We are young. We are dumb. We are full of adventure.
We, all of us, travel to surf. We go to the ends of the Earth. We drive and fly and sail and let our hair grow and don’t shower and feel the salt on our skin for days, even weeks, straight. We adventure. And adventure narrative is always clichéd, or almost always, especially surf adventure narrative. It plays out awkwardly and causes reading eyes to glaze with familiarity. Listening ears to bore. The same themes. Discovery, hardship, discovery, the simple joys of sleeping on dirt and surfing clean, uncrowded rights or lefts.
Always the same.
But, I will say, there is also something cute about it. Something fresh and youthfully naïve. When we are on a surf adventure we are the first people on earth to experience what we are experiencing. We are the first people on earth to round the bend and see the wave. To get barreled. To crawl through the cave and climb into the light and really see. Even if the bend is just past Huatulco and the wave is Barra de la Cruz. Even if the barrel is Colorado in Nicaragua. Even if the cave is Uluwatu.
For when we adventure everything that happens, happens only for us. When we go on surf adventures we are the first surf adventurers on earth.
It has all become so easy, or easier than it used to be. We can book our flights online. We can check spots, even watching streaming cameras, thousands of miles away. We can devour first-hand website information complete with tide, crowd, parking information. But as soon as we board our flights we are still the first.
Our cynicism falls away and we enjoy the uniqueness of our situation. The clove smoke from the taxi driver smells alive. The Mexican ditch digger looks quaint and we imagine, even if for only a minute, that he has discovered the secret to life. He is unburdened by material possession and lives just outside of Barra. He can surf it whenever he wants! Of course, he has never surfed it, nor will he ever, but we can still naively dream.
When we arrive back home, regular life sets in. We go to our office jobs or back to school but we are tanner and leaner than we were before and our eyes are hungrier. When the receptionists asks about the tan we tell her, “I was in Indo…” and “Indo” has been done to death by surfers but it hasn’t been done to death by the receptionist and she coos and thinks we are exotic, as long as we don’t go on and on and on about the reef pass and the lost surfboards and the barrels. As long as we keep it simple.
And we coddle our memories, chewing them over when the Northern Hemisphere winter sets in and we are cold and miserable and our own surf is flat. We go to the bar and, even if we don’t say, “I was in Indo three months ago…” we know that, “I was in Indo three months ago…” and that makes us better than every other person in the bar.
Yes, we are the first surf adventurers on earth, all of us. We are the first and we are beautiful because we keep the fires of discovery alive. And the older we get, the more complicated our lives get. They are shrouded in mortgages and bills and promotions. But as soon as we book another surf adventure, as soon as we board our flights, we are still the first. We are young. We are dumb. We are full of adventure.
From the locals-only Department: United Airlines declares war on California surfers!
A wild horde is coming to your favorite wave, wakeboards and paddleboards in tow!
Trigger warning: I woke up grouchy this morning. My computer informed me, throughout yesterday, that today would be the start of daylight savings and I was cherishing that extra hour. Not for sleep but for work. For you. I woke up realizing it was a lie, maybe daylight savings started in Australia, and now have one less hour for writing masterpieces.
Also, I read that United Airlines is waiving surfboard airline baggage fees for people flying to California in order to celebrate surfing being officially designated California’s state sport.
It’s fucking bullshit and would you like to read the official press account?
Surfing is now the official sport of California, prompting United Airlines to reduce its fees for checking a surfboard.
The $150 to $200 service fee will be waived for customers traveling to or from California. They will have to pay only the regular checked-bag fee.
Wakeboarders and paddleboarders — the service fee is waived for your boards, too.
“California made it official: surfing is our state sport,” Janet Lamkin, United’s president for California, said in a news release. “We want to make it easier for customers to surf our beautiful beaches, whether they’re visiting or call the Golden State home.”
United is also donating $50,000 to Sustainable Surf, a California-based environmental nonprofit.
Damn them. Damn them all with their wakeboards and paddleboards and mostly their surfboards flooding in to California, crowding our beaches, crowding our breaks. How is that a celebration? How is that a bonus for us? What they should have done is waive fees for surfers traveling from California.
Now that would have been a gift.
It’s a Surf Battle Royale: America’s West Coast vs. Australia’s East Coast!
Every coastal nation has a best coast, north, south, east or west. One coast trumps the other. In France, the west coast is better than the south Mediterranean coast. In Panama the east Caribbean coast is better than the west Pacific. In the United States’ California west is better than the urbane Eastern Seaboard. And in Australia the urbane east coast is better than its wild wild west.
But when California is pitted against Australia’s Gold, Sunshine, Sydney coast which wins? Which is best of all?
Australia’s east coast features one very fine town and that town is Sydney. Some will say Byron Bay or Nambucca Heads or Forster (pronounced “Foster”) are equally fine but they are wrong. And Sydney is dreamy. There is shopping, dining, delicious models and surf. Australia’s east coast also features the Gold Coast and while Surfers Paradise is both a grammatical and architectural travesty the surf is amazing. There are waves for every desire.
California features two very fine towns, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Los Angeles may be perfect. It has everything including the film industry and all the actresses who come for it. Everything except good surf but good surf is easily accessible via automobile. San Francisco is called the Paris of the west and it, too, has everything except attractive women. Australia’s east coast has Snapper Rocks. California has Trestles.
Australia’s east coast has Nicole Kidman. California has her too. Australia’s east coast has beer. California has wine country. Australia’s east coast has Splendor in the Grass. California has Coachella. Australia’s east coast has that harsh, unfiltered east coast light. The sort that makes a man feel bad about his past and not dreamy. The same sort as New York City.
California has golden light filtered in that way that all light is filtered on west coasts. The past is forgotten. Only the future exists.
And, therefore, California is better than Australia’s east coast. California might be better than anywhere else on earth.
Ryan Lovelace: “You get a hair up your butt to go do something weird!”
When he surfs, Ryan Lovelace stands with a casual slouch that belies the deep interest he has in the boards under his feet. Lovelace is well-known for his hand-built boards, and in particular his speed-loving midlength designs. He began shaping in college, because he found out it was cheaper to make a board than to buy one. Since then, he’s been rummaging around in surfing’s attic and playing with the assorted elements of surfboard design he’s found there.
We hang around the same town, the same coffee shops, and the same lineups. I have a fish he made and it glides along to a groove of its own. A few months ago, I caught up with Lovelace to ask a few questions, which is a thing I do sometimes. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
How did you get started shaping?
I grew up building stuff, so that was just how we got the things that we wanted. If you wanted a bicycle or a go-kart, you fucking built a go-kart. That was our option. And so I really wanted a twin fish, but I couldn’t really afford one. And my buddy was like, ‘oh I made a board once.’ And I was like, ‘what? you made a board?’ Like, I hadn’t even thought of it. So that just kind of hit me, like, if he built one, I can for sure build one.
I asked him, ‘well, how long did it take you’ And he’s like, ‘only like six months.’ And I was like, ‘sweet, I can make one way quicker than I can save up the money.’
Turns out Fiber Glass Hawaii, the materials spot was barely two blocks from my house. So I just busted down there, and saw everything, just like, my eyes lit up! Then I went back the next day and bought all my shit. The first one was a birthday present to myself. It was something I’d wanted, something I saved for, it just took me a while to get it together, and then off I went on the first one.
What was it?
It was like a 6’4” twin fish, a keel fish. It was pretty big, but it was blocky. I wanted something that was easy to shape and a lot of foam so I could for sure surf it. It took about seven days. Something like that. I was pretty amazed. Oh, this did not take me six months! It was like, ooh, okay!
And then the second one, building things is what I like to do. So I was like, fuck, I want to make a better one. I’d see pictures of all these cool boards, and it was like, ‘I want to make a board like that! and I want to make one like that!’ So I basically just got carried away and built another one the next month. The rest is a fucking blur.
How did you get your first order?
I put an ad on Craigslist. Something like, “Custom Surfboards, $400.” I got my first order that way. The guy that got board has been my best friend ever since then. Making a board for someone else became much, much more than just making a board.
Unlike some guys who apprentice in factories along the way, sweeping up foam dust and the like, you’re essentially self-taught. Are there shapers that inspire you?
George Greenough, for sure. I don’t think you can shape in Santa Barbara without the Greenough influence. There’s just no way. He mastered our waves. You’re trying to surf the same wave, you’d better take a page out of his book, because he did it right. So definitely Greenough.
The foil of what Greg Liddle really perfected is something else. The way that he lines up a bunch of the different elements and the way that he connects them resonates with the way that I like to surf. I haven’t surfed a ton of his boards but a few of the things that he put into his are big components of my boards in terms of balance and the foil. But I’ve flipped it all backwards — the relationship of the curves — and how it translated.
What makes Greenough such a towering figure, in your view?
Anything that he touched, he changed. For me, his stuff is just such fucking spaceships. Free of any, ‘this is what a surfboard looks like.’ They just don’t have that. They’re what he wanted to make and it’s totally of his creation and they’re out there.
That along with his approach, if you want it, make it. That’s how I was raised, too. So for me, what resonates there, is like, oh, you want this kind of engine in that car? Fucking it put it in. Go for it.
The more I learn about him, the more I learn how many fucking things he built. He built all kinds of crazy shit that no one knows about. I went to one of his friend’s houses and he had like a 16- or 17-foot, it looked like a kayak, but it has a massive fucking giant, big edge bottom on it. Craziest fucking thing. And I was like, oh, what’s this thing? It’s a windsurfer. Apparently, he built it, to windsurf from fucking Leadbetter Beach out to the islands.
Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me? That’s insane. But that’s what’s up. You get a fucking hair up your butt to go do something weird, like windsurf to the islands, then you make the appropriate craft to do that. Like, what a great pursuit. So cool. The thing is so funny-looking, I love it. I have a pictures of it, I was looking at it the other day and I was like, this thing is stupid.
You’re probably best known for your midlength designs. What do you like about those boards?
I remember watching Endless Summer 2 when I was little. And I thought I had to decide right then and there if I was a longboarder or a shortboarder. And I was like, ‘what am I?’ Am I Wingnut or am I Pat McConnell? Who do I want to be? I could never fucking decide. And thank God, because now I don’t have to. I really thought it was a black-and-white choice. And it was for a long, long time.
I don’t like longboards and I don’t like shortboards. I just like midlengths! Because in Santa Barbara, that’s the thing — there’s that big gap in the crowd between the longboards and the shortboarders. You can clean up so many good waves just right in the middle of all those guys on a midlength. You’ve got no competition.
I think you’ve maybe converted too many people.
Yeah. It’s kind of blown up. Whoops! Wait, Ryan doesn’t surf well, but he’s getting waves? What the fuck. Blew my own cover. I had it dialed for like a year.
You do a lot of cool vintage fabric inlays. Where do you find the fabrics for those boards?
There’s something about them. I just like them. Making something the way everyone else makes it, is never enough for me. I just started messing with it and I really enjoyed it and the medium. It’s a whole different challenge to take something that’s already created and figure out how it can enhance what you’re making. And there’s so many fucking cool fabrics out there that are just lost in people’s collections.
What do you think makes your boards unique?
I think that the fact that I do hand-shape them is unique. The more, I learn about my peers, the more bummed out I get. The more I realize how alone I am in my age group in doing this. Nobody. The other guys that were doing it by hand, they’ll look like they’re doing it by hand, but nobody fucking knows. It sucks, because so many people aren’t honest about what they’re doing.
Guys, when you say that nobody cares if you machine shape, I think maybe, what’s hurting your business, is maybe that? Maybe if someone is spending a thousand dollars on surfboard, they really do want you to make it. Like, that’s a lot of money. That’s no joke. I just always figure that customers actually do care and that all the shapers that tell me, oh nobody cares anymore, are just jaded and lost. I think people really fucking care.
If I was riding shortboards, I would want them machine-shaped. Like guys, the machines are an amazing tool. Super valuable. Super complex and super impressive. Tell people about how cool the technology is and how great it makes your job. Tell them about the stuff that you’re doing. Don’t just hide and be scared of the repercussions. Tell people machine shaping is awesome. Because it is. It’s fucking gnarly.
What keeps you going back to the shaping room?
That experience with [that first customer off Craigslist], like making a good friend, building a relationship around creating something, and building a surfboard, and having a surfboard be the crux of a relationship — that was really fun for me. A lot of it, was me, like when I decided to really try and do it, and keep pursuing it, was basically after the experience with him. Just saying, that added value to my life.
It’s a really cool way to get to know another human. To me, the building of a surfboard, became a lot about that. Who can I meet, what I can do? Like it’s been a crazy ride.
Trending: Dumb and Dumber haircuts sweep Australia’s Gold Coast!
Ain’t it a wonderful thing when old trends come back and all of a sudden you are in style again? Oh don’t lie to me. You live for it. You absolutely live for your puffy tongued Globes coming back and all of a sudden being belle of the ball.
Well you’ve arrived. Last night I attended a very chic party in Los Angeles for the wonderful brand Moncler. Of course A$AP Ferg performed, of course he did, and it was a star-studded event featuring Danny Fuller and that one albino model who is so hot right now. There were many very chic kids too wearing boat-like Balenciaga sneakers, basically Globes circe 2004, and one of them was even wearing a Rockstar Energy Drink albeit ironically.
Don’t be sad that you are ironic because being something is better than being nothing.
Also, the haircuts featured in the James Carrey and Jeff Daniels blockbuster Dumb and Dumber are trending hard on Australia’s Gold Coast.
You recall Dumb and Dumber and its easy laughs. It feels from a different time because it was but also because James Carrey and Jeff Daniels have become very serious actors starring in very serious films/television that I don’t care about because they are forever Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.
Well, Mick Fanning is now officially Lloyd Christmas and Harry Bryant is officially Harry Dunne and I’ve also seen this phenomena run the gamut of Gold Coast Australian youth and also Gold Coast Australian retired elderly.