LEAH DAWSON'S INSPIRATIONS WEIGH-IN

My first introduction to surfboard style and class was at the hungry age of 15.  From Florida, I was the grommet visiting my older professional longboarder friends in Southern California, who all rode for Donald Takayama.  I had broken the longboard I brought out for the summer, so they asked DT if he’d lend me a board.  He put me a 9’0 Gypsy Model and that summer I really learned what noseriding was.   After my first day at the Bu, experiencing the hectic crowd, I got run over by a guy and took a big chunk out of the rail.  Devastated, I had my tail between my legs as I dialed Donald’s number from the pay phone.  I was calling to tell him that I had dinged the board, but he giddily started off the conversation with, “how do you like the board?!”  I honestly said, “well, it’s the best board I’ve ever ridden.”  “Take it home with you then,” he said, so I never told him about the ding…  Donald went on to shape boards for me for the next 10 years until he passed.  I learned about supreme design from longboards to old school shortboards, but mostly he taught me about Aloha, the art of giving, and how powerful being Excited can be.  I think about DT daily, he’s an angel, and forever a surf style inspiration.   My goal now, is to do my best to copy the boards he made me myself, so that I can keep his hanging on my walls forever.

A few years ago on the North Shore, I was looking for a new place to rent.  At the same time, I kept having these visions of finding an old single fin swinging under a house. Weeks later, I was invited to join new friends at their home.  They asked me to move in on the spot, and also told me that there were some cool boards under the house that I may be interested in.  Just as in my vision, there it was, an early 70’s 6’6 single fin, beak nose, super down rail, and quite the flat bottom. I was in love at first sight.  My first session on it was at 6-8 ft perfect Sunset, the west bowl was firing.  Joel Tudor was about to paddle out, and I went over to him, seeking his approval if he thought it would be a good day to test drive the old guy.  He said, “sure, fin looks a little small (just over 5 inches!!) , but stay low and you’ll be fine.”  I caught 5 waves and had one of the best Sunset sessions of my life.  I was amazed with the board. Very curious about where it came from, I scraped off the dirty wax, to see the faded label, Islands Surfboards shaped by Dave Ronk.  I looked around for information on him, but didn’t find any off the bat.  I ended up making a short film from the board’s point of view called Peanut Butter.  Somehow, the internet brought it to the eyes of Dave’s colleagues and family.  I learned that Dave Ronk was a hero.  After shaping on the North Shore through the 70’s and 80’s, he became a Honolulu Police Officer, and was shot and killed on duty in ’87.   I’ve received messages from his friends, officers that worked with him, officers that work now and revere Dave as their department hero, I’ve also heard from his sister and brother, who are now caring for Dave’s wife.  The film touched their hearts because of the love of the board that I expressed.   This board changed my life.  It made me realize that spirit carries on in material items, especially art, that when we express love, it generates more love, that Old Boards, are Great Boards.   Peanut Butter is still my favorite board, because of the ride, and also the soul.

I’ve admired Ashley Lloyd since I first saw her when I was 15, for her impeccable surfing grace as well as her shaping.   I’ve never seen another female surf with switch stance ability as smoothly as she does.  Seemlessly, with such feminine style, her ability to dance up and down a log is pure delight. She’s been shaping for a long time now, and is extremely talented with creating masterpieces out of foam.   Last year was the first time I got to ride one of her boards.   She let me borrow a 9’10, which at first I was a bit reluctant, as I had only ridden up to a 9’5 log.  She said, “Trust me, it wont feel that long”.   I had the best longboarding sessions of my life on that board.  Elevator hang 10’s in the pocket, holding them for longer than I’ve ever been able to, I quickly realized that she was right about the board.  Of course.   A surfer/shaper is always in tune, and a woman?!  Even more so!!   I could feel Ashley’s love and energy in the board, and that too, made the ride feel exceptional.  I am excited to ride more of her creations, and just as excited to watch her ride them as well.   As a woman, I hold her in highest regard.

Like the rest of the entire surf community, I’ve been a fan of Gerry Lopez for as long as I can remember.  Once I started riding mid-length single fins and discovering the ‘soul arch’ in my own surfing, I quickly realized that if there is one surfer I want to emulate style, it would be him, because it always looks, to me, like he is speaking with the wave.  Life magically brought our lives connected, and I’ve been blessed to spend great time in the shaping bay watching Gerry shape.  What I have learned the most, is that the key to efficiency, is meditative, thoughtful, slow but precise movements.  I’ve not seen him make a mistake, because every move he makes has purpose and thought behind it, with a lifetime of shaping experience to go along with it.  He knows his tools and just how he likes to use them, which allows him to always arrive at the result he is looking for.  The board’s he has shaped for me are nothing short of amazing and are enhancing my surfing every time I ride them. 

A 8’0 Sunset Gun, I asked him to make me what he would have shaped himself for sunset back in the 70’s, with a bit wider of a belly.  We went 21” wide, so it rides incredible in both small and huge waves.  Another is a 6’2, down rail step up shortboard, with a TON of rocker from the bottom. I’ve ridden a different setup almost every session with it, with a 2 + 1 fin box set up.   It’s my barrel board now, I plan on getting super tubed on it!   My goal is to ride the boards as he would, so I’ve got quite the mission on my hands!   I bear witness that passion keeps you young, and that mastery in anything stems from that passion.