There’s something innate in all of us, a collection of disparate ideas connected to passion, a desire to externalize these notions into something tangible that contributes to the forum of our calling. This, externalization, though, is actually the last step.
Externalization is not as simple as a linear rise from idea to creation. There are light bulb moments, temporal aspects of impulse, and feelings of despair and hope. There is a process of learning and failing and figuring out how to operate within the realm of your discipline, satisfying the need to create. And not just create anything, it has to be something that others can cling onto as a representation of your raison d’etre, something that enriches the user’s or reader’s or viewer’s life. This is making, this is craft and this is the pursuit of your own version of perfection.
Meet Ryan Lovelace, surfboard shaper.
Images by Tosh Clements
Ryan’s contribution to the world of surfboard shaping started with a desire to shape boards more than a desire to join a specific movement. And, yet, he now sits strongly in the middle of alternative surf culture. This is a culture of surfing for the sake of surfing, not necessarily driven by competition, but by style.
For Ryan, it’s drawing on the past, revitalizing the old, adding the new, making a sort of neo-George Greenough collection of boards; boards made to be surfed, inspired by local spots.
Greenough started making boards specific to different surf spots, the perfect board for a favorite locale. He created symmetric and asymmetric boards, special to each wave, making alternative shapes rejected by the norm or finless boards. There wasn’t one board that was simply the right board.
Ryan was born in the Seattle area, started surfing after family visits to Hawaii when he was young and hasn’t stopped. Shaping started in 2005, at 19, when, instead of saving and buying a new board, he just built one. Except, “just building” turned into an obsession of method and craft.
He built a board for a friend to try out. This friend was a relatively prominent surfer in the surf lifestyle side of the sport and people started noticing. The boards weren’t just nice to look at. They performed well, they surfed well, they were made for people who knew how to surf by a surfer.
Ryan’s refined the method, destabilized the industry, and destabilized his own thoughts on shaping.
Ryan is reshaping the notion of asymmetric boards, influenced by Greenough, as well other shapers like Ryan Burch and Gregg Tally. His art influences his style, now, recently releasing a book that had a collection of images and thoughts.
With his shaping room only blocks from the Pacific Ocean, Ryan’s designs are innovative and experimental yet remain well constructed and fun to surf. He opts for hand tools and patience, taking the time to shape truly one of a kind surfboards.
His processes are local, though, his boards are international.Shaping tours are part of his business. Shapers invite Ryan to create a collection of boards in their locale to be sold in their shops. It’s in this uniqueness that his boards reside. All the same, his respect for those who came up before him and early surf culture shows in his attention to detail and the classic aesthetic.
His shop is in Santa Barbara, his blanks (or what might be called decks in skate culture) are from Ventura and he might send them away for glass in other places. Or he might do it himself.
Ryan is part of an emerging young group of passionate creative who are restoring a sense of culture and community in the Santa Barbara area. Like other millennials, he is combing the past for tools, imagery, and spirit, merging old methods with new, paying homage to the forefathers before him. Through making, he is bringing back a sense of real quality in his handmade surfboards.