Ryan Burch: “If you have enough speed you can do anything!”

Conversations with a surf junkie.

Ryan Burch has cut an innovative path through surfing. I can remember seeing his section in Psychic Migrations, sitting there at the premier in the multiplex in Fashion Island, which is about as Orange County as a girl can get. There’d been an accident on the 405, of course, and I got there late, too late to score a beer before the film started. I was in a bad mood, thanks to the traffic and the lack of beer.

Then I saw Burch, piloting his tiny, self-shaped 5’2” fish along beautiful green walls and my mood lifted. His surfing felt fresh. Suddenly, I was happy. I love how unpredictable he is – one day on a fish, then on a longboard, then riding a block of unglassed foam, because why the hell not.

“I can take anything I want that floats out into the ocean and you know, express myself on it,” he told me. That idea feels essential to surfing – whether you want to ride a fish or some sort of asymmetric invention or a clear-glassed thruster.

Earlier this spring, I called up Burch to talk about shaping. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.

How did you get into shaping?

I started shaping belly boards [Paipos] . Also, wooden alaias after that. I could go to Home Depot and get some pieces of Douglas fir and sand on it and hit it with the tools just like a piece of foam. But I wouldn’t make a lot of mess and I was doing it on my mom’s patio, so that was pretty important to make it easy to clean up and non-toxic.

As soon as I got the opportunity to use a friend’s shaping bay. That’s when I shaped my first board, when I was 20, I used my friend’s Chris Cravey’s shaping bay and he taught me how to make a longboard. And then it was, I probably had more fun building the board than actually riding it. That’s what got me hooked.

Who has influenced your ideas about board design?

Yeah, for sure there are. The fish came from Steve Lis, so I’ve always kind of admired what he had done with it and kind of followed the principles that he had laid down a long time ago with the fish design. And then with shaping, I’ve learned a lot from Rich Pavel. He was a really good shaper and he really taught me a variety of different kinds of boards and different kinds of design theories. And so I think I learned the most from him as far as actually shaping surfboards.

There’s Carl Ekstrom with the asymmetrical thing and just free thinking and going outside the box. He’s always been a huge inspiration with that and making shaping seem like it’s not like within the parameters of the PU blank and traditional fiber glass. He really thinks of alternative ways to make a board.

And then a lot of guys who are more designers than shapers also inspire me. Like my friend Richard Kenvin, who does the Hydronamica thing. He’s been a huge inspiration to me — just knowing a certain type of board, and like, identifying it and having his theory on it and relating it to a skate, progressive style. So he’s been a big inspo.

Same with Joel Tudor, because he’s such a longboard aficionado or snob, whatever you may call it. He seems to know what the best stuff is. He always seems to give me a pretty open opinion about what he thinks of the last board I shaped.

How does your surfing influence your board designs?

They’re directly related. I feel like the different types of boards are like different genres. It’s like different genres of music and learning to play them all, you need to know what you’re getting into from the start. So the way I ride a longboard is different from the way I ride one of the asymmetric shortboards. But it’s all connected, because it’s all surfing. You’re still out there trying to time a wave and trying to predict what’s going to happen.

What are you riding most often right now?

My go-to at the moment is, I’ve been really excited about making these little twin fin, pickle-fin, asymmetric boards. I guess for good waves, they’re like my normal shortboards and step-ups. I’ve been honing in a design with those that I want to ride everywhere when the waves are really good.

And I also been making some more California-friendly twinfin fishes. Different variations of it, using different fin types. For more gutless waves, using more pivotal fins. And then for the better, faster waves, using the traditional keel fins. And then just noseriders for the average day at Cardiff where I live, those are my favorite boards to ride. There’s really no better feeling than getting to the nose except getting barreled.

Why do you like asymmetric boards?

Asymmetrics are just subtle little benefits. I feel like they’re just a more highly custom board. It’s something where you know what you like on your toes and you know what you like on your heel side or your back side. And you’re just trying to combine those. For me, it’s just, a more tuned-in to the conditions you’re going to ride and your stance. It’s just more highly custom.

I’m still trying to keep the boards balanced and make them feel pretty fundamentally sound, but the little tweaks are there to help under your toes with what your toes can handle and under your heels with what they’re good at. Your toes kind of feather in their pressure, so the toe side will quicker and less forgiving.

If you could surf anywhere, where would you go?

I would probably go to Tavarua and go surf Cloudbreak. I think that would anyone’s idea of paradise. I just feel like it’s just a really good wave for the boards and the way I like to surf. It just has a long wall and it goes really fast. It just really matches the speed of my boards. It’s just an unbelievable wave that you can get barreled on, but still turn. And you know, feel really, really fast.

So the theme here is that you like to go really fast and you like to design boards that make you go fast.

That’s pretty much the underlying theme here. If you have enough speed you can do anything. Once you have speed you can do anything — it’s just a lot more fun.

What haven’t you accomplished yet that you’d like to?

I’d really like to experiment with materials a little bit more. I’d like to make some nice wooden boards, too, just kind of get deeper into the craftsman side of the thing. I’d like to build some beautiful wooden boards. And maybe even take it to small sailboat-sized boards. Make them bigger and make them more beautiful.

RIP: Gold Coast Great Wayne Deane (Noa’s Dad) Dead at 65

Respect? Yeah, he had plenty.

Just off the wire: Wayne Deane, who’d been suffering from stomach cancer, has died.

From Facebook, “It is with great sadness that I have been informed and now have to inform you that Wayne Deane passed away peacefully this morning. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. Wayne was an iconic and popular figure and an extremely successful surfer, taking out many titles, locally and internationally, but most of all much loved and respected by his peers. Watching him rip up Kirra was an amazing treat.”

Hell of a surfer. Respect? Yeah, he had plenty.

If y’ever spent any time on the Gold Coast you’ll know, or know of, the great Wayne Deane. The minimalist surfer and shaper owning the sets on any swell of note that swung around Point Danger. One of the tough, old-school men who wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. 

Six years ago, the writer Jed Smith interviewed Wayne and Noa together in a compelling piece for Coastalwatch.

(Read that here.)

Last year, Surfer made a fine short about Wayne and Noa and their mutual love of shaping.

The family house is a sight to behold. And this What Youth short of Noa at home is also very good viewing, setting up, as it does, the background to Noa’s own remarkable career.

The NY Times: “When a surfer lands a skateboard trick, who gets to name it?

Naming debate gets extensively reported by famous bourgeoise media house!

Don’t you love a little of what a small-town boy might call legitimacy?

Earlier today, The NY Times, that elitist and bourgeoise, but generally above-board, digital-and-print newspaper, ran a comprehensive story on the debate surrounding the naming of Albee Layer’s backside alley-oop 540.

Called, “When a surfer lands a skateboard trick, who gets to name it?” reporter Matt Ruby gets into it with Todd Richards (whose evangelising on the subject sold me good, read that here), Albee, Tony Hawke, Kelly Slater and so on.


Slater’s frustration with the situation is palpable. “We’ve got snowboarders trying to tell us how to name surf maneuvers,” he said. “I don’t know a single surfer trying to do the opposite and name snowboard maneuvers. We should all know enough to know we should stay in our lane.”

“It’s more about progressing and sticking things cleanly in sections that make sense for those maneuvers. If you force something and it looks bad it doesn’t really matter how much you rotated unless it’s a full 180+ more than anything that has been landed.” — Kelly Slater, on the importance of calculating degrees of rotation.

“The cultures are different and surfers might not know what skaters have called something or maybe each sport wants ownership on some level of their respective maneuvers. Also, in surfing something we all agree is done on the forehand can be regarded as a backhand maneuver in skate or snow because they have a stagnant surface.” — Kelly Slater on the importance of parity between sports.

In the End, Who Gets to Decide?

It’s up to them, and for sure because they’re speaking to their tribe that’s gonna translate better and then you know as skateboarders we just kind of sit back and snicker … it’s kind of like how snowboarding they coined the term frontside indy which doesn’t exist in skateboarding and it’s sort of a taboo to say but I understand how that came to be.” — Tony Hawk on the who gets to decide in the end.

“Surfers are going to look ridiculous calling something that has been done in a different sport by a different name,” Richards said. “It is about paying respect to the people who came first and pioneered the tricks. They killed themselves to put their names on tricks.”

Read it all here.

History: Were the vikings our surfing founding fathers/mothers?

Ancient proto-Polynesians own the narrative but what if...

Oh my, oh boy, oh my. I am half lounging in a very fine bed right now because it is ten o’clock at night though the sun has not yet set and won’t for a few short hours. Then it will rise a few short hours after that because I am in Copenhagen.


I have never been here before but have been wildly fascinated since youthful days spent reading Søren Kierkegaard and imaging.

Søren Kierkegaard!

All of his philosophy is the absolute best, or at least all his philosophy that my addled brain can understand. Like either/or.

Either/Or! (buy here!)

And I have given two book book readings lately in promotion of Cocaine + Surfing (buy here in Australia! Here on Audible! Here in America!) where a few questions have been asked on the origins of surfing and my claim that it was Peru.

“But what if…” they say “…but what if the Portuguese explorers were riding waves too?”

And I tell them that those ancient Peruvians pre-date European expansionism. “But but but… what about the vikings?”

It would be an easy search, considering today’s technology, to know if the ancient Peruvians predate these proud vikings but I have never done it so don’t.

I would imagine the ancient Peruvians predate everyone but Mesopotamians but, again, what do I know? And I am jet-lagged.


I went swimming tonight in that salty Danish brine at eight o’clock at night and there were no waves but the water was perfect and so was the warm wind.

Do surfers actually need waves?

Does history even matter?

Just kidding, Matt Warsahw! I’m super jet-lagged!

Brett Simpson
Unbelievably magical!

Indecent proposal: Buy two hours with Brett Simpson for $US348!

Fairytales do come true!

Have you ever dreamed of inhaling the toxins of a two-time champion of the US Open? Brett Simpson, who is thirty-three years old and has skin pigmentation consistent with rust, is offering personal coaching, and the use of surfboard as well as his home beach (Huntington), for $US348.

Brett isn’t your standard pro surfer, of course. His cameos dazzle, his opinions shine. Brett was a star of Peter King’s once-great #tournotes (Watch “Brett Simpson is the Unicorn of  Lowers” here), helped Filipe tutor Lake Peterson in the art of the 540 and when Filipe lost in an interference at the US Open last year he told the WSL to “change that fucking 1970 rulebook.”

(Read here)

Anyway, Airbnb experiences/WSL etc are offering Brett to you, for two hours.

Here’s the spiel.

Hi, I’m Brett Simpson! I am a consecutive 2X Champion of the US Open of Surfing, California’s most prestigious surfing event, held at the Huntington Beach Pier. I spent 6 years competing at the world elite level, traveling across the globe for competitions. Though I am still competing, I am spending more time closer to home, giving back to the sport I love by coaching and bringing up the next generation.

What we’ll do
Meet at Hurley’s marquee store in Pacific City mall. Check out the vast selection of Away Co boards on site to book.. Find the right length board for your size and skill level. We will assess the conditions and get a overview of all the local breaks in HB. Learn insider tips about the best Huntington Beach has to offer. We’ll surf for 1 hour with in-water coaching. I’ll talk to you about techniques to help progress your surfing such as wave choice, positioning, and tips on maneuvers. After surfing, we’ll have a post-session coaching at Hurley Pac City. This includes footage analysis.. You’ll leave ready to take your surfing to the next level!

What I’ll provide


Who can come

Guests ages 10 and up can attend.

Where we’ll be
HB Surf City – lots of great waves, my favorite place in the world Hurley Pacific City – my sponsor’s marquee store, lots of fun stuff HB Pier – where we will catch some fun waves

Make your booking here.