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Catch a custom wave: singular surfboards

Valencia man designs and builds unique surfboards, graphics

Posted: March 16, 2009 1:20 a.m.
Updated: March 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Ray Moss stands between two of his custom-built surfboards.

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While the economy may be sinking across California and the rest of the United States, Ray Moss doesn't need a government bailout to keep his custom surfboard business afloat.

"I suppose I could write them a letter and ask for some (money)," the Valencia resident said with a laugh, "But the saving grace about surfboards is they do wear out - people are hard on them."

Moss, 61, should know. Born in Santa Monica, he was riding rubber rafts at the beach almost from the time he could walk. When he was 10 years old, a friend's father took him surfing and he was hooked on the sport of Hawaiian kings.

He made his first board from a kit in the early 1960s and then got serious about custom boards after making one from wood in a friend's shop around 1990. "I had so much fun doing it that I started making them all over again," he said.

When the friend - needing the space - kicked him out, Moss found a little place in Canyon Country in an old red building housing a feed store. He said people would constantly stop in surprise when they saw him working on boards.

"A feed store is not exactly a surf destination," he said.

Designing graphics for surfboards is his escape from the everyday chores of running Ray Moss Design - a construction company he owns and operates.

For the past six or so years Moss has been working on boards out of a little shop off Reuther Avenue across Soledad Canyon Road from Home Depot. He has designed more surfboards in more patterns than he can count.

"I did one all in plaid for a Scottish guy," Moss said. And he collaborated with Todd Proctor of Proctor Surfboards on one for singer Dr. Dre that featured an image of Saturn along with the words from one of the rapper's songs running over the face of the planet.

A collaboration board done with Steve Walden of Walden Surfboards and photographer Aaron Chang raised $8,000 at a charity auction for the American Cancer Foundation.

He's created boards for the House of Blues and donated one to the environmental group Surfrider Foundation. Another board was donated to the Southern California Indian Center and was auctioned at the Gene Autry Museum.

Moss's boards start around $450 and go up from there, with the choice of materials and artwork affecting expenses.

An average longboard sells for $550 to $800 while classic balsa wood boards are the most expensive at $1,200 and up. His most pricey board to a private collector went for $2,500.

The creative process for a board generally takes three to four weeks from start to finish. He used to sometimes hire other surfers to help with the work, but in recent years Moss has gotten away from that.

"Surfer labor is notoriously flaky," he said, "If there's good surf everyone's gone."

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