There used to be a small surf shop on Coast Highway in Encinitas called Sunset Surfboards. Walking into the tidy little showroom left you dazzled by the work of some of the best board makers in the industry. And, if you didn’t see what you wanted there, you could order a custom board on the spot.
A short walk downstairs led to the factory where your board would be made to your specifications. While nearly impossible to comprehend now, surfboards were shaped and glassed in downtown Encinitas. Gosh, I miss the sound of power planers and the smell of resin.
The owner of the shop, Ed Wright, began surfing in 1958 and shaped his first surfboards in his garage a few years later. He was encouraged in this endeavor by his father, who started surfing in 1935 and built a board in the early ‘40s from a kit purchased through Popular Mechanics. From there, Ed began sweeping up for legendary board makers Pat Curren, Mike Diffenderfer and Al Nelson, who owned a shop in Encinitas on D Street called South Coast In 1965, Ed began working for Surfboards Hawaii, and it was there he perfected the exacting craft of shaping. As the owner and head shaper for Sunset, you could often find him sprinkled in foam dust after hand shaping some of the best boards ever.
Sunset was more than a surf shop; it was a way of life for many of us, a place to hang out and hear stories of travels to Hawaii or day-trips that yielded perfect Rincon. It was also a place where surfers of faith found like-minded friends and fellowship amid the foam and glass surf craft.
Some of the shapers were also among the best surfers in town. These included Michael Willis, Syd Madden, and Pat Flecky. Bill Shrosbree, Rusty Prisendorfer and Mike Croteau also shaped along with a handful of others, many of whom came and went quickly. The core of what would become one of the world’s finest glass shops in the world, Moonlight Glassing, featured the late Kenny Mann, Gary Stuber, Peter St. Pierre, and Mark Donnellan. Team members Ken Bradshaw, Cheer Critchlow, and Margo Godfrey Oberg would make their marks internationally.
There were always shop gremmies working at Sunset, and one that showed up in the early ‘80s was Brian Fredrickson. Brian was an excellent surfer and quickly made the surf team while sweeping up the factory in much the same way his employer and mentor Ed had done before him. Also, like Ed, Brian became top surfboard shaper. Then, in 1988, Ed and his wife Nora entered ministry and sold the shop to Brain, who owns the brand to this day.
Both Fredrickson and Wright have continued to shape the occasional surfboard for customers who remember the days when Sunset was one of the top boards on the coast.
Top: Brian Fredrickson, left, and Ed Wright recently discussed half a century of Sunset Surfboards. Photo by Chris Ahrens