Ryan Lovelace of Santa Barbara, California, makes beautiful custom surfboards. He makes mini-Simmons and keel fishes and sleek longboards. He's best known, however, for his displacement hulls boards that perform flawlessly in the kind of perfect, lined-up surf that Lovelace -- the lucky bastard -- sees everyday at a little reef he surfs a few blocks from his house.
He lives amongst eucalyptus trees, date palms and oaks not far from a nature preserve where townspeople walk their dogs, run in the woods and hang glide off a cliff over the Pacific. He does all of his shaping and glassing in an old redwood shed. When he walks to work, he can hear the rocks in the gravel pop beneath his feet.
Really, the only thing that isn't beautiful about Lovelace's process is the environmental fallout. "Polyester resins are chocked full of volatile organic compounds, which everyone knows to be the airborne version of the devil," he says.
"On a solid day of glassing work, you can feel the aching in your kidneys from their processing of all of the bad stuff that's found its way into your system," he says. "Even the foam that we shape is toxic. The fine dust particles are enough, but what's more [there are] small amounts of gas that are released as you shape the foam."
Lovelace, like a number of custom surfboard shapers, would like to make a more environmentally conscious surfboard, using recycled foam and plant-based resins that are roughly twice the cost of the regular toxic stuff.
"To me the cost isn't outrageous because it's a great product," he says. "But profit margins are about 10 to 15 percent on a finished surfboard, so when you throw a wrench like that into the system, all of a sudden a smaller, one-off type operation like me is almost making the surfboards for free."
"On a solid day of glassing work you can feel the aching in your kidneys from their processing of all of the bad stuff that's found its way into your system."
Lovelace, though, might have found a way around that.
This week, he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build his first line of eco-friendly surfboards that he will then auction off at an art show and benefit that Lovelace and his friends are planning in Santa Barbara.
Lovelace isn't just going to pocket the money, though. Instead he's going to donate it to the Save Naples Coalition, a local group that is focused on saving the Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara from development.
"It's mostly rolling hills and ranch land that end in bluffs right at the ocean," he says. "Imagine gentle hills against the water, being held in by a mountain range in the back. It's a really small, fragile area that has the potential to house some mega-millionaires, or it has the potential to remain mellow and remind us all of what the California coast used to be and why we're all here in the first place."
Lovelace, who is trying to raise $18,000 for this project, says that the response has been overwhelming. After just 24 hours he had 32 backers, who pledged more than $3,000.
Make a donation and Lovelace will send you something in return -- a photo, a T-shirt, a hand-made book, your name burned into the wall of his redwood shed, or a framed decorative fin. Donors who pledge $2,000 or more will receive a custom surfboard made from the new materials and invitation to hang out with Lovelace in Santa Barbara while he shapes your new stick.
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