Seacoast swells

A Q&A with surfer and board shaper Sashi Lyford

Don’t let the frigid water fool you; the New Hampshire coast offers some world-class surfing. And fall and winter, when storms blow in big swells, are the best times of year to catch a wave on the Seacoast.

Exeter native and Hampton resident Sashi Lyford, founder and owner of 5 Star Surf Boards, has been surfing in New Hampshire and crafting his own surf boards for close to 20 years. He’s also surfed at some of the most renowned surfing destinations around the globe, so he’s qualified to vouch for the excellence of Granite State waves. The Sound recently caught up with Lyford to talk about fall and winter surfing on the Seacoast.

How did you get into surfing?

Basically, I had a couple buddies that were doing it and I just figured I’d try it. And then I went out with one of my friends and he lent me a board and a wetsuit, and ever since then I’ve just been hooked. It really just took one time getting up on my feet and after that I was sold. I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

You’ve surfed all over the world — Indonesia, Costa Rica.
What’s the most amazing place you’ve surfed?

Fiji was a great one. I got to surf Tavarua a couple times. I was fortunate enough to surf there before they passed a law in Fiji saying that no one has exclusive rights to the surf break any more. … So it was kind of neat to be able to see that and surf world-class waves basically with four other people.

People don’t necessarily think of New Hampshire as a surfing
destination. Is there good surfing to be found around here?

Yup, absolutely, we get great waves. We definitely get world-class waves, just not nearly as often. I think that’s kind of the reason people don’t think about it here. Also, the waves are only really good when the weather’s bad on the beach and no one ever sees it.

What’s your favorite spot to surf
in New Hampshire?

I would have to say probably the Rocks. Rye on the Rocks.

What’s the best time of year to
surf around here? 

Fall is definitely my favorite. In the wintertime we get nor’easters as well, so in wintertime the waves get pretty consistently big, but it’s cold. The nice thing about fall is we get the hurricane swells that come up the coast, but it’s still warm enough to be in a thinner wetsuit.

What kind of apparel do you
wear to stay warm when you’re surfing in the winter?

In the winter we wear a 5/4 (millimeter) wetsuit, 5 to 7 mil boots and gloves. And the wetsuit comes with a hood, too, so you stay covered.

How long have you been shaping your own boards and how did
you get into that trade?

My very first board that was my own was one that I had shaped. … My dad was into surfing before me … he just asked me if I wanted to make a board one day, and we bought three blanks. It was him, me and my buddy Nick, and we just all worked in the garage and made some boards. And from there, again, I was hooked. I loved doing it, and nothing quite feels like riding your own board.

What’s it like watching
someone surf on a board you
personally crafted?

It’s nerve-racking. If they like it, it’s awesome. It’s definitely stressful. Obviously you always want to be making the best thing possible, but it doesn’t always work out that way, so you’re sitting there hoping and praying that they like it and that it’s a magic board for them.

Any final tips or pointers for
folks looking to go surfing in
New Hampshire?

Just that it’s fun, it’s great. It’s definitely a life-changing thing. It’s definitely for everybody. Obviously just be respectful of the people that have been doing it for a long time, and learn the rules before you go.