Sofia Kenney, 9, is turning old surfboards into modern art

By Jake Howard

Sometimes, old surfboards just need a little tender loving care to make them new again. And that’s exactly what 9-year-old Sofia Kenney is all about. The San Clemente surfer has been riding waves for a few years and is now taking her style from the surf to the studio.

“I really like to paint with watercolors and draw,” Sofia told the San Clemente Times. “My daddy bought me a POSCA pen starter kit from Drew Brophy, a local artist, for my ninth birthday. I love making something old look new and pretty again and being able to paint pictures of some of my favorite things.”

Sofia Kenney paints an old board to make it look new. Photo: Courtesy of Sofia Kenney

As surfboard brand Lost was first coming on the scene in the 1990s, it was Brophy’s colorful artwork—largely inspired by the late Rick Griffin—that helped bring the brand to life. More than two decades down the track, and his art now is influencing the next generation of surfboard painters.

“I wanted a new surfboard mostly because I wanted one that was girly and more like my friends had,” Sofia said. “My dad did not want to buy me a new board until we figured out my style and size that works best for me. I realized the only thing I did not like about the boards we already had in the garage is that the ones I got to use were ugly and brown. But they still worked great, so I decided to paint one the way I wanted it to look.”

Sofia likes to paint sealife and seascapes, and because she’s upcycling old boards instead of just going out and buying a new one, she’s helping keep our environment healthy and happy. Of course, it’s not as easy as just slapping some paint on an old board.

“It is important to repair any dings, clean it completely with acetone, and sand down the entire board, before painting or drawing on it,” she said. “Finishing with a clear coat helps the colors last longer also.”

And when it comes to picking a subject to paint, Sofia said it has to come from the heart.

“Be patient and don’t worry about trying to create something other people will like,” she said. “Make sure you paint a board that makes you happy and fits your personality.”

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