Bryce Young On Ryan Burch
Late last week, Swellnet ran an interview with Bryce Young to accompany his bio-flick, Following The Fall Line. That interview included a short answer about Ryan Burch. Bryce was clearly enamoured by the free-spirited surfer/shaper from San Diego, as am I, so the interview went on a bit of a tangent.
That part of the discussion ended up on the editing room floor, so to speak, but for those who are also enamoured by Ryan Burch, or even just interested in him, here's the section in full.
Yeah, it's a bit messy and loose, and I now wish I asked Bryce more questions about Burch, but it is what it is.
Swellnet: With Ryan Burch, I was trying to find out where your lives first intersected. Must’ve been about 2015. Do you recall where it was?
Bryce Young: Desert Point in 2013. I was pretty much floored, awestruck. Generally when I rock up to a wave I’m so frothing to surf that I just go, but that was the only time somebody stopped me in my tracks and made me watch.
It was pretty small Deserts, but building really fast. Up the top of Deserts it's fast at the best of times, but it was a tricky new swell and it was extra quick. There was a ten pack of guys surfing and no-one made any waves - they were getting nuked by falling sections - until Burch got to his feet. He appeared to be toying with it, doing bottom turns out in the flats around the bits of reef that people couldn't get past.
They were some of the best bottom turns I'd ever seen, and then he’d do the sickest top turn I'd ever seen. It was the one and only time I’ve been rendered motionless, in such awe that I ignored the waves and stopped and watched someone. It was a real pleasure to watch but it took me a while to absorb what it was he was doing.
He was riding a twin fin pickle fork, asymmetrical, a full R&D machine. Earlier that year, he’d built a big batch for an art show - carbon rails, stringerless construction - and displayed the whole quiver at a place in Encinitas. Then he basically took them off the wall and put them in coffin bags and flew to Indo to go and test them all, which was when I met him.
He was rolling with fifteen boards. I couldn’t believe it! "You've got what? Another board bag..?" I was like, "Who the fuck is this guy?" Just genuinely in awe of him.
At that stage, I didn’t know what was going to follow, but it was one of the pivotal moments of my surfing life. We weren’t yet close friends, but after that trip he ended up coming straight back to Angourie and he helped me clean the home farm bay out, and we started building boards together. Special times.
I've never met Burch. I haven't even spoken to him, but I think he's the best surfer shaper in the world and has been for a long time. His shaping alone possibly puts him up there with Bob Simmons or George Greenough. Is that too high an accolade for him? How do you see him?
I think the sentiment is, not just deserved, it's very accurate. Burch is an absolute individual thinker and it shows in what he builds. Not just surfboards either; he can fashion things out of nothing. He's so resourceful and so uber-talented that there's no other way to describe his level of artistry except to compare to the top sculptors of yesteryear.
I don’t know. I don’t know any sculptors.
Neither do I. Not sure why I asked.
Da Vinci..? Somebody who's just ahead of their time, can see the future, whatever you want to call it. But the Greenough reference is huge, because of the contributions he made to surf design. What Greenough did for the culture was so important and I think Burch is the modern day version of somebody like that. I think what he's doing now will be something of a reference point for future generations of board builders.
Yeah, I'd have to agree, Bryce. I've got a whole fleet of asymmetric boards in the shed and I kind of wonder when the rest of the world's going to catch up. It is happening, but slowly. Like Matt Biolis has released a model, Album surfboards too, so you can see them sniffing around, though the big makers can't figure out how to make it commercially viable.
Yeah, Burch’s aren’t mass-produced. He's working really hard to produce the boards that he is and getting them out to his customers. He's flat stick. He's in the bay every day in Southern California and he's fucking going ham.
I've had a lot of people ask me how to get a board of his and my only advice to people who have an interest - you know, who really have a really strong desire to ride one - is don't think about how you're going to get it to Oz, because the fact is hey don't ship to Oz right now.
Instead, just order one then figure it out. Just order one, get it in the works.
Do you think asymmetry will catch on? Or even that it might become a bit more accepted?
Yeah, I do. I can see things moving that way. It's a unique thing, and beautiful too. Though it really takes an individual surfer to be captivated and go like, "Oh shit, look what Ryan Burch is up to,” and be curious enough to want one.
Burch is doing it in such a considered and beautiful fashion, and none of it is mass-produced. So the fact that he's doing a custom board for me means that it’s going to be treasured, family heirloom-style. I don't sell any of my secondhand boards because they're all for me, they're treasured. Even when they're broken in half, they're still precious.
Same as me, mate. I rarely sell second-hand boards, and never my asymms.
Yeah, that's awesome. I love to hear that because I'm exactly the same. Whenever people ask, I'm like, "Nah, sorry man, I'll never part with one of these.”
Just before, you mentioned Burch making unique and beautiful boards. I've always felt that, even before you've surfed a board, you had to believe in it. You have to believe in the looks of it and the way it feels under your arm.
Absolutely. That first feeling of putting a board under your wing is so huge.
Occasionally people will comment on the boards yourself and Ryan Burch are riding and they’ll comment on, say, the pickle nose. They're thrown by it, calling the design weird. So it feels like that board would never work for them. How do you feel when you see that pickle fork out in front of you?
Firstly, I feel incredibly lucky to be holding something like that, and then…I don’t know, it just feels like something that’s gonna ride so well. That might‘ve started because of my introduction and the way that I saw it working under Burch's feet. I’d never seen anything like it before, so no preconceived notion, and then I saw it being ridden so well.
From there it was like, ‘Holy fuck, imagine getting to ride one of those?’ And then when I actually did, it was like, ‘Holy fuck, I am riding one!’
So I guess I was always just in awe of the design. The amount of times I've heard "How's that weird board? What's that?" I really don't like hearing that. That's just basically people's lack of knowledge trying to pigeonhole something, again.
But going back to what you said, if people get hung up on a design then it's not going to work for them. We have to be able to visualise how a board is going to work, and anyway, maybe it just won't work for them on a different level because of body mechanics or whatever.
I really agree with what you said before about when you pick up a board. It has to have that feeling under your arm. It has to give you a sense of how it’s going to ride even though you haven't got it wet.
It obviously works for you but, besides providing a more parallel outline, can you explain what the pickle fork does?
Well first, they paddle on another level. I think that’s important; it's not just what they do when you get to your feet.
And then, just having those two points of contact when you’re knifing hard on a drop. Have you looked at the underneath of the pickle fork?
Yeah...the scoop out of the nose. It's really hard to describe but I remember when I was first riding pickle forks, having drops here at home, really late drops, making them, and just going, "I should have pearled then." That was a nosedive moment.
It's a Burch question, he could answer it better, but it feels like, when you’re angling late and hard, it pries itself off the water face and you make drops that you really shouldn’t.