Mow Foam: Tee Dee Kay Creating fresh designs and better little humans.By Aaron Checkwood
TDK, or Todd Daniel Kaymin, is an innovator. Based out of San Diego, California, he’s been designing, creating, and experimenting with his shapes for nearly twenty years. Besides being highly involved with his team and the marketing side of his brand, he also created a retail store in Ocean Beach to sell his product. If you want to visit the store, just go to Newport Avenue and look for the gray, nameless building-nameless meaning there’re no signs on it. TDK does things differently and always has. Where most shapers began as apprentices or under other labels, he took a different road and taught himself. “Actually, I’ve always worked for myself and my own brand,” says Kaymin. “I’d like to think that’s where some of the other shapers grew up in programs and then branched out on their own-they sometimes draw from those programs. I’ve basically carved out my own niche and feel our surfboards are fairly unique among surfboard brands.”
A look inside the TDK factory is like a look inside Kaymin’s shaping mind. On one wall, there are the numerous photos and ads of his young, progressive team-guys with names such as Mike Morrissey, Ben Brough, Roger Eales, and Chris Loomis. Kaymin treats to this crew more like it’s just a group of kids he hangs out with, and he’s just as involved with them graduating from high school or traveling the world as he is their surfing accomplishments, “I think it’s that family experience-they all know my wife, my kid, and they all have Brian Shop Manager Brian Olson supporting their hopes and dreams,” he says. “So hopefully, somewhere in the midst of this great life we get to live, they become better little humans.”
Another side of the TDK factory might reveal a rack of fresh boards with skate-style graphics-proof of his dedication to a younger, more artistic skate generation. “We stay away from the mass-production of surfboards,” he says. “We’re able to get a little more artistic with the surfboards we make because we’re dealing heavily with the end user. There’re people through the factory and through the shop who live, eat, and breathe skating and surf when they’re not skating. And then there’re other people surfing who are recreational skaters only-we’re just doing what those people ask for.”
Kaymin prides himself on the fact he produces his boards from start to finish-he thinks his current boards are the best he’s ever created: “I’ve worked in some of the best glassing shops in S.D., and I still wasn’t getting the boards I was trying to make. At this point, with our own factory, we’re able to make exactly the board I intended to make, from shaping, airbrushing, laminating, sanding-all that stuff. The product seems to be working better for the people who are using it then ever before. So I think that’s our key-control of the whole system. Basically, I’m just really grateful to be making surfboards and paying rent for next month.”
Exiting the factory, you begin to notice some more of the traits that add to TDK’s innovative mystique. Lying flat on a rack is a board that resembles a wide-nosed fish from the 70s. When asked about it, TDK said it was a copy of twin-fin fish made by the local fish guru himself-Steve Lis. The fins are an elongated round shape and have a raw wooden look-like they were homemade. According to Todd, he couldn’t find these fins anywhere, so he went next door to FCS (who produce 95 percent of the world’s fins) headquarters and asked if he could take an empty wooden pallet. They didn’t have a problem with it, until, of course, he made the fish fins with it. Thanks for the irony, Todd.