Teaching yourself to shape surfboards is no easy task. Testing those surfboards is no easy task either. Just ask 21-year-old Ryan Burch. When he was younger he was on the conventional route: doing the contest scene, just another aspiring pro. Less than 100 boards and two years into his shaping passion he's already changing the way people look at boards, morphing classic ideas with his own new ones on how to go as fast as possible. Maybe a handful of pro surfers out there can shape/ride what he does. He is the future of shaping. That's why you can check him out in the Young Guns Of Shaping demoweekend down at Sacred Craft, as well as a slew of other top mowers of foam.—Ryan Brower
What was it that made you want to start shaping your own boards?
I had ideas that I didn't want to try and interpret any more to someone else. I started thinking of things I wanted to ride and I just figured that if I had the technical skills and got comfortable with the tools that it'd be really fun and really efficient for me to just make my own weird boards that I felt like riding.
What was the learning process like?
There's definitely quite a learning curve. To figure it out it takes time, no matter what. It's something that comes with becoming more comfortable with the tools and getting an eye to spot those imperfections.
If you're making boards for yourself all the time it gets pretty draining because if you don't make a good one you're out the money and you have a crappy board on your hands.
What's the most difficult part of shaping a board?
When it's not going your way. It just makes you feel like crap. Once you're in there and you've gotten it so far and something doesn't look right it's not an easy thing to just go back and fix without hesitation. Correcting my mistakes is the hardest part for sure.
Strangest thing you've shaped recently?
[Laughs] Oh man. Pretty much all I do is weird things. I've shaped one normal 6'1" thruster and it wasn't even for me. As weird as it sounds, the strangest thing for me to make is a normal shortboard.
Favorite thing you've shaped recently?
I've made a couple lightweight, high-performance fish, asymmetrical boards that I like. Most recently it's this 5'6"/5'3 1/2" x 18 1/2" x 2" asymmetrical board with a half inch of concave. It's the board I ride when I still want to stay up with the current trends of blowing tail and doing air reverses and stuff.
Do you feel like more surfers should shape their own stuff?
Yeah I do. There's so many kids out there who are surfing really good and they're really critical with their equipment. All they'd have to do is invest a little bit of time to learn how to use the tools and they'd probably be having even more fun on their boards. It's just another piece of the puzzle. It'd be a good thing for all surfers. It gets you really in tune with what's under your feet. Especially once you start to figure out what's doing what. You can make a board and have a rough guess of what it's going to ride like before you even have it glassed and out in the water.
What's your infatuation with asymmetric and Simmons-type shapes?
They go fast and I'm super in to trying to make a board that's really easy to go fast on. My first impression with those boards was, "Wow these things are really fun to ride because they go so fast." That's probably what makes me the most interested in that wider, real clean shape that still handles speed.
Even though it's odd for you to shape a normal shortboard, what is the importance of the thruster to surfing?
It's been huge. That's what I grew up on. It's put surfing at such a higher performance level now then it ever has been. It's pretty much been that design on the highest stage of professional surfing for the last 30 years. Back then designs were changing every time a new idea was thought up, but now it's 30 years and we're stuck with the same design, just refinement of that design. It's really an important thing to surfing.
Is there room for another major design innovation or has everything already been done?
Yes and no. People are starting to look for other options, so there might be some breakthroughs with people that are open-minded trying different fin setups on boards that use a modern rail or foil. But it'll be really hard to produce a board that's super different and give it to the top pros and have them winning events on it. It's going to have to be an evolution of a certain design that would take place over a while if it's going to overtake the thruster design. I don't know it's pretty questionable that another design would be more dominant on the World Tour than a thruster.