Welcome To The FunhousePerfect barrels and empty lineups on tap for Brett Barley and Ryland Rubens

Not everything has to have a concept. Or some in-depth story. What happened to the good old-fashioned surf trip? And what happened to Costa Rica? For years, Costa was the spot to travel to whenever the southern hemisphere came to life. But then Nicaragua and its all-day offshores hit the map, and Costa Rica suddenly took a backseat to its neighbor to the north.

A few weeks ago, we sent North Carolina’s Brett Barley and San Diego’s Ryland Rubens back to Costa Rica to dig a little deeper. Costa Rica has nearly a thousand miles of coastline - surely there’s still more to explore.

Halfway through the trip, the pair took a few wrong turns in search of a fairly popular wave, and ended up finding a perfect, sand-bottomed, barreling left point. Goofyfoot heaven. And it was completely empty. “To go to a country that’s so traveled to, and so full of surfers, and then to surf a wave like that all by ourselves was ridiculous,” Brett said. “Just two goofyfoots trading left tubes every day. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Brett and Ryland are separated by 10 years and Middle America. Brett is from the east coast, Ryland from the west. Brett is a 27-year-old husband and father, who’s raising two kids, and Ryland, having just turned 17, is still just a kid himself. In-between barrels, we sat them down to talk about the trip, one another, and catch up on their lives and careers.

[Intro By Zander Morton / All Photos By Nicola Lugo]

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“Before this trip, my view on the waves in Costa Rica was kind of low, but that's because I’d only gone to the popular spots. This time, we went super deep and found some crazy goodness, which was really special. To go to a country that’s so traveled to, and so full of surfers, and then to surf a wave like that all by ourselves, was ridiculous. That doesn’t happen.”


“I’ve been to Central America four times, but only once to Costa Rica. I knew the forecast looked good before this trip, but I didn't expect any nuts waves, so it was mind-blowing when we totally scored. And it was cool to share those waves with Brett. This was my first time meeting him, and it was fun to have him push me in left tubes. The way he positions himself on the takeoff and the way he weaves in the barrel, it’s different from a lot of people. You don't see that often. I definitely learned a lot about riding the barrel just from watching him.”


“Ryland is really quiet, but super polite, which is rare. There’s a lot of punk kids these days [Laughs]. He’s really humble. And really respectful. For a 17-year-old traveling with a bunch of guys he doesn’t know, he’s been amazing. As far as his surfing goes, I’m impressed with his power. He doesn't do little flicky turns, and he’s a really good tuberider. Plus, he’s super patient and always waits for the sets, so he got a lot of clips on this trip. And he has some funny little quirks: He called the ocean “cute” one time and pronounced fish fillet, fish fill-it [Laughs].”
“Balancing my family life with professional surfing can be a lot. Trying to surf, and be a Dad, and be a husband, and not suck at any of the three—there are times where it’s definitely hard. Sometimes when I’m home and the waves are good, I’m gone at dark, back at dark, and then I’ll edit until midnight. It can be tough on the kids—sometimes they don't even realize I’m home. And then, leaving for trips can get really hard because my son is at that age where he gets so bummed out. In the last two months, I’ve either been on a trip or the waves have been good at home, so I’ve been trying to cram weeks of Dad Time into short little spurts. I know it’s hard on my wife, too, but she’s super understanding. And, luckily, there are also weeks at a time that are super chill and I don’t have much going on, and during those times we all get to hang a ton.”


“Brett is super enthusiastic, even when the waves weren't great the first couple of days. He’s such a little kid at heart, and he got me really excited to surf no matter what the waves looked like. And the way he treats people is really refreshing. He carries on good conversations, he’s friendly with strangers, and he just has really good character. I enjoyed being on this trip with him. He's a good dude.”

“I’m definitely competitive. I’m not one of those people who shows it too much, but deep down, I don’t want to lose [Laughs]. Guys like Griffin [Colapinto] and Seth [Moniz] are a year or two older than me, so I don’t feel like I need to be at that level yet - I’m really just focusing on surfing as well as I can right now, and not comparing myself with others. But I look up to those guys, and also to Ethan [Ewing], because they’re making a big mark at a young age, and that’s what I aspire to do, too. They are incredible surfers.”


“The thing I’m most psyched about in surfing is trying to catch a 30-second barrel like Koa Smith's at Namibia. That, and getting to Tahiti. I’ve always had Cory Lopez's crazy Teahupo’o barrel on my wall, but I haven’t made it happen yet. Both spots are high on my list. That’s my goal for this summer. But Namibia is the dream. It’s basically like my home spot on steroids.”


“I would love to qualify for the Tour. I’ll always love free-surfing, but I just have that inner-competitiveness and I really love to put on the jersey. The 'CT is definitely my goal in life.”