Ryan Burch On Shaping

IT’S BLACK FRIDAY AND SEASIDE REEF IS FLAWLESS. Four feet of west swell. Not a puff of wind. In the parking lot Ryan Burch debates what to ride. Sprawled before him on the asphalt lie three boards he’s just finished shaping: A twin fin, an asymmetrical shape with two fins on one edge and one on the other, and another asymmetrical with a V cut from the nose. “The way I want to ride a wave is a lot simpler than these boards look,” Ryan tells me, glancing up just as Rob Machado tears into a shoulder high bowl. “I shape boards that I consider a solution to my surfing problems.” It’s an interesting theory — shaping to his strengths to make up for his weaknesses, no matter how wild the boards outwardly appear. He grabs the asymmetrical board with the f–ked up looking nose, paddles out, quickly swings into a set, glides through three nice hooks and finishes with an end bowl reverse. Complicated designs for clean lines. After watching Ryan catch one wave, his philosophy makes perfect sense. —Zander Morton

RYAN: I HAND SHAPE EVERYTHING. My favorite part of the shaping process is the planer, and you cut that tool out when you use a machine. Plus I’m not shaping for the public, and I’m not reproducing anything. If that were the case I would totally use a machine, I’m not anti- machine at all. If I had a job in the production of shaping ideally I’d be the human computer, roughing out blanks. From the raw blank to the rough shape, that’s where I feel the most comfortable and that’s what I like most about shaping.

I’VE ONLY BEEN SHAPING FOR MY FRIENDS AND MYSELF RECENTLY. I haven’t been home much the last two years; I’ve been traveling a lot. I packed up my shaping bay. I used to shape in Oceanside and I had my own room and a place where I was able to glass my own stuff. It was convenient, so I was making boards for other people, some for sale, a lot of boards for Japan…anything to support my blank buying. But on the road it’s been hard, I don’t really have the time to shape for anybody else. I respect the craft so much, and I really want to shape for other people and get that feedback because adapting to my own shapes is one thing, adapting to an average Joe’s needs — that’s something I still need to learn.

THE MAGIC BOARDS ARE REALLY HARD TO COME BY, but the percentage of boards that I make that I can get on and enjoy and be super excited to surf is pretty high. I’m critical on the magic ones. Magic isn’t a term I throw around loosely. I maybe come across three every year. They can be anything from longboards, to asymmetricals, to a shortboard. I made myself a standard thruster recently and it is insane. The magic ones become an extension of your body, and in my experience, they are impossible to reproduce. The resin, blank, stringer…there are too many variables.

I SHAPED MYSELF 40 ASYMMETRICAL BOARDS RECENTLY. In a pumping left, I just feel more comfortable on them. I had a friend out with me at G-Land recently and I traded him for his 6’6” step-up, and when I took off on a wave, I was scared for my life. I can’t get standard thrusters going the same way in those conditions. I just trust my asymmetrical shapes more when it’s like that. That said, I still love thrusters if I’m going right. At really good Swamis, nothing feels better to me than a thruster.

ASYMMETRICAL BOARDS HAVE TRANSFORMED MY SURFING. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t know how to create a solution for my weaknesses. Thing is, when I’m on trips with good surfers, they try my asymms on shitty days when they’re bored. Nobody ever tries them on the right day. And the thing is, for people to really tap into the asymmetrical boards that I’m making, I have to give them everything I’ve ridden prior to get them to understand the feelings I’m trying to preserve. You can’t just jump on them. It’s a process.

WITH SURFBOARD DESIGN I’M CONTINUOUSLY HUMBLE. The boards I spend the most time on are oftentimes the average ones. I could say now that I’m as lost as ever. Maybe my boards look more refined because I’m better with the tools, but do they surf better? I’m not sure. The first magic board I made myself was board number five. I’ve made about 500 boards — and I can control a lot of things now — but it gets to a point where I’m over refining; I’m over thinking the shit out of shaping and come out with these super complicated boards where I forgot the basic step that makes them work. It’s crazy.

RIGHT NOW MY GOAL AS A PROFESSIONAL SURFER IS SIMPLE: SURF BETTER. And surf bigger waves. I’d like to go out on a really big day at Cloudbreak. I’d like to start going right a lot more, too. I’ve had a couple boards that I shaped that felt really good backside. I’d like to try to make a board that works amazing at a wave like J Bay. Like the reverse of the asymmetricals that I’ve been shaping. As far as board design goes, I’m super interested in going back to Hawaii and getting ultimately humbled again. I’m excited to try to design guns again because last year I thought I had everything dialed after that trip to Indo for True To This, and then I brought those same shapes to Hawaii and realized how much I still have to learn.