Q&A series: Ryan Lovelace
Q&A series: RYAN LOVELACE
Santa Barbara shaper, Ryan Lovelace has been creating quite a buzz with innovative hand shaped custom boards. With a DIY approach from shaping, sanding, glassing and custom artwork Ryan has a serious passion for all that surrounds board craft. Being very busy, we recently got to catch up and get some insight
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in sunny surf-saturated (ha) Seattle, Washington
How did you get your start in shaping?
I’d say an even mix of obsession, excitement, and balls-to-the-wall-ed-ness; honestly, I was 18 (2005), endlessly saving for a new board, wasn’t seeing my pile of cash grow as much as i wanted that new board and then a friend told me he had made his own board. growing up in an extremely DIY kind of family I don’t know why it didn’t strike me sooner. Pretty quickly I was reading my face off the few places I could find information online at the time (now its everywhere! how cool!). I built my first board on my 19th birthday a few weeks later and from there it snowballed. At some point I realized I had more boards in my head than I could make on my own budget, and being as antsy as I was I figured the only way to explore them was to make them for other people along the way…I advertised on craigslist for custom orders and slowly but surely work started coming. Stoking people out and sharing the excitement I had was really important, I think that’s all pretty infectious!
I had a few people who helped guide me at different times, but nobody helped me get my foot in the door really for shaping; I was told over and over not to do it and it was a waste of my time. Clark foam had recently closed up, the economy was at the bottom of the bucket, and I think moral was pretty low in the surf industry. All I saw was opportunity and exciting stuff I wanted to try to make, so I didn’t pay too much mind to anyone saying I shouldn’t do it. Wade Easterling gave me a job at Fiberglass Hawaii when it was in Santa Barbara, and by way of working there I learned a lot about composites and glassing, and some about shaping and how the whole industry works. Being from such a non-surfy place, I didn’t even really know that I should have or could have asked anyone for help; all I had ever heard and experienced was closed doors and secrets so I didn’t even dare to ask really.
In the past few years Rich Pavel has been really fun to get to know and cruise with a bit, and learning a bit about Gerry Lopez’s approach with a planer and lines as well was extremely influential for me and my approach as a shaper.
Where do you see surf shaping & design going?
Every which way. I don’t think we’ll see any more ground breaking shapes that alter surfboard design as a whole again – its gotten so varied and so wide-open that I don’t think any one board can change everything again like the Hawaiian downrailer or thruster design. I think the two biggest areas of growth are going to be high-end tech and hand shaping. Every young shaper I know (which is definitely not all of them – but a solid pile at least!) is far more interested in learning how to hand shape than pump out machine boards. Everything is a cycle and I think the young shapers learning right now are all going back in time and are going to create some really interesting stuff.
What do you think about machine/computer shaping?
I think it’s a necessary thing for a lot of people. Most guys don’t start shaping because they want to do huge numbers, but if you get popular and orders are booming its an obvious route to pick – or the only route to pick – in the past twenty years. I don’t think machining is bad or anything like that, but most people go from hand shaping everything and marketing that heavily to sneaking in some CNC shapes and transitioning into that fully over a little while without saying anything, so over time guys are marketed and viewed as selling hand shaped boards, but you’re buying CNC shapes that are then ghost shaped by someone else and signed by the main guy, and sold to you for $1,200+. To me, that’s where the problem starts. You would be amazed who is using CNC machines to do their production, while their prices are the same or higher than seasoned legends who are still walking circles around every board with a planer and struggling to make ends meet at $700 a board. I think we’re seeing a big shift in that now, and people are far more informed than they were a few year ago. The reality of it is that I look at things from my perspective, and in the whole of the consumer world, a lot of people don’t care if their board was machine shaped or not, so I know I’m speaking to a pretty small subset of surfer and perhaps spinning my wheels a bit on the subject. Different strokes for different folks!!!
What do think about materials & sustainability?
Super important, and super difficult to change. Surfers are already asking for bro-deals on a board from a guy they’ve talked to for ten minutes, and bio resin right now is roughly twice the price as regular surfboard resin – so it’s a tough sell to convince the average surfer to help make the change. It’s honestly 50% in the shapers hands to change things, and 50% in the customer’s hands to support that change. Once you get over those hurdles, you then have to convince glass shops to make the change in their process and learn a new skill-set as well, which is no easy task. I really hope we can keep chipping away at it and start to make some changes, but I think it’s a long battle until one or two of the major production brands that is built in the US or Australia switches to full bio.
What aspect of shaping do you enjoy most?
I like that it takes all of my focus and lets me concentrate on that one thing for a while. I have a pretty hyper-mind and move through my day pretty quickly, so having that time to be in a room alone with a few surfboards every day has become really sacred for me.
What are you currently working on in the shaping room?
Custom orders! So that being said I’m constantly working on boards, and each day has me working on a small pile of them so it’s hard to pinpoint one at a time – though my newest experiment has been a really fun flex-tailed fish variation that I thought would just be a one off…its proven so fun though that I have to follow it and see what else I can make of it and if it’s something I want to share with surfers from there!
When not shaping, what do you do?
I’m in an interesting place in the past year and a half. I’m shaping 2-3 boards per day 6 days a week if not 7 to keep my wait time at a level place for custom and shop orders. Then once I’m done with that I have plenty of experiments and special kinds of projects (art boards, resin panels, fabric inlays, carbon/composite projects etc) that I chip away on; I’m also helping a few younger shapers refine their approach and work out some designs, and also helping to run Trim Shop on top of that. Once all that is done I basically lay flat on my floor in the evening with my dog, and thank my girlfriend for her patience and support!
Very happily in love with my girlfriend of almost 4 years, Katie.
Favorite surf spot/beach?
Gotta be Rincon!
If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Right now, Donald Trump. Feel like if I got the chance to meet him I’d have a good opportunity to punch in square in the throat
What movie can you watch over & over and still love?
Nacho Libre, Forest Gump, Step Brothers.
How many tattoos do you have?
To jokingly quote an old friend, “why put a bumper sticker on a jaguar?” none that I know of!
Favorite travel destination?
Man! I’ve had so many amazing experiences and exciting trips to different zones that I don’t think I could pick one. A lot of what excites me about going places is the experience of living someone else’s day and cruising with them, I travel for shaping so I always get thrown right into the work mix and it’s interesting to feel what it’s like to work my same job at the same pace in a new social and physical setting.
Advice for young upcoming shapers out there?
Follow your gut, take it slow. If you do what you want to do, give it the time to pan out – don’t rush to some vision of success; allowing that success to build itself around you slowly is the only way to create a foundation that will support your board building for the rest of your life. You don’t need stickers, you don’t need shirts, you don’t need a million followers on instagram; you need solid skills, trust in yourself and a community of supportive and loving people around you to make your pursuit truly legitimate. Let people find out how solid you are based on your actions, not your ego. And learn deeply every day.
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photos: courtesy ryan lovelace, except those noted-