Ryan Lovelace: An Interview with Santa Barbara’s Eclectic Shaper
“Having a tangible product to give someone at the end of the process is really rewarding to me, and the relationships I build through it constantly brings positivity to my life, which I’m always psyched on!” -Ryan Lovelace
With a more classic DIY approach to surfboard building, Santa Barbara based surfer/shaper Ryan Lovelace has been making quite a name for himself over the past few years. Lovelace creates truly unique surfcraft that pulls from the spirit and inspiring designs of the past, while coupling and balancing those elements with the functional aspects of the present day.
The past year has been a busy one for Mr. Lovelace, shaping numerous boards while traveling the globe and releasing his first surf film “Almost Cut My Hair”. All his hard work and distinct approach to surfboard design has been making a buzz that is happening in an organic and integrous manner. More and more people are taking notice and seeking out his specialized wave-riding creations.
Rounding out 2013, Lovelace made one final stop in New Jersey, shaping nearly twenty surfboards in a few days time for the devout patrons of Glide Surf Co., on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ.
I caught up with Lovelace to find out how 2013 went and his vision for moving forward into the new year.
Zappo: You premiered your surf film “Almost Cut My Hair” this past spring. It was a total DIY venture with you and your friends creating and having total control of the content of the film. What has the reaction been to the film, and do you plan on creating a follow-up film?
Lovelace: It was a no-brainer on the reception here at home, but the real test was the second time I showed it to a crowd in Italy a few weeks later. I wasn’t sure if everything would translate, but I was totally assured after the first 30 seconds. People were so into it and watched it even more intently than at home. They were so excited and loved the honesty that I’m pretty sure by now the movie conveys.
I don’t have my sights set on another movie at the moment, if it were to happen I’d welcome it with open arms. Making “Almost Cut My Hair” totally took over my life for about six months. Between building boards seven days a week, then editing and compiling footage until 2:00 a.m. and trying to film and coordinate stuff between all that; it was a lot. I’m first and foremost a shaper, so I need to concentrate on that always – and after going through last year, I’m really valuing the slivers of downtime I have. They lend themselves to me being able to give the boards I’m building my focus. I’m not at all closed to the idea of another, but “Almost Cut My Hair” is a time and place thing – it’s a compilation of years of friendships and work and travel and none of it was planned to become a movie, so if another movie happens, it’ll likely happen in the same vein.
Zappo: As a shaper you spent a good amount of your time in 2013 traveling to various locations, creating custom surf-craft for the locals. Where did you venture this year, what are some of your greatest memories of your travels and where do you plan on going in 2014?
Lovelace: I’ve been spending my summers shaping my way around for about four years now. It goes flat at home so if you want to surf and stay upbeat about it, you have to hit the road a lot. From the week I premiered “Almost Cut My Hair” in late May, I did three stints in New Jersey; six weeks in Europe between Italy, France and Portugal; three weeks in Bali shaping at Deus Ex Machina; three weeks shaping up the coast of Australia; and two weeks in Hawaii. I think I was home about five weeks total from May until October, and shaped just shy of 200 boards along the way.
Memories? Wow! It all blurs at some point – tons of time in shaping rooms and in cars and planes. I really cherish the time I had in Bali with my girlfriend Katie. We’d wake up at sunrise every day, surf, eat breakfast on the beach, drink tons of coffee, then I’d shape through the afternoon and we’d hang out with friends and try to surf again if the wind hadn’t come up.
Zappo: Who are some of the surfers you work closest with on boards, helping refine designs and getting feedback on your work?
Lovelace: Trevor Gordon, Troy Mothershead, and Simon Murdoch around home and Phil Browne on the east coast has been priceless. The fact that Phil is so dedicated to surfing all kinds of boards in different conditions and knows his style and waves so well is exactly what I need for working on boards from a distance. He’s really helped me dial in boards for the east coast.
Trevor and I have been playing with boards together for about six years here. He and I work on the same wavelength, and it doesn’t hurt that we live together and surf together more often than not. He’s one of my closest friends and that all came together by working on boards. Oftentimes we describe feelings and emotions more than board shapes and specific numbers.
Zappo: Most of your work has a forward thinking design element that brings classic elements of surfboard design from different periods into the present. Who and what are some of your biggest influences on your shaping and what do you feel goes into the creation of a great surfboard?
Lovelace: My biggest and most direct influences are my friends and people I respect for the way they live their lives. Surfboard-wise it’s all over the map. I have a lot of respect for a million aspects of surfboard design. From Greenough and McTavish to Neal Purchase Jr. and most heavily Rich Pavel. The way Pavel morphed modern curves and techniques into older templates and styles really sparked my imagination when I was learning to shape.
Zappo: Off the subject of boards for a moment, what’s up with your bus? I’ve most recently seen photos of the interior really hooked up as a living space, with a variety of plants inside to boot. The thing looks pretty epic. Tell us a bit about it and its most recent evolution?
Lovelace: Well as far as I know it followed the Grateful Dead around the US for quite some time, and after I don’t know how many lives between, has made its way into my life in the past year and a half. I told myself I’d get it running and legal and safe before I started work on the interior, and that took about a year. Then over the summer between trips, I’ve built out my living space inside of it. Right now it’s my home and I’m about one mile as the crow flies from Rincon point…I’m pretty content!
Zappo: What do you find most rewarding about shaping surfboards?
Lovelace: Having a tangible product to give someone at the end of the process is really rewarding to me, and the relationships I build through it constantly brings positivity to my life, which I’m always psyched on!
Zappo: Can we expect any new designs to the current line-up of Lovelace standards for 2014?
Lovelace: I’m sure something will come up. Usually they just happen in a few days and all of a sudden it’s in the water and going insane. There’s not a lot of planning in any of this, but something always happens and I’ve learned to trust that process a lot. I’m working on a little mid 5′ round-tailed nugget right now, working through different fin setups to maximize the style of board.
Zappo: How many surfboards did you shape over the course of the past year? With all the shaping, does it leave much time for surfing? Describe your last surf session?
Lovelace: I honestly don’t know! I don’t keep an exact count though I aaaaaalways say I will. I do know that I shaped about 200 since June. While traveling, I do keep count, so I’d say roughly about 400 boards per year go through my hands. I get to make my own schedule and I’m hard on myself so I always get my work done as efficiently as I can. This doesn’t always leave time for a ton of surfing, but when it’s good here it’s impossible to deny and I always sneak in an hour or two.
My last session was yesterday, Christmas Day. I surfed in the morning with my girlfriend, Katie, and we had a blast. A weird south wind swell made a bunch of nice little sections along the point. There were just a couple guys out and the water was super clear.
Zappo: What are your current top 5 albums on rotation?
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Deja Vu
Bob Dylan, Together Through Life
And a ton of random playlists but mostly the really OG classic rock station here (99.9 KTYD) just kills it and I don’t need much else. Lots of NPR when I need to take it easy.
Zappo: Closing out this past year, moving forward into 2014, if you were to set an intention for the upcoming year, what would it be?
Lovelace: To find more time for me to stay centered and productive. I have the ability to work myself into the ground and have a rather consistent habit of doing so. I really need to ease up on that a bit.
Ryan Lovelace: http://rlovelace.com
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