A successful career with plenty of money wont fill your heart like passion and purpose. Santa Cruz’s Ryan Lynch knows this well as he walked away from a career at Tesla to make surfboards from recycled wood. He felt their was a way to make surfboards and accessories with less negative impact on Mother Earth. This called him to take a new path. Below is his interview
BTR: Prior to being a full time shaper you worked with Tesla. Were you shaping while working there? What made you decide to end that career and start a new one as a full time shaper.
RL: YES! I had an interesting experience at Tesla. It was an incredible place to work, but the pace was just unbelievable. Thus- I got burnt out after about 4-5 years. I negotiated a leave of absence to travel for 6 months, where my wife and I built a camper and travelled through Mex and Central America for that time. Somewhere along that trip, I decided it was time for a career change, and paid close attention to the problems with surfboard manufacturing and noticed a large gap in the market- the eco board. Thus- I started planning my eco-board company from the road. I went back to Tesla to help us get a salary going and save up a bit, all the while planning and executing against a wooden surfboard company in the background. There was quite a bit of overlap, but it became clear once it was time to quit and devote myself to Timber. Although I would be making hand-over-fist an incredible salary, it would be coming at the cost of a nasty commute and a shitty work-life / surf-life balance. I do not miss the money at all, and I am incredibly fulfilled every day that I get to build a surfboard.
BTR: You use reclaimed wood from the mountains of Santa Cruz. Do you personally go out and gather the materials?
RL: Yes and no. When we first started, and were building hollow boards only, I would often have random sources for getting reclaimed wood, mostly donated from the community and extended networks. Construction sites, Bridge demolitions, cabinetmakers waste, etc. Now the scale of the business has grown a bit and we have partnered with a mill that specializes in fallen trees. This is critical for our boards in order to optimize our product repetition in performance and buildability. We work with them to source the tree types that would fit our needs, and they mill it to the specifications that we have designed together. This has been and continues to be an ongoing development, where we are always staying tuned to what works best for different shapes, with respect to the specifics of wood milling. A few dominant factors we’ve been fine tuning- favorable tree zone (top middle bottom), knot density, tree age, moisture content, tree width and hardwood / sapwood ratio, old growth vs new growth, etc.
BTR: The Splinter Series is one of the most Eco friendly boards on the market. You use no fiberglass and no resin along with reclaimed wood. Tell us about this series.
RL: The largest point of pride behind these boards is that we use real wood, and not synthetic veneers. Synthetic veneers are overproduced, and contain more paper and glue than actual wood. Add to that, the grain lines are all repeated and create an appearance that we feel does a disservice to the beauty that was once contained in the tree. We slab cut our redwood skins, instead of a rotary cut, which is used in veneers. We are incredibly proud of our wood sourcing, and it is the highest value proposition behind our brand. Our redwood skins are milled from fallen trees only as well, right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You are correct that we use no fiberglass. This is not necessary since we are using actual wood, again, and not veneers. The wood itself has a substantial thickness, and is responsible for providing the board with it’s natural flex pattern, as well as its structural integrity. We do in fact use a tree sap-based epoxy resin as a water-barrier, in addition to a water-based topcoat to help achieve a semi-gloss finish. Generally, our boards use about 50-60% less resin than a conventional board, which is a MASSIVE eco-gain on the production scale. Because we do not need that fiberglass layer to saturate for strength, our splinter series boards end up a bit lighter than a conventionally glassed board as well. Otherwise, the boards are a sandwich construction on EPS core, with redwood skins and full cork rails. Redwood is a crazy material with incredible strength to weight properties, and we have a sincere abundance of it. Cork as well has terrific properties as the rail material, as it is super springy and resilient, helping to prevent rail dings. Cork is a closed cell material, which is not impacted by water-take, if/when you give it a ding. Cork also is sourced without having to cut down a tree. Although we have a predominantly wooden surfboard, we are able to claim that no trees were cut down to make our boards. We are hugely proud of this, and stand alone in this category. These boards are 100% built to perform, not to hang on the wall. Bonus points however, that they look damn good propped up in between surf sessions.
BTR: How do wood boards ride compared to PU or EPS?
RL: Our boards are EPS core and without fiberglass, so they are incredibly light. Instead of the fiberglass layer, we rely on the two layers of wood (top and bottom) in alternating grain direction to provide the flex and spring. It is a natural flex pattern, not better or worse than a fiberglass board, but different. The travel is comparable, but the flex period is slowed down to a point of bodily perception. It is an amazing feeling to feel this natural element performing-so under tension beneath your feet. Whereas a fiber glassed board is designed to ’snap back’ in a millisecond of pressure release, our boards really have a more natural feeling, in a familiar wavelength with what your body can actually react to, and to that of the water beneath it. Think about that: it’s a natural element, performing naturally, in a natural setting. It’s a neat feeling.
BTR: Besides boards, you make traction from 100% cork. These traction pads are also made by hand in Santa Cruz. Can you walk us through the process of hand-making a cork traction pad?
RL: Yes, the cork T-Pads are rad. We are stoked on them, and incredibly proud to have them under the Timber brand. There are other cork pads on the market, but all are made off machine. Theirs are a lot cheaper, but they also appear that way. Mine are made by hand in my shop by my employees and me. I won’t give up the goods on how they’re made, but I can tell you that there’s a whole lot of labor involved, and it’s not a big money maker for us, but still something that were proud to carry, to help get the eco-friendly ethos of the brand out there.
BTR: What other products do you make a Timber Surf Co?
-Splinter series: we’ve covered this above 🙂
-Hollow Boards: We make 100% hollow wooden boards on a custom basis only. They are around $3k-$4k for a custom, and anything is possible. You draw it, we’ll build it.
We have been designing an instruction set and parts kit for building your own hollow wooden surfboard board for the past year, and am launching this weekend! For $150, we now sell a digital template kit, which includes full shape diagrams and a 20-page instruction kit that is incredibly thorough and clear, guiding you through the process of building your very own hollow wooden surfboard. First kit that is launching is a 5’8” Twin fin Fish, and we will grow that offering by adding a new shape each month. So excited for this to launch.
-Splinter fins: We have caught our offcuts from the splinter series production, and re-purposed that wood yet again into a fin core. These fins are launching in a few weeks, most likely October 1. Doubly reclaimed wood 🙂
-No Fuss Fins: We’re still developing this, but we’ve again been resisting the fiberglass layer as a necessary tool for surfing equipment. We have a wooden+recycled plastic fin that’s likely coming out this year. This will be a low cost and incredibly eco-centric product. Stay tuned
We sell walnut/cork wall racks, to hang your board horizontally on the wall. They’re $90 for a pair.
CORK T PADS
Normal peel and stick backing, 3 piece Cork T-Pads.
Another way to capture off-cuts, we make some simple yet delicately designed wooden hand-planes. No straps, just a handle.
BTR: At the end of the day, Timber Surf Co is a 100% Santa Cruz brand that gives so much back to the city you love. How many people in your community do you employ and how many local businesses do you work with?
RL: We employ three people right now, all part time, and am ramping up production over the next 4 months to upgrade our output and employment schedule. As for local businesses, as many as possible, and as often as possible. Every few months we do a fundraiser board to generate attention and finances for whatever the most topical causes might be surrounding our area or our community. We raised 2.5K for ‘undocufund Monterrey bay’ and another 600 for stoked.org. Have a few more fundraisers in the pipeline as well, which were are absolutely stoked for. Community first!
BTR: ENJOY LOOKING AT THE BOARDS BELOW…