Cabrillo Beach is not a great surf spot. And Allison Sinta isn’t a great surfer yet.
Despite the San Pedro spot’s short waves that last only a few seconds, she’s able to get up and have fun, thanks to a well-used soft-top surfboard she bought on Craigslist for $40 . Instead of being surrounded by other new riders on soft-tops, Cinta is pleased to see more experienced surfers on similar boards.
“I think those guys are giving to the rest of us who ride soft-tops and feel like we might actually be legit,” she said.
Riding a soft-top board used to be like surfing under a giant neon sign announcing a debut in the lineup. Now, a new crop of surfboard companies are selling high-performance soft-top boards that everyone from weekend warriors to pro surfers are ready to watch.
As Cinta gets better at surfing, she is considering getting a new board. But it won’t be traditional made of fiberglass or epoxy, which is a typical next step for many surfers.
“I know a lot of people are really excited for their first epoxy board,” she said. “But I’ll probably just get another soft-top that isn’t as green as my current one.”
Foam-top boards – colloquially known as foamies – are lightweight and safe for beginners, have soft materials that are less likely to injure riders during a fall, and are less prone to injury than their hard ones. -Top can be half the cost of counterparts. They also easily got into waterlogging and maneuvering in waves was difficult. Advances in size, fin design, and foam type have improved their buoyancy and agility, making those dull, slow boards a thing of the past.
wavestorm This new era of foamies began in 2006, when AGIT Global, a Taiwanese sports goods company specializing in foams, installed about 400 blue 8-foot boards at 10 Costcos throughout California to test the market for their manufacture.
“A few days later, I got a call asking, ‘How quickly can you do more of these?’
The boards took off. Costco sold the Wavestorm for $99 until 2020, when the retailer, which declined to comment for this story, moved to a new surfboard maker. Wavestorms now go for about $215 to $360, depending on the model and size, in Amazon and surf shops. Zilinskas said AGIT Global is closing in on selling more than 1 million Wavestorms worldwide.
With all those new boards come more people in the water. Some surfers grumble about the crowded lineup, blaming the explosion of soft-tops, a complaint the Zielinskas listened to much and dismissed.
“The sea is for everyone,” he said.
Daniel Bennett, who grew up in LA, doesn’t mind the crowd or the soft-tops. Bennett switches between going out on a wavestorm or small hard-tops depending on the conditions and says the beach has always been a draw in Southern California.
“People come here and say they want to try surfing,” he said. “I think that’s where wavestorms come in handy. You can’t hate someone for trying.”
Foams catch a killer wave
In addition to bringing more people into the water, the Wavestorm helped create a market for soft-top board makers. competitor catch the surf, located in San Clemente, is known for its foamy various shapes and colorful designs. Its first board, the beater, could ride like a surfboard or be used as a bodyboard or skimboard after the wings were taken off. It was a hit during its first summer in 2008, a time when people wanted to play on the beach no matter what the waves.
“We kept it fun and bright, but we want these things to perform at their best,” said Chris Monroe, Catch Surf’s vice president of marketing.
Now Catch Surf has 50 different board sizes, including the famous Odyssey series; partner with red bull soft-top surfing competitions; It has a model as the first soft-top board at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente; and worked with Lost Surfboards, a leading hard-top surfboard company, to create a foamy version of the popular shape.
The first soft-tops appeared in the 1970s when Tom More, who owned a bodyboard factory, and Mike Doyle, a surfer, collaborated to create the surfboard, said Matt Warshaw, a surf historian and author of “The Encyclopedia of Surfing”. . It was not until the last 15 years that the industry began to develop boards that could do more than these earlier models.
“Without reducing any protection or softness, these new manufacturers make the boards less slack,” he said. “They pushed them closer to being a regular surfboard.”
The difference is clear to Peter Paris, who owns go surf LA, a surf school located in Santa Monica. More than a decade ago once school turned into a wavestorm, classes got easier.
“People are getting to it fast,” he said. “People are getting over their first hour.”
It’s not just beginners. Paris, a lifelong surfer, said the first time he went out on a rippling storm was a revelation.
“I was really pumped to get a nice twist on the soft-top,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this might be better than a hard-top.'”
Paris rarely goes out on hard-tops and there’s even a vanity license plate that says “Fomies.” He said he’s also noticed a change in other people’s surfing. He credits the rise of soft-tops and COVID-19 for inspiring a vibe shift in surfing.
“Everybody wanted to be Kelly Slater,” he said, speaking of the pro surfer with a record 11 wins from the World Surf League. “Now they want to swim in the ocean and get some waves and not get stressed.”
Even surf pros have fun on the soft-top
But no one has done anything more to legalize surfing soft-tops than Jamie O’Brien, a pro surfer from Hawaii who grew up near Pipeline, a famous surf spot that hosted pro competitions. does. In 2011 he surfed the pipeline on a wave; Videos from that session show him goofing around.
“My whole goal with surfing has always been to have the most fun,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I’m having the most of my life on these boards.”
Now, he is sponsored by Catch Surf and has his own boards with the OC brand. He also teaches on one of his catch surf boards Her Oahu Surf SchoolWhich they feel is part of the draw for the new surfer.
“It’s sick that I can ride the same board on the pipeline I’m teaching someone how to surf [on] For the first time,” he said.
One of those inspired by O’Brien’s embrace of soft-tops was Natasha Smith, who said she saw a video of him on YouTube of her wavestorm antics after she first tried surfing on a work trip to California in 2017. He took a surf lesson and was hooked. Smith moved to Los Angeles six months later and has been surfing most days on one of his five soft-tops since then.
“If I were on a regular surfboard, I probably would have ripped so hard,” she said. But “soft-tops are my passion point.”
She likes how cheap they are and how well she can hold waves no matter how small. He’s also out in waves with other guys on similar boards.
“There’s a wave in everyone’s quiver now,” Smith said. “It’s not that much of a stigma.”