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The ASM Interview: Kolton Sullivan Talks Shaping, Vlogging, and IPD

Updated: Mar 26

Photo courtesy IPD

We’ve all been told that “life isn’t all fun and games”.

But spend a day with Kolton Sullivan, and you’ll think otherwise.

His day-to-day is full of fun and games, and “Uncle Kolty” is the kind of guy you want to hang out with. 

For starters, the San Juan Capistrano native rips. Find him in a lineup somewhere in Southern California (he wisely won’t tell you his favorite spots), and you’ll see his wicked and on-point rail game.

But he’s not only focused soley on his freesurfs. In his vlog, he’s filmed segments on how to help others surf better, whether you’re a beginner and you’re looking for your first board or if you’re experienced and are looking to improve your airs.

Tag along with him on any given day and you’ll not only surf in the right spot; you’ll dry off, hit the moto track, jump on a Yamaha, and launch off dirt ramps. 

Plus, the 26-year-old shapes boards under his own label. He won’t talk you out of the kind of board you’re interested in, and most importantly, he’ll get it to perform exactly the way you want it.  

As Kolton surfs, shapes, and motocrosses, he’s in head to toe IPD gear, a brand that he couldn’t be more excited to be a part of thanks to its core surfing values. 

We chatted with Kolton about shaping, motocross, vlogs, and what sets IPD apart to learn more about his story — and how he’s keeping life full of fun, games and adrenaline. — Cash Lambert

ASM: Let's start with your first surfing memory, Kolton. What comes to mind?

Kolton: My first surfing memory … oh man. This one day, around mid afternoon, the waves were small and my dad wanted to go surf. We lived across from the south set of stairs at 204s in San Clemente. We put our wetsuits on at home, walked over, went down the stairs, and I went number 2 in my wetsuit! My dad took me back to the house and sprayed me off with a hose before we went surfing. That's my first surfing memory.

How did surfing grow to become such an important part of your life?

My dad would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was skating, snowboarding, surfing, doing motocross ... all the action sports you can think of … I was never really a team sport ball sport guy .... and I told him I wanted to be professional at those sports at the same time. My dad thought I was crazy. 

Surfing clicked for me around 13 years old. I had an older friend who I looked up to going to the beach all the time, and I started going with him to the beach to surf every day. I never really stopped.

Plus, a surfboard was much cheaper than a Yamaha.

Did the competitive side of surfing appeal to you growing up?

I remember doing high school events, like the Scholastic Surf Series (SSS), Volcom’s Totally Crustaceous Tour, the WSA and NSSA. But I enjoyed surfing and kicking it on the beach with my friends more than the competition. 

After high school, everyone was talking about the QS, and I remember hearing an interview with Dusty Payne who said something along the lines of don’t do the QS until your surfing is ready, and I really thought about that.

I didn’t think my surfing was ready, so I continued to enjoy the fun aspect of the beach and surfing, which I’m still doing today.  

Talk to us about how you started shaping boards, and the start of your own shaping label. 

Growing up, my dad and uncle always worked with their hands as painters and carpenters, so that appealed to me.

I also got to see an endless list of shapers over the years … Dale Velzy, Hobie Alter, Terry Martin. The list is literally endless.

These were hardworking guys and I thought they were the men of the world. I loved seeing how they were up to their elbows in everything to do with shaping, and they were super cool individuals … I aspired to be like them.

My dad had close ties with Flippie Hoffman, the grandfather of the family who owns my dad’s house. So Flippie would build balsa wood surfboards in the front yard.

Photo courtesy IPD

As I got a bit older, I realized I didn’t have the money to buy a fish surfboard, so I decided to make one. 

Going into shaping now, I know how these boards work, why they don’t work, and why the surfboards are built the way they are today.

I’ve bounced around several friends shaping bays, and now I have my own label, Sullivan Shapes. The surfboards I make are fun and weird.

I won’t talk you out of something that you want — I’ll make you whatever board you have in mind. Most of all, I’ll make it perform well. If you want a single fin, I’ll try and make it so you can still get barreled on it.

I believe that any board can be high-performance if it’s built right and you use it right — just look at what Gerry Lopez was doing in the 70s.

As far as the future, I want to make surfboards that can help me surf and perform critical maneuvers in critical situations.

I’m not in a rush to shape more, I’m just letting it happen organically when people come to me. 

Talk to us about the start of the vlog, and why you did segments like "Tech Tips" that helps others improve their surfing.

It was for Used Surfboards in San Clemente. We just started doing everyday vlogs, then doing more technical stuff, like how to do airs, how to paddle, how to choose the right set of fins.

It got traction, so we kept doing it.

My whole philosophy is that surfing is simple. It doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, but people overcomplicate it all the time.

In a lot of these videos, I took my experiences and dumbed it down so that the average person can understand it. Moving forward, I’ll be doing our own channel called Shralp Stories.

Photo courtesy IPD

How did you get started working with IPD? 

A few years ago, my roommate showed up with a big box of IPD gear. Come to find out, I had a long time family friend working over there.

At the time, I was riding for Rip Curl. To be on the same team with Mason Ho and Tom Curren was sick.

I left Rip Curl and joined IPD, and it’s really cool to be with a smaller and more core brand focused on surfing’s roots because you don’t have to climb a corporate ladder … I can call up a homie and he has the answer for me. It’s much more simple and much more laid back with potential for growth. 

With IPD, it’s nice to have someone looking out for you and for the actual surf scene. These guys that run the company are also down at the beach on any given day or at any contest, hanging out with all the boys under the same tent. That’s what they’re all about. It’s not a facade; their core values are real. 

What do you like about their gear?

All the products are super comfy and soft — especially the tshirts — because they use good and high quality material. I’m not gonna buy $60 jacket for it to fall apart later, you know? 

A lof of other companies out there have poor quality material, and that’s what makes IPD different. It's gonna last you through all the hell you put through it at the skate park or the beach. 

I’ve surfed in the shirts and boardies, bounced off rocks and bounced off other people's surfboards. I didn’t get cut and neither did the clothing. Everything stayed intact, it’s killer. It’s like a protective barrier. 

You can get out of the water, hang out your IPD shirt to dry, and then go out to dinner in the same shirt you just got barreled in 30 min before. That's how good IPD's quality is.

Photo courtesy IPD

Where can we find you on a given swell in SoCal? What are some of your favorite spots?

Man, I can't tell you that. I try to keep all the spots under wraps … the less other people hear about it, the less likely they’ll be sitting in the lineup with you at that spot.

What can we expect from you in the future?

A lot more surfing, skateboarding, moto riding, and I’ll keep pumping out vlog stuff. A lot more fun! Stay tuned!


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