to various outlets, has published several books, and is an award-winning artist. For her surfboard designs, she likes to paint using colors inspired by nature. “I am grateful for the life we live with the ocean,” she says. “It is pure joy to make boards by hand to be ridden on the waves.”