California surfer-shaper Ryan Lovelace has made a name for himself devising an eclectic range of shapes that flout mainstream conventions of form. Steeped in Santa Barbara's experimental traditions, Lovelace's handcrafted boards—from souped-up single fins with pinched noses and chined rails to asymmetricals and finless concepts—are certainly of the avant-garde variety. But, while Lovelace's distinctive designs surely prompt many a fondle from the board-collecting class, it's the fact that the boards tend to expand and augment our ideals of function—once under foot—that have led to the Trim Shop label’s prominence in contemporary surf culture.
In light of that reputation, one would expect a Lovelace-led Mentawais boat trip to be anything, but conventional. And though the new surf short, "Relatable Form," provides a somewhat divergent context to a typical surf sojourn—a multifarious quiver, lots of shaping-B-roll, a focus on the region's historical relationship to craftsmanship—there's plenty of conventional surf-clip fare: namely powerful carves and throaty tubes.
Featuring a diverse crew of board builders and rippers from both US coasts, including SB locals Simon Murdoch and shaper Joe Yee, and Asbury Park's Glide Surf Co.'s Phil Browne, "Relatable Form" is a beautifully shot documentation of predictably unique Lovelace-led surf trip.
Below are some photos and a few words from Lovelace about the Mentawai Islands trip.
What did this trip mean to you as a surfboard craftsman?
Lovelace: I’m still having a hard time wrapping words around the experience – we so rarely get out of town together that going that far was a really special moment in time. I’ve had this type of trip on my bucket list forever, and with the passing of my father last year, and the culmination of this crew for this trip, I knew I couldn’t put it off one more day, or miss this opportunity. Being so far removed from your everyday, with or without your friends, I think is key to a well-rounded human experience. I've thought a lot about seeing their[the Mentawai Natives] boat building and their approach. As the world shifts and moves, water remains a constant; our own cultural relationships with it are separate, yet we all have to approach it in similar ways. Its no surprise to me that we share so many curves and basic theories; what is fascinating to me though is how storied and longstanding their designs are – tried and true over who knows how many generations – to compare surfboards to that lineage is impossible. There are similarities in shape and form because we’re dealing with the same medium essentially, but the story and the tradition behind the two are completely their own.
What did you take away from such an experience?
If I learned one thing on the trip it was that the crew is key to your experience. A lot of money and a lot of trust is put in these guys, and Dedi and his crew are the definition of priceless. I could never have hoped for a warmer, more gracious host and guide; the energy and love he has for his place and his people is immense and obvious every day. He and I shared a session on a pristine, hot, sheet glass day at what I suppose was the smallest wave we found – what would have been a lay day turned into one of my favorite moments when I saw him getting ready to cruise around the reef; I asked if he wanted to ride my 7’4 since it was the biggest board we had, when he accepted I was SO stoked, I grabbed a 7′ (the next biggest board left) and paddled out with him alone – so stoked – to what would have otherwise been a surfless day. We traded waves for a while and just enjoyed the little double-ups over the reef. As a shaper it's great to see shredders on your boards, but to share a session with someone you admire and have a profound respect for, on a board you made, is the top. That was a proud moment and a truly beautiful session.
Filmed and edited by The Dwyer Brothers and James Clower.
Featuring Gregg Tally, Phil Browne, Joe Yee, Simon Murdoch, James Clower, Erik Paulson and Michael Carson.