Birdwell Blog

In the Factory with Mica Kramer
Dazzling Blue #143

“I blame it all on Keanu Reeves in ‘Point Break.’ Then I saw ‘The Endless Summer’ and my crush moved on to Mike Hynson.”

    That’s Mica Kramer talking about her outsized love of surfing. A wave-like swoop of black hair, a body sculpted by cross-steps and nose rides, a cheeky twinkle in her vibrant eyes, Mica first saw these films when she was a fifteen-year-old skate rat living with her parents in Millville, New Jersey. She had a boyfriend who surfed. After pushing her into a few waves, she was hooked.


    In 2002, at age 21, she moved to San Diego and enrolled at San Diego State University, where she studied art history, psychology, and international security. And she surfed—daily, obsessively.

    “I thought I was going to be this government person, but I just gave in to surfing, because I couldn’t stand the idea of being told what to do all day, every day,” said Mica.

    We stood alongside a wall of blanks at the Sharp Eye surfboard factory in the Point Loma district of San Diego. Mica had just finished feeding a quiver of boards for Filipe Toledo into the machine. She wore a Tyvek suit and joked with her fellow employees.


    Along with her work at the CNC machine, Mica paints boards. She painted one of my boards—a Pollockian splatter of bright colors on a 5’8” Larry Mabile fish that remains a loyal pal.

    “I started at Kane Garden as a receptionist, forced my way into surfboards because I was told, ‘Girls don’t build surfboards,’ and from there formed a company with the shaper Larry Mabile, and learned to airbrush, which is one of my passions,” she told me.

    Mica’s days start early. After walking her three dogs at dawn, she heads seaward, usually Ocean Beach Jetty. She rides eggs and gliders. A goofy foot, she surfs with quiet arms, and cross-steps balletically. From the beach, she heads straight to the factory.


    “I know as far as Europe, Australia, and the U.S. goes, I'm the only woman running a CNC machine in that area,” said Mica. “In Canada, South America, and Middle America, nobody is doing it. Maybe in Asia, maybe Thailand, but nowhere else. So yeah, I'm like the only unicorn—ram your horn in the machines!”

    Surfboard factories have a way of staying with you. Not just in the smells and incessant foam dust, but in the whine of planers, in the way resin smears across a deck. In 2020, Mica published “A Child’s Guide to Surfboard Building.”  “Have you ever wondered how your surfboard came to be?” goes the opening passage, “As you slid down the wave across the deep blue sea?”

    “I realized that there weren’t any children’s books about making surfboards,” said Mica. “I thought, ‘I’m going to make this book, and it’s going to be fun.’ And I think kids like it. It’s educational, with lots of pictures of epic craftspeople.”


    Her book is, in many ways, her life. In the course of a workday, she watches raw blanks transform into finished surfboards, often with her own signature airbrushes.

    “I feel very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given,” she said. “To have met and surfed with living legends. This life! This is what they write about.”

← Older Post