RYAN BURCH interview & photos • tom carey
Can you start off by telling us your age, sponsors and where you are from?
I’m 27 years old, from Encinitas, California, and I’m sponsored by Volcom and Poler.
How old were you when you first started surfing?
I was seven years old. My dad got me into it. He was a surfer so I followed in his footsteps.
When you were younger did you think this is where you would be in life right now – you know, shaping boards, surfing for a living, traveling around and living the life?
I mean, it was always a dream as a kid to do it but I never could have imagined that this would be my actual life. Surfing has always been a big part of my life and it was always in the heart, and I just thought that shaping was the hardest thing in the world. So as a grom I just figured if I was going to be a pro surfer maybe I’d be like a bono-pro or whatever, you know, like a local pro. I looked up to guys like Austin Ware and Jeremy Sherman who were just rippers from where I was from. They weren’t shapers or anything but they were pro surfers. I thought maybe if I got lucky and I got good enough I could be like them, but I never thought I’d have my own creative freedom and be able to just travel and free surf.
And after your surfing career is done do you hope to keep shaping and pursuing that as a career?
Yeah, that’s definitely the fallback plan. I mean, I think I’ll always wanna shape my own boards and I’ll always surf, as long as I’m able to. I’m definitely gonna do it for myself and it’s a pretty good job to have too. I like doing it as work as well.
When we first met you were a skinny little grom and who just rode shortboards. When did you change things up and start riding all these other kinds of craft and other style boards?
It was my first year out of high school and out of all the NSSA contests that you do as a kid when you’re growing up in California. There’s like a contest every weekend and I was going to high school at the same time, and as soon as I graduated I was waiting longer between all the QS and Pro Junior events. So I had all this down time at home and I started riding a longboard. I shaped my own longboard because my friend that shapes rode longboards and I looked up to the way he rode his boards that he shaped for himself. So I asked him if he’d help me make a longboard and it kinda just spawned from making a longboard to ride the tiny little days that I was stuck at home. Then I ended up making fishes and little grovely boards and so on and so forth. Then I got the support to travel again and started going to Indonesia and trying to make boards to get barreled in Indo. And yeah, that’s just kinda been me since, chasing the same thing all over the world.
And what got you into the asymmetric boards and all that?
At the time when I was just starting to ride all these sort of weird boards, RT introduced me to a guy from just south of where I live in La Jolla named Richard Kenvin. He was videoing me a lot at the time, riding alaias and stuff, and he had asymmetrical boards from Carl Ekstrom. I saw him ride those and that was my first time ever seeing an asymmetrical board, seeing the one Richard had from Carl Ekstrom. And I never really thought right away that that’s what I wanted to go make myself. But I had a blank with a broken off tail that was kinda crooked and I just figured why not. And the first time I made one it worked so good that I’ve been hooked on them ever since.
How do they perform differently?
They are just like hyper-custom. To me, they’re custom to the way I wanna surf a wave and custom to the waves that I surf and the waves that I wanted to surf. On my toe-side I really like the feeling of a fish. Going down the line on a fish is one of my favorite feelings in surfing; it’s just so fast and so quick to get up to speed. Sometimes I’ve found that they’re a little hard to keep back in the pocket, so I just really like the a-sym because they have the fish-like characteristic on the toe-side but then on the heel, where I’m a bit more clumsy, they’re a little easier to control and a little more predictable.
It seems like they’re a little more snappy in the pocket, maybe a little more responsive?
For sure. I mean, asymmetrical is just a term that means not the same on both sides. And the ones I’m doing just kind of replace the short board so they’re definitely real quick and snappy and maneuverable, but the rails are still pretty parallel and straight so they’re still drivey. They’re good for down-the-line point breaks and stuff like that. It’s good for keeping your speed up, and they’re also good for beach breaks and stuff, lengthy waves.
Are they the same on the rail, as far as like a big carve?
Both rails are totally different on the board. The toe-side rail is usually a little straighter in the tail and curvier in the front while the heel-side is straighter in the front and curvier in the back. On rail they’re a lot different than a short board, I think mostly because of the fin setup and just how straight the rails are generally. With the parallel rails, when you turn the board over on rail the whole thing kinda engages in the water without having to really bury it, the whole thing’s engaged. So you get a lot of return on them; you feel like they’re pushing back at you really hard.
When you pick locations to go surf around the world what are you usually looking for?
I’m usually looking for a really good left.
Do you not like going backside?
No, I like going backside. I wouldn’t mind going to more rights. I’m definitely super stoked on getting to ride more forehand waves. Especially when I was riding more asymmetrics and stuff, I was on a mission to try to find the best lefts that I could. I went on a lot of trips as a grom where I went backside a lot, a lot of points down in Mexico, and I felt like I had already gotten a lot of really good rights. So I really wanted to find some really good lefts and try to perfect the boards I shaped for specific swells. Going backside sometimes I’d get lucky and there’d be one that really worked well for some reason, but usually they’re a little trickier to ride backside than the normal thruster or something. But yeah, I dunno, I just switched location from that point to a lot of really good lefts, but I also spend a lot of time in Australia too because I have a lot of really good friends from over there. I go right there a lot too… I just try to go where the waves are gonna be good.
Where are some of your favorite places you’ve been?
Um… I like to go to Spain, I really love Mundaka. I like going to Indonesia, G-Land is one of my favorite waves. Australia is pretty good too. I like Oz.
As far your boards go, who’s selling your boards or where could someone go to find one?
Yeah, I’m selling them at Hansen’s Surfboards in Encinitas. I used to work there when I was a grom and they’ve always carried my boards, even back when I first started shaping, so I sell quite a few boards through there. I’ve also got a website that I take custom orders through (ryanburchsurfboards.com), so pretty much just custom orders and Hansen’s.
How hard was it learning how to shape?
Never-ending. I mean, I was happy with my first couple of boards but they were quirky. And now I’m kind of refining them a little bit more, but it’s definitely something that you think you know and then you learn something new every time, it’s on going.
Do you ride anyone else’s boards?
Yeah, I try to ride other people’s boards whenever I have the opportunity. I got to make a couple boards with Maurice Cole so I’ve ridden a few of his boards and that was pretty cool – they were pretty magic. I’ve a few of Carl Ekstrom’s boards and I always borrow old boards whenever I get a chance. I’ve ridden a couple of Skip Fry’s fishes that friends have loaned me… I’ll ride anything.
Who are some of the shapers you look up to?
Some of the shapers I look up to are… Wow, that’s a hard question. Anyone who has their own design or has been doing it for a while I really look up to. The traditional craftsman… there’s really too many to name. I mean, between California and Hawaii and everywhere in the world. I really like what Daniel Thomson does too; he does some pretty out-there, futuristic stuff. I really admire what he’s getting into. And just the normal short board scene, I really like the way Matt Biolos’ boards look too.
And who are some of the surfers you look up to? You definitely think outside the box, from the way you surf, the boards you shape, your style to the way you approach waves… That being said, what guys do you look up to surfing-wise?
I really like the way Mason Ho surfs, Stephanie Gilmore is pretty awesome, Kelly Slater… I dunno, the list goes on and on, it’s too hard to name them all.
Did you kind of pick up longboarding just because of the waves around your house and to surf more often when it was small?
Definitely. Definitely because of the waves around my house because it was such a cool thing to learn, having grown up with not really any background in it, cross stepping and that sort of stuff. And the waves where I live are just so perfect for longboarding so why not get into it and really try to learn it? It was super fun, and I still enjoy it, but I’ve found that I’ve longboarded less this year than I ever have in my life because I was traveling more and with El Nino and all that. But when I first started riding one the progression of learning it was so quick that I was hooked. No matter what the waves were like I’d go out there even if it was shitty or a little too big for a longboard I’d go out there and just try to nose ride or control the board. That’s the hardest thing with riding those big logs and I was always psyched on it… and still am.
What do you think about tow-ats and jet ski-assisted surfing?
It’s pretty wild, I feel pretty out of control. I think it’s really dangerous.
You had a rad part in Psychic Migrations and gained a lot of momentum. What are your plans for the future?
Yeah, I’m definitely trying to still keep improving my surfing and hopefully be able to capture it and be a pro surfer.
Any big trips in the works or other projects you can share with us?
I’m trying to do something this summer. Just trying to get good waves and film it and who knows. I’d love to make a movie someday with longboarding and shortboarding and all sorts of weird boards and shit like that. It seems like a pretty big project so I guess just start stacking clips and see what I end up with.
If you only had one wave you could surf for the rest of your life, which wave would it be and why?
Tricky one. Some secret spot that nobody knows about that I get to surf alone.
What’s the worst thing about surfing and the best thing about surfing?
The worst thing is getting caught inside and the best thing is being right in the spot.
Any last words?
Nope, I’m speechless.