RYAN BURCH

On shap­ing, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and the bold fu­ture of asym­met­ri­cal de­signs

Surfer - - A Drift With The Vanguard -

You al­ways seem to be rid­ing left-field sur­fcraft. What was in your board­bag for this trip?

I brought a 5'3" fish, a 5'5" flex-tail twin fin, a 6'2" twin-fin step up, a 5'10" winged-swal­low­tail twin, a 9'9" noserider and a mid-length. But my fa­vorite board was a 5'9" asym­met­ri­cal pickle-forked twin fin.

What’s the ben­e­fit of a pickle-forked nose?

It com­pli­ments my asym­met­ri­cal boards, which are re­ally nar­row—18 inches wide—and don’t have a lot of curve in the out­line. So the nose helps ex­tend the straight­ness of the rail line. Lately I’ve been do­ing split-tail boards that have twin fins and a pickle-fork nose. The width in the nose cre­ates bal­ance, but the cut-away be­tween the points in the nose helps when you get them in the air on late drops.

Asymms may look odd, but rid­ing them ac­tu­ally feels pretty in­tu­itive, right? Yea, to­tally. It’s just a sub­tle im­prove­ment to a short­board, re­ally. Peo­ple say they don’t feel that dif­fer­ent be­cause they’re able to en­gage their rails and turn just like you’d turn a thruster. The things that hin­der asym­met­ri­cal boards are the same things that hin­der thrusters, like a screw up in the rocker or the vol­ume flow or the con­cave. Asymms are just much more cus­tom, com­bin­ing all the best de­sign el­e­ments with­out feel­ing ob­li­gated to make it sym­met­ri­cal.

What has it been like test­ing these de­signs and fig­ur­ing out just what kinds of waves they work in?

When I learned how to shape, I started mak­ing boards that made the waves around San Diego more in­ter­est­ing. Once I started ex­plor­ing asym­met­ri­cal boards and fishes, I de­cided I wanted to test them in more chal­leng­ing, bar­rel­ing waves. So the boards have kind of evolved over multiple trips and go­ing to places like G-land where I could ride a lot of per­fectly-groomed, over­head, down-the-line waves. You’re able to pump them and get them go­ing re­ally fast down the line.

Do you think some­thing like the Short­board Rev­o­lu­tion will ever hap­pen again, where boards un­dergo a com­plete trans­for­ma­tion?

I don’t think there will ever be an­other time when ev­ery­one just flip-flops like that, be­cause there are so many surfers now who ride so many dif­fer­ent boards in so many dif­fer­ent waves. Back then, ev­ery­one was rid­ing long­boards and try­ing to surf sim­i­lar waves. But I do think there’s some­thing go­ing on with foil boards. Look at how many peo­ple are jump­ing on those in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent waves.

Do you think ev­ery­one should have an asym­met­ri­cal board in their quiver? To­tally. If ev­ery ‘CT surfer who goes to J-bay for the con­test was re­ally di­aled in on asymms, they’d prob­a­bly be rip­ping even harder than they al­ready are.

About a decade ago, there seemed was an un­spo­ken rule that “real surf­ing” was done on a thruster and any­thing else was a lesser form of wave rid­ing. Do you think that mind­set has changed com­pletely?

Yeah, I re­mem­ber that. It’s chang­ing, but there are def­i­nitely still a lot of tra­di­tional short­board­ers out there. In some places that mind­set has to­tally changed, but I think in Indo and other spots, peo­ple still act sur­prised when they see dif­fer­ent types of boards.

Do you think the fact that you grew up rid­ing high-per­for­mance short­boards has in­flu­enced the way you make these al­ter­na­tive shapes?

For sure. Most of my boards have a per­for­mance-y twist to them. Even with my mid-lengths, I al­ways put edges in them. I add side cuts to some of my fish so that they draw lines that are more sim­i­lar to a short­board’s. And my asymms are more fu­tur­is­tic than they are any­thing else. I just fo­cus on re­fine­ment, re­ally. That’s the only thing that’s re­ally left to do in surfboard de­sign. In­stead of just copy­ing some­thing else, you might as well try to make boards bet­ter.

(Above and op­po­site) Over the past few years, Burch has amassed a loyal fol­low­ing of fans en­am­ored with his abil­ity to look stylish on what­ever board he has un­der­foot, whether it’s a mid-length (above) or a pickle-forked board (op­po­site).

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