Episode 38: Meet Ryan Lynch, Founder of Timber Surf Co., Master Shaper, and Eco Surfer

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Show Notes

Where do broken boards go? Nope. It’s not a Whitney Houston song. Broken boards are a sad sight we see at the coast. It tells a lot of incredible stories such as how massive a wave was and how exciting it must have been to ride it. Well, that’s one side of the story. The other side has more of a tragic taste. As the other half of the board travels farther into the ocean, it becomes a pollutant and a threat to marine biodiversity. And we know for a fact, that the effects travel greatly and becomes so devastating, even life-threatening to humans as well. 

Apparently, the majority of surfers are nature-lovers. Afterall, they fell in love with the ocean first before the sport. Ryan Lynch was one of them. His memories of the ocean remain vivid and thrilling until today.  As he became deeply exposed and involved with sustainable development in Oregon, his passion to help save the Earth became stronger. One way he could do so is by reducing as much of the carbon footprint released into the ocean. He founded Timber Surf Co., a company that creates intricately designed hollow wooden surfboards.

Ryan gives an interesting walk through in the making of his unique surfboards. The boards are so robust that the quality cannot be questioned. The custom designs were so intricate as well, that it takes a month to finish a single product.  As the master shaper, Ryan himself looks into every single detail- planning, choosing of materials, designing, creating and “testing” of the boards. His boards were awarded a gold star or Level One surf board by the ECOBOARD Project this year, proving to the high-performance and sustainability of his boards. For Ryan, sustainable surfing is a way of taking care of the ocean that we love. However, saving the earth cannot be done by just one or a few individuals. Environmental awareness is an obligation and a pride each one must take on.

Episode Highlights:

05:15 Called by the Perfect Waves
09:16 Shaped by Sustainable Development Culture
18:58 Engineering Timber Boards
21:19 The Makings of a One-of-a-Kind Surfboard
26:25 The Advantages of a Wooden Surfboard
30:11 Sustainable Surfing
35:52 Price Points of Wooden Surfboards
41:10 How to Sustain Your Passion

Today, my guest is Ryan Lynch. Ryan is from California and shapes 100% wooden surfboards under the name Timber Surf Co. or Timber Surf Company. If you were at the Freshwater Pro this year, you may have seen one of his boards showcased there. In fact, Ryan’s story is really inspiring because he’s living the dream of doing what he loves and is managing to spend as much time as possible, “testing” his boards in the water.

“You shouldn't make products that don't have robustness; You shouldn't make a product that's built to break.”

Ryan is a craftsman at heart and shapes hollow wooden surfboards that are made of all sorts of woods, most of which are reclaimed or recycled. All the stages of product design have been carefully thought through at Timber Surf Company. And we get to talk about what a truly sustainable surfboard is. In fact, if you listened to Ryan’s production design process, it’s no surprise that Timber Surf Co. has been awarded a gold star by the ECOBOARD Project. From being a passionate craftsman to becoming a product designer for Tesla, bobbing up and down the Pan-American Highway in a trailer he designed and customized, Ryan Lynch’s story is full of surprises.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

Take care, have fun, and enjoy the waves.



Connect with Ryan:

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“Every product that gets made in this world has a process behind it and thus has a reverse process… And if you approach that correctly, you end up with a perfectly good product all over again and you don't have to throw something away.”

“When you actually start touching the wood, everything is in place for that board to just fall into place. Really it just how you build the framework such that you can build the product.”

“You shouldn't make products that don't have robustness; You shouldn't make a product that's built to break.”

“If you’re making it and you're so happy to make it and you're putting your heart and soul into it, it makes the whole difference with the finished product.”

“There's always going to be elements of work. I don't think there's a way to do solely what you love and to sustain that. There's got to be little pockets that have to support that, that maybe aren't within your wheelhouse.”

“If you have an idea and you have a passion, just go and do it and don't stop. If you… just keep working towards something, there's nobody that's going to get in your way. Not nowadays. Everything is possible.”


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Imi Barneaud: Hi everybody and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast, conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers who also happen to be surfers. My name is Imi, and I am your host. If you enjoy this podcast, you can subscribe, rate or review it on iTunes or on your podcast app and you’ll find all the details at the end of this episode and in the show notes, and of course on my brand new website, www.theoceanriderspodcast.com. Actually, I’ve been spending the past six weeks upgrading theoceanriderspodcast.com so that you can find all the info you need in the same place. Up until now, my information has been spread all over the place between medium articles, and my websites, the show notes, the podcasting apps, all sorts of things like that have been completely scattered all over the place, now it’s all in the same place. It’s been a really long process for me but from now on you’ll find photos of my guests, show notes, quotes, transcripts, and all the resources in the same place. And you’ll also find a few photos of me and my backstory for those who are interested. At the same time, I’ve decided the episode release date on Mondays. In fact, the reason I’m doing that is that when I used to publish on Fridays, I’d get all psyched up and end up spending my weekends glued to the phone for stats, and downloads, and all sorts of things like that. So for my family’s sake and my sanity, I’ve actually decided to change the dates around to Monday, I really hope you understand. Also in September, I was super motivated and went blasting through the recording of too many episodes and ended up completely toasting my brain. So I’ve decided to slow down the pace of my podcast and release an episode every fortnight for a while. So if you’re still in need of your Weekly Oceanriders fix, skip over to the podcast app and subscribe, or have a look at the website to check out some of the early episodes. In fact, for every episode you like the most, you’ll find links to related episodes that could be of interest, and there really is, believe me, a ton of resources out there. I’ve also tried to work out a way of monetizing my podcast to pay for my editor, so my first step has been to start an affiliate partnership with amazon.com. Basically when you visit my site and click on the books or DVDs available in the show notes, I get a micro teeny tiny, teeny tiny commission from Amazon, but you’ll be paying exactly the same price for the items. I think that’s pretty cool. More cool stuff also is coming up very soon, so stay tuned. Really sorry for the aparté, but I was super excited to spread the news.

Now all about my guest, today, my guest is Ryan Lynch. Ryan is from California and shapes 100% wooden surfboards under the name Timber Surf Co. or Timber Surf Company. If you were at the Freshwater Pro this year, you may have seen one of his boards showcased there. In fact, Ryan’s story is really inspiring because he’s living the dream of doing what he loves and is managing to spend as much time as possible, “testing” his boards in the water. Ryan is a craftsman at heart and shapes hollow wooden surfboards that are made of all sorts of woods, most of which are reclaimed or recycled. All the stages of product design have been carefully thought through at Timber Surf Company. And we get to talk about what a truly sustainable surfboard is. In fact, if you listened to Ryan’s production design process, it’s no surprise that Timber Surf Co. has been awarded a gold star by the ECOBOARD Project. From being a passionate craftsman to becoming a product designer for Tesla, to bobbing up and down the Pan-American highway in a trailer he designed and customized, Ryan Lynch’s story is full of surprises. So without further ado, please welcome Ryan Lynch. Hi Ryan and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast. How are you today?

Ryan Lynch: I am so good. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you having me on.

Imi Barneaud: It’s a pleasure. And I just wondered for the listeners if you could introduce yourself.

Ryan Lynch: Absolutely, yeah. I’m Ryan Lynch, always have been. I am the owner of Timber Surf Company, and what we represent really is the push towards sustainably crafted surfboards, specifically in my business, it’s wooden based surfboards. So as of right now we use no foam, really focusing on eliminating the plastic and just getting rid of every little pound of carbon emission that we possibly can, through the process of building the surfboards.

Imi Barneaud: That’s excellent. This is going to be a really exciting conversation. So maybe if we could sort of rewind in your life story a bit. Actually, who or what introduced you to surfing in the first place?

Ryan Lynch: That’s a good question, it was so long ago. I don’t know if there was a who but really happens upon a group of friends who all were keen to try it at the same time. So we had a pack of beginners. This was before we had drivers licenses, so maybe, I don’t know, 13 years old or so I’d say. And that just came about as maybe the thing to do at this age. And so we all went out there. I remember specifically where we surfed.

Imi Barneaud: Aha, where was that?

Ryan Lynch: It was at The Hook in Santa Cruz on the East side. At one hand, it’s a really good place to learn because the waves are perfect. On the other hand, it’s a really bad place to learn because the waves are perfect and as you get an aggressive crowd out there, and you know, good guys taking advantage of good waves, and beginners attempting to share the same wave without any knowledge of the culture and etiquette. It was a bit hairy at times, but yeah, it’s pretty clear. I think most people you talk to that are surfers now and have a passion for it definitely drew that passion from the first second they got in the water, the first wave they caught. So that was definitely the case, hard to walk away from.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Yeah, I bet. So did you study at university in California? Or did you go to Oregon?

Ryan Lynch: I went North, so I was born and raised in a town called Sunnyvale and it’s just over the Hill from Santa Cruz. And growing up it was the tech boom, computer, internet, and everything to do with that kind of field was just blowing up all around us. And I had a lot of family roots up in Oregon, so there was a big draw for me to go to Oregon. Just so happens to be, I got into their college, didn’t care much about what it was like, didn’t visit the campus at all. I got in and I knew I wanted to live in Oregon, so I went and I couldn’t have been a better fit.

Imi Barneaud: Really.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. So many wonderful friends that I still have connections with. First day of school,I bumped into a friend, had no idea that we were embarking at the same adventure in the same place and so we just instantly reconnected from, I don’t know, elementary school friendship. Met my wife up there and really fell into a good program,and ended up studying product design, specifically material research and under the product design field. That was great, it was very hands on. I think at that point I was a builder and a craftsman, but not really much of an accomplished one. Just that was how I filled my time, making my way into the wood shop and just putting something together, and then really hone that craft at the University of Oregon – Product Design Program was very hands on. You know, the goal was to come up with products that solve solutions, and it wasn’t solely a CAD and internet space where you just showed the idea of a product that you actually had to make it.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Ryan Lynch: And there was a lot of rapid prototyping techniques and time spent in various fabrication labs that we had up there. So that was great, and that really, not only honed the craft but increased my appreciation for building and hands on work so that, yeah, that was perfect.

Imi Barneaud: Had you already tried to shape a surfboard by then, or was that out of the picture?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, good question. I had repaired so many of my surfboards. As most beginners, yeah, I have a tendency to break them, or you know, run them onto the rocks, or run over somebody, or get run over by somebody, anyways. Had a lot of time spent on my own boards but never shaping, and I don’t think I really understood much about the foam chemistries and the overall construction style. For all I knew it was there was a stringer, some foam and some fiberglass, and then knew nothing about the types of resin that could be applied to that, or the process by which you went about making one. So surfboards came in a lot later, I think.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Yeah. And going to University in Oregon, which is quite an avant-garde sort of state, where you already exposed to sustainability, and sustainable practices in your training?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, absolutely. I have a great benefit of being in this particular generation. And we grew up, and were educated with a foundation like solve problems with production. Don’t just introduce new things to the market just for the sake of it. In Oregon, definitely, at least in Eugene, Oregon where the campus is, it was very liberal. So we had a lot of those kinds of forward thinking ideas and sustainably focused initiatives. And then the town itself was just, to lack much of a better description, it was just hippy, hippies everywhere. And so, that really fostered a lot of care for the planet, and the community, and you know, that goes deep and it really makes its way into your education and how you choose to spend your time as well.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, excellent. And so, you actually got a job at Tesla? Could you tell us what you felt like when you got accepted? When somebody picked up the phone and said, you got your job, you’re starting on Monday, kind of thing, what did you feel?

Ryan Lynch: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, it was so validating. And I had a wild ride at Tesla, so I really had so many moments that came after that were equally as impactful and profound for me, but the initial offer letter was fantastic. It meant that I was ready to move from Oregon back to California, which is something I kind of, I loved, loved to do, wanted to do. The job I saw was really just a way in the door. So I knew that, Hey, I got a job at this place. The role that I would walk into is not one that really utilize the best of my skill sets, or would keep me engaged for the next decade. But I did know very quickly that I would be able to hone in and find that job within the confines of that company. And it was a good jumping off point for me.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. And what’s the company culture like? Cause it seems really kind of, it’s very secret and I was just wondering if he could sort of, what’s it like to be behind those doors?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, good question. It’s actually, it’s changed a lot. I was there for about six years, and when I first showed up it was so scrappy and, you know, DIY nature, and everybody has a job, sure. But everybody’s job overlaps and you just do what you needed to do to get the job, to get the car out the door. And so it was such a startup really, like a barrier, classic tech startup vibe when I first was there. And yeah, it was so much fun, it was a lot of work. We called it STRESSLA at time cause like the expectations and the hours that were being asked of you were so great. Greater than anything I had experienced, you know, kind of fresh out of college. So it was a lot, it was a big culture shock or eye opening experience as the first corporate job, and then it just so happened to be so fun and wild and kind of just hang on, how do you call it, hang on by the skin of your pants or whatever that saying goes, that’s the case. And then, I did quickly move into a few other roles that were a bit more fitting for me. I spent time on the craftsmanship engineering team, that was terrific, and that was very much behind closed doors operation whereby we were designing the cars, you know, 1X and 2X that have yet to come, a year or two off the market at least.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, it was great. But everything was, so, I guess an undefined, there was no real structures or systems to have formal communications and release notes, and all these technical conversations that just, everything was so informal. And I made it a lot of fun, but it also, that was part of the stress of it. Nothing was like formally captured, so as things change, the reins got a little tighter in the company got their stuff together a little bit and it became less fun, but better overall for the business.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, yeah. I totally understand. So what did you think you learned the most about this experience in a big tech company, or in a renowned tech company? Even at the time it was this a startup kind of mode?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, well that company was very engineering centric, and me, I graduated with a degree in design, again, specifically materials, but overall we did a lot of design. And the last role I had a Tesla for the last few years was, I was a design engineer working for the design studio, so it was a perfect mix. You know, I got to use my design background and really was flooded all day with design conversations and design detail meetings. But at the end of the day, the content with which I was responsible for was providing the engineering behind executing those designs. And I think that the single greatest thing, it’s pretty clear in my mind was just to understand that every product that gets made in this world has a process behind it and thus has a reverse process. So everything that you have in your hands has been made in a certain way and therefore you can take it apart in a certain way. You can replace things, you can fix things and put it back together. And if you’d approach that correctly, you know, you end up with a perfectly good product all over again and you don’t have to throw something away. So yeah, I think that mindset was really helpful for me, and it kind of focused a bit more on making, you know, designing a good product and making a robust product and not to worry if something breaks or is impaired a little bit cause you can always go back and repair that.

“Every product that gets made in this world has a process behind it and thus has a reverse process… And if you approach that correctly, you end up with a perfectly good product all over again and you don't have to throw something away.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And do they have a kind of cradle to cradle sort of business model at Tesla, or whether they you can reuse the products, or they can get up cycled, or things like that, is there anything?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, I think it could get better. The main, I think burden there is the lithium from the batteries and something I don’t know much about but that really is the biggest footprint of manufacturing the vehicle is mining the lithium and just batteries in general. Batteries are not so friendly, a production process to fabricate. So there definitely is an extraction process they have, they’re able to recycle the content of the batteries to the full extent, you know, probably not, and I really don’t know what portion it is, but that’s, you know, they’re definitely working on it because that is really the initiative of the companies is to leave no trace, there’s little traces they possibly can.

Imi Barneaud: Right, right. And so what actually led you to start your own business at Timber Surf Company company?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. Great, great question. I wanted to start my own business first before I knew what it was going to be.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Ryan Lynch: So my wife and I, after five years of Tesla, we decided it was time for a break, and not my wife and I, my job and I needed a break.

Imi Barneaud: (laughs).

Ryan Lynch: So my wife and I quite on the contrary, we got married and we took our honeymoon, and our honeymoon was six month road trip from California down to Panama City.

Imi Barneaud: Wow.

Ryan Lynch: And so that was Pan-American Highway for six months, bobbed and weaved a lot through central Mexico in the Highlands, and once we got to central America, at least sticking on the West Coast. And we did that in teardrop trailer that we actually built for the last few months prior to that trip.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, we saw who you were able to really just remove ourselves from the tech madness and, you know, just the constantly evolving hectic nature of living in the Bay area and just having to go to a stressful job all the time. So we really got a good pause and room for reflection there, reevaluated a lot, what our interests were, what our capabilities were. And the notion upon coming back was, all right, let’s work while we have to for a short period, but really focus on planning our own thing. And so I went back to Tesla after that road trip and lasted about a year and a half, I’d say before it was just too much. And then all the while it had been developing two business plans. One was to build those teardrop trailers, and the other was to build surfboards. And it just made so much more sense, like my passion would have been in surfboards. And Hey, I’m a sucker for product testing, so it’s a good excuse to get out in the water all the time.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s a brilliant story. It’s amazing because the Pan-American Highway is this kind of dream that I’ve had for ages and ages to drive down there. It’s just a fascinating story that you actually created your trailer and did you do the whole design and engineering, and all the cupboard space and worked out all this are the things like you see in the tiny homes and whatever. That must have been so fun.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, 100%. It was so fun, and I’m very fortunate because I have a friend who owns his own business building trailers and they’re just outrageously beautiful. The company’s called Oregon Trail’R, and he was a great resource, he’s a good guy to have on the other end of the phone. So he helped a lot, saying, you know, don’t use this part, don’t use that part, you know, he helped a lot with the execution, but overall it, you know, still is ground up build and got to make all the decisions, design the kitchen and build our little living space, small but sufficient.

Imi Barneaud: Absolutely. So you came back for a year and a half or something like that at Tesla. And so, when do you actually Timber Surf Company become a real businesses corporation, so to speak?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, December of last year is when I made the full change. So it was called, what do you call it? Anyways, yeah, I quit Tesla in December and already had so much progress on Timber that I was just managing to work on the weekends and evenings, and so I just went full steam ahead. Come then, it’s been a long ramp, you know, been a long ramp to get the product stable and quality up to something that I’m pleased with for the market. But yeah, it’s been that long, it’s been over a year I’ve been building boards but officially under the Timber name, you know, coming up on a year mark now and I couldn’t be happier with where things are at.

Imi Barneaud: Really, really. And so could you picture what a Timber Surf Company board is made of? What it looks like? And how you make it?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, yeah, sure. So the generality is that it’s a hollow wooden board. Most people upon seeing a board for the first time, they assume it’s very heavy and they assume it’s solid. And I think that’s a fair assumption cause that’s kind of where surfing started, the origins of the sport. You take a tree and you just shape it down until it looks like that thing that you want to ride. So I took an engineering perspective from it and I included a series of ribs and stringers on the inside of the board. So there’s a skeleton, a framework, just like a, the vertebrae of a fish or even similar construction to that of an airplane wing. And that hollow core is incredibly robust and it has support in all the right spots where you need it relative to surfing, foot placement, and pressures, and torsional flex, and these kinds of things that you require in a board. And then we wrap it, we wrap it with the skin on the top and bottom, and then part of our design aesthetic is cork rails. And so every board we build has solid cork rails.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. So it means you don’t ding them, also if you bumped them, it’s not too bad.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, exactly. Like that’s the highest area of potential damage and ding. And so, that is one thing that admittedly is tough around a wood board than a foam board is that, if you do ding it, you know, you can’t just take it to Joe’s Surf Shop to repair it. You have to have somebody that knows how to work with wood.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Ryan Lynch: So the cork rails is a little bit of an improvement there and also helps the weight, pretty light. A heck of a lot of fun to shape.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, I bet. I bet. And so how thick is actually the skin of the surfboard?

Ryan Lynch: Well, it depends on the design, it depends on the shape, and it depends on the level of intricacy that goes into it. And that’s something we’re always tuning a little bit to the scale of millimeters, but it’s about an eighth of an inch on the top deck, and that’s what takes all the impact, and I fiberglass the inside and the outside of that skin. You know, the whole part of the reason for doing this is that the boards are so darn robust. So an eighth of inches is really significant, it doesn’t sound like a lot, you know, three millimeters or something, but it’s still quite significant. Provides enough strength, you know, I’ve never put my foot through it or seen anyone else put their foot through it.

Imi Barneaud: So how many surfboards do you manage to shape a month? Because sounds like a very complicated process compared to a foam board and Sculpt.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. Great question, one (laughs), one is the answer. That fluctuates a bit, it really depends on what’s being built. The last board I finished, they’re all customs at this point, so every board that I’m building has had so many design conversations in a little bit of back and forth on getting the exact right shape and overall appearance and aesthetic behind it, so that takes a lot of the time. And then designing fixtures specifically for every board and so it comes out exactly as it appears in CAD. So really, I think it’s a fair assumption to say one month. However, if I weren’t to do customs and just streamline production, it could go a lot quicker. But I do spend a lot of time putting intricate designs into the decks.

Imi Barneaud: Yes, I’ve seen that on online. You’ve got an amazing designs in terms of different woods and whatnot. So, what kind of wood do you use to do the top? Sorry, the skin, or I don’t know what you call it.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, sure. I call it the skin, you call it whatever the heck, the top deck. I am not very limited in what I can use. I get a lot of wood donated and that’s kind of the goal is to use reclaimed wood. And that’s so possible today with all the different upcycle up, down cycle partners and different avenues of production. And we live in this Redwood forest with beautiful growth everywhere, so there’s lots of wood. Some are a bit more favorable, some are lighter, some are, you know, to can take a curve a little bit better, some favorites of course, Redwood because it’s local and it’s really light and strong, Poplar is another good one for those same reasons. But then on top of that, you know, any given board, has so many different types of wood in it, partially because I get the donated piles of wood and those piles are not surfboard size. They end up being very small pieces and it’s a great exercise to, you know, cut in a shot, all those pieces together and form something that can be applied to the scale of a surfboard.

Imi Barneaud: All right. And you also re-use all the chippings and the bits to make fins and all sorts of accessories, that’s so cool.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. Sometimes I’m scaling up, I’ve been trying to develop a proof of concept and it’s now ready and salable. So I have a few different fin templates. And really the goal, and I think the best story is that if you’re buying a surfboard, I can make you a custom fin for that surfboard using all the scrap sawdust and off cuts from the board making process. So you have a matching fin, and I just think that’s so darn cool and not something you can expect to get elsewhere.

Imi Barneaud: Exactly. Exactly. And so yeah, you could really see the before and after pile of wood, and then your surfboard, and it’s all, so package, that’s so cool, that’s so cool. And I think very heavy compared to foam boards?

Ryan Lynch: They’re heavy, I wouldn’t say they’re very heavy. Let’s just say some of my foam boards, I tend to ride shortboards 60 by 19 1/2 types of boards, 2 1/2. Those boards can be about seven pounds, eight pounds, and equivalent size in a wood board, I’m able to achieve between 11 and 13 pounds. So it’s heavier, right? It’s percentage wise, it’s definitely more weight. But the reality is I’m not making high performance shortboards to help, you know, drive air off the lift and anything like that. I’m making a bit more spud and grovel layers, and like squash boards.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Ryan Lynch: And from my surfing experience, the WEIGHT really doesn’t AFFECT the performance in my eyes at a competitive level, sure, but more so, I think it’s the performance of the board, the flex of the board, and the dampening, you know, of the chatter, and just really how you shape it, and the hydrodynamics behind the shape.

Imi Barneaud: That’s excellent. So, so do you do all these calculations? Is it computer? CAD? Or do you actually, is it sort of mostly how you feel about the board and you sort of trial and error? How does the process work?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, the former for sure, everything is done in the computer first and that’s my background, right? Engineer. Engineer by experience. So everything is in my eyes has to be done in the computer, and it’s for a few reasons. I mean, it’s great because you can physically visualize these boards and there’s the CAD programs are so prolific and easy to use that really there’s no barrier to entry. You can have a board, you can change the most my new details and export all of those curvatures and get the volume data, and you know, specific regional volume segway, how much volume is this board you’re going to have in the nose, you know, versus where’s the wide point relative to the midpoint. And for me, the woodworking side of things, everything is template and jig based.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Ryan Lynch: I’m the kind of person where you tell me to cut down a tree in six hours, I’ll spend four hours sharpening the axe. And that’s really the philosophy behind this is, when you actually start touching the wood, everything is in place for that board to just fall into place, really, it’s just, how you build a framework such that you can build the product.

“When you actually start touching the wood, everything is in place for that board to just fall into place. Really it just how you build the framework such that you can build the product.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting. And do your surfboards require a certain surfing philosophy or style in terms of how you surf, or how can anybody hop on a board and have the same sensations as a foam board?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, it’s different. It feels different under the foot for sure. I mean, and so does the different, surfing a polyurethane foam blank versus an expanded polystyrene foam blank, you know, they each feel different from each other. There’s a different buoyancy characteristic, flex, and chatter, and the response is different. What I liked the most, so these boards don’t have nearly as high of a flex pattern, the wood boards that is, but what they do have is a very slow flex pattern. So the turn rate is quite different and it feels very familiar under your feet. What I mean by that is, it’s the flex and positioning of the board is moving in a wavelength that’s natural, you know, it’s a wood product, it’s an organic product. You can feel it give and return under your foot as opposed to this piece of plastic foam collaboration that is just, it’s chemistry. It’s the split second you give off pressure, it’s already returned and it’s almost pushing against you. So, I really like that effect, that feeling of a wood board, and I think they’re more catered towards old-school surfing, they should be anyways. More drawn out turns, a lot more mellow surfing, not aggressive and abrasive style of surfing.

Imi Barneaud: And I was just wondering if there’s any maintenance, do you have to oil them, or there’s no maintenance necessary?

Ryan Lynch: No maintenance necessary, not at all. There’s a little bit of education,well, there’s really one bit of education behind the product that folks need to know about, the same parameter exists with an EPS boards as well. It’s the pressure within the board can have an impact, so it’s a hollow board and there’s air trapped inside. Just like any EPS board, there’s a lot of little pockets of air in my wood boards, it’s one big pocket of air. And so, you get this board out in the sun, and then out in the cold water, and then you leave it in your truck overnight and it’s cold, and it goes through a lot of different temperature shifts, and the air inside can expand and contract.

Imi Barneaud: Of course, yeah.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. And the problem there is not that the air is doing that, but it’s applying these pressures to the fiberglass of the board, and fiberglass does not return. So if the fiberglass expands, you know, the wood will expand and contract and return home, the fiberglass doesn’t. So my solution here is twofold, I have two breather valves that I install into every board and they’re really beautiful aesthetic, well-crafted products, it’s not an eyesore or anything. One, you don’t even know it, it’s in the leash plug. So the leash plug has a breather membrane that is, you know, it’s almost like a GoreTex membrane, but it’s a heck of a lot more functional and it lets air out and won’t hit the pores, small enough that water doesn’t come in. And then if you’re doing something–

Imi Barneaud: That is good.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, it’s great. I mean, I can’t claim to have created that product because there is a need for this both in EPS boards and in larger EPS boards, paddle boards have it, and then just the wood board building community. And then as well, I have more of a, less of a passive airflow valve that’s just a physical thumbscrew that’s tooled in brass. And that’s for something like if you’re going on a plane, if you have a high amount of travel coming and you don’t know what the are going to be, that’s like the physical valve that you can open and just ensure there’s no issues.

Imi Barneaud: Right. That’s really covered and that’s such a good idea too. Well, you’ve obviously thought of everything and this is really, really cool. And I was just wondering in terms of sustainability, it’s a real sort of, you know, can even get your wood from the junkyard or something like that, turn it into a surfboard and everything, and you’re also part and certified by The ECOBOARD Project. Do you think you could tell us more about that?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, sure. So the goal of the company from the start was to just, it was to eliminate the amount of broken boards you see on the beach, right? You see half of a board sitting there all the time, everyone has seen it. And that sucks cause you just, you shouldn’t make products that don’t have robustness. You know, you shouldn’t make a product that’s built to break. And the other side of that is, well where’s the other half of the board? Right? Is that floating away at sea? Or fish eating it, and then are you eating those fish? So there’s a lot of nastiness surrounding that industry. And so wood was the idea, just get rid of the foam and build a board out of wood is functional. On top of that, there’s a lot of opportunities to really improve the footprint of the board. And Sustainable Surf is a nonprofit organization out of California, and they’re really started in 2009? Or 2010? Sorry, at any rate, they are formally the governing body behind what makes an ECOBOARDS. And they have done all of the forms, all the studies, they’ve done lifecycle analysis, they’ve done like cradle to grave assessments on every single element in the production process. And so they’ve been a great resource to, not just for me but for the surf industry as a whole. And they’re getting on board with some of the big manufacturers FireWire, and Dan The Man, and Tomo, there’s a couple of big names that are really supporting the ECOBOARDS, which is great. And they have a few different tiers, you know, they have a level one tier, which is the entry level and then there’s a gold level certification, and my boards meet the gold level certification.

“You shouldn't make products that don't have robustness; You shouldn't make a product that's built to break.”

Imi Barneaud: Brilliant. Excellent. And has that attracted more customers, having that certification? Is that helped?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, yeah, certainly. You know, it’s all part of the same story. We’re making a product that’s like biologically organic, right? It’s from the earth. You put your energy into it, you make it here with your passion and with your body, and then you utilize it, and you use this object back in the earth around the earth. And so that’s really the brand that we need to have and I wish more people did, but like that full circle, closed loop production style, kind of a bit more elemental of a product.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. And I bet it must radiate also some amazing vibrations because if you’re making it and you’re so happy to make it, and you’re putting your heart and soul into it, it just makes the whole difference with the finished product.

“If you’re making it and you're so happy to make it and you're putting your heart and soul into it, it makes the whole difference with the finished product.”

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And a fun fact about the boards, epoxy resins, so I use a resin coating and that coating is predominantly tree-sap based. So that’s just such a cool, it’s eco-poxy or a bio-based epoxy and it’s so cool to be using, you know, start to finish. It’s wood on the inside, wood on the outside, and then an element, that’s a byproduct of wood to finish this product off. It’s such a cool, I’m so glad that these products exist.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. So going onto sort of the business side of your company, what are the biggest challenges you faced being your own boss, for example?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that. The time I wake up and I just want to do this, you know, every day I’m so happy to go into the woodshop and start building boards and I’m really not a strong businessman. My wife and I pair together really well. She’s been responsible for all the things like the visual aspects and how our brand is represented to folks. And I think she just kills it, she’s done such a great job. Admittedly, I get less work done when the waves are good. I think every shaper, everybody in the industry will have that same problem, but it hasn’t, you know, I’m so motivated and I love doing what I’m doing. I go out for a surf in the morning and I’ll add those hours on it, you know, I’m in the shop most of the day from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and then I’m lucky if I get a little surf break in the meantime.

Imi Barneaud: That’s so sweet. And what about working in an artisan industry, because it’s quite complicated, like to, you know, you’re working on the product from A to Z. It’s not like assembling things, or reselling things, or distributing things. What is your take on actually being the artisan?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, there is a challenge there, right, there is a challenge. I think in the near future there will be opportunities to scale this business. It’s something we’re working on in the background, but in the meantime and thus far today, it’s hard to put myself in both camps whereby I designed this thing, build this thing, and then have to go out into the world and be a businessman and say, you know, drive a certain price and get so-and-so to carry a board and ask for this percentage of commission. Some of that more business technical information I’m not too keen on, but it needs to be done obviously. I mean, it’s not sufficient to just build a great product. People have to know about it.

Imi Barneaud: And do you have brand ambassadors?

Ryan Lynch: No, at this point, no. A lot of people reaching out every week to try and become brand ambassadors that were really like, they just, they want free boards. That’s definitely on target for the medium to long term. But this style of board has to, you know, you’ve seen the boards, they’re so ornate and intricate so I really have to scale down the design and scale up the production rate in order to fulfill something like that. I mean, it takes an entire month to build a board, right? So it’s really tough to justify giving those away. And the price tag that I’ve put on the boards is so aggressive because I want people to feel like they can buy them and surf them and not feel obligated to put it on the wall, or above their bar, or something like that.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. So, what is the average price for, I don’t know, the best selling product that you sell at the moment.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, there are between 2200 and 2600 for a board. It’s been a wide range, so it depends on a lot of the details within that, all the while working on two different tiers of products. So I will be introducing a very low price point and then a medium price point as well to fill that gap. Cause I do want people to be able to surf these and feel comfortable with that.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. And so it really almost indestructible when you’re surfing on them, you can bet into somebody else, or rocks, or whatever that is.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, believe me, I’ve tried, I’ve sent them first into the beach so many times. I really want to see one break so that I can understand any potential weak points and then, you know, respond to that but I haven’t seen any break.

Imi Barneaud: That’s amazing, that’s so cool. So where can we find your boards?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, I think the best thing for me and for this business is not to stay local so everything thus far is digital. So find us on Instagram or our website, it’s Timber Surf Co. on both @timbersurfco and timbersurfco.com. They’re likely from time to time, there are boards floating around Santa Cruz or some of the more, you know, regional California areas for sale in some shops, but generally the work we’re doing right now is custom based. So right now we’re building out about three and a half to four months.

Imi Barneaud: That’s this pretty good that’s good.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, ideally that means comfortable, but I would like someone if they want a board to reach out and then I could build them a board near immediately, I don’t want folks to have to wait that long. But at any rate, yeah, just definitely contact us through the website or through Instagram, and we’re happy to get a custom board done.

Imi Barneaud: And did they travel well then, can you sort of put them in the board bag and ship them on a plane and things like that?

Ryan Lynch: Yup, 100%. I mean, you’ve seen how foam boards can end up at the end of a plane?

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Ryan Lynch: That’s such a terror, that nothing you wouldn’t be able to hurt one of these in a board bag.

Imi Barneaud: Right. That’s so cool.And the fins, like Futures, or FCS, do you sort of use the same plugs?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. Oddly enough, everyone has been Futures thus far, willing, you know, it’s no different to me, whatever you want, it’s your board, it’s got to fit within your means and your quiver. So whatever the heck you want. But everyone thus far has asked for futures and that’s both in the single fin, or you know, just general thrusters or quad setups.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. Excellent. This is so interesting and I love the fact that you couldn’t, you take the sort of reprocessed wood and you can turn it into a surfboard, that is such an inspiring way of upcycling and recycling, it’s just really, really cool. Move on in this conversation to have the generic questions of what I’d like to ask my guests. Do you remember what you felt when you caught your first wave?

Ryan Lynch: I definitely remember a few waves. I remember the day leading up to surfing and I actually, I mentioned right? Does everybody break their board or ding their board? I dinged my board the first time I was paddling out surfing.

Imi Barneaud: No.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. I didn’t learn on a big wave storm or a longboard. I learned on a shortboard, it was like, I don’t know, six, four Al Merrick sashimi model I think it was. And yeah, I dinged it, big hole right in the bottom the first time. I didn’t know any better, I kept surfing on it. But anyways, that aside, there’s a few waves early on I really remember, one of them, I was lucky enough to go to Peru, not on a surfing trip, but I spent a lot of time there just vacationing and kind of taken an extended trip with the family, and then additionally to that just by myself. And I got to go to Chicama Peru, which is the world’s longest left hands point break. And Oh, my gosh, what a wave that was and, you know, I was still a beginner, but a wave of that caliber didn’t really matter. I managed to catch a wave and just get such a long ride. I think that was the first time I really was able to climb the face, and pump, and do something other than just go straight. So that was amazing, I still can kind of call back that feeling.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. And when you did your trip down to central America, did you get lots of waves in there? Just stop at all the mythical surf spots?

Ryan Lynch: Absolutely.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. That was the goal for me. We did split the time between mountains and the ocean, my wife is from Colorado and she’s definitely more of a mountain girl. She surfs now, but yeah, it was a good balance and we did surf all the beautiful big waves that are famous down there. Scored really well on some of them and got skunked, was looking forward to Escondido and it was like two to three days, in a few days we were at Escondido. So that didn’t quite work with lots of other good waves.

Imi Barneaud: So you really, you like challenging big waves then?

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, I’d like to be comfortable. So I’m not a big wave charger, but you know, I still like to push the limits a little bit.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent. So what do you think of the phrase, do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. Do you think that you’re applying that principle right now?

“If you have an idea and you have a passion, just go and do it and don't stop. If you… just keep working towards something, there's nobody that's going to get in your way. Not nowadays. Everything is possible.”

Ryan Lynch: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, there’s always going to be elements of work. I don’t think there’s a way to do solely what you love and to sustain that. There’s gotta be little pockets that have to support that maybe aren’t within your wheelhouse. For me, like I was saying earlier, it’s the strict business side of things that feels like work because it’s such a challenge to me, but truthfully I have never, never in the past year and change working on this business, I have never woken up and not wanted to go to work, to go to the shop and to build. Yeah, so fortunate about that. I just think now and the economy that exists in the world, and being 2019 with all the tools and resources we have at our fingertips, there’s so many ways to make a living. And so I really just want to encourage everybody else, if you have an idea and you have a passion, you just go and do it and don’t stop. Really, if you take the marathon point of view and you just keep working towards something, there’s nobody that’s going to get in your way, really. Not nowadays, everything’s possible.

“There's always going to be elements of work. I don't think there's a way to do solely what you love and to sustain that. There's got to be little pockets that have to support that, that maybe aren't within your wheelhouse.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. You’re at the Freshwater Pro recently, did you expose your boards there?

Ryan Lynch: I did, yeah. So that was, you’re asking about Sustainable Surf earlier. They were kind enough to invite me. And so they had a booth there, and they were just demonstrating a few of the more major initiatives that they were involved with at the moment for just ocean conservation. And they had a few foam core eco boards and they asked me to bring a board as well. So I had one of my wood boards on display there.

Imi Barneaud: And what was the feedback?

Ryan Lynch: It was fantastic, It was fantastic. I mean, it was such a huge spectacle of an event. Thousands of people, I don’t know, maybe eight to 10,000 people or so, showing up. So a great exposure for me. I spent a lot of time watching the wave and not, I was a little bit selfish with that, you know, not standing in the booth as such, but yeah, overall, there was a lot to see, a lot of cool stuff going on. The Cigarette Surfboards was there, had a chance to see that.

Imi Barneaud: Yes, I’ve heard about that.

Ryan Lynch: Had a good chat with them.

Imi Barneaud: What do you think of that?

Ryan Lynch: Oh, my gosh, it’s great. It’s great, it’s such a good idea. I mean, honestly, I don’t know where they’re going, where they want to take it, but what they’ve been able to do thus far is amazing and they have such terrific exposure as they should. It’s a cool, really cool way to identify a problem, or to promote a problem. And I think the takeaway, a cool little conversation piece I got from them is that they’re not trying to just say, Hey, look at all the cigarette butts out there, you know, let’s repurpose them and use them in something, that’s not really the case. But they’re really trying to use the surfboard as a platform to fund some kind of documentary, or docu-series, or of sorts about how folks flick the cigarette and how that, you know, 30 years ago was this really cool, beautiful piece of cinema and it was the cool guy, “thing to do” and it’s not anymore. It’s such a trashy thing to do now and they’re really trying to highlight and push that and kind of just build this, what do you call this subliminal messaging to say, Hey, you’re flicking a cigarette that’s really uncool. Here’s an example of 10,000 other people who flicked a cigarette and, you know, we picked them up and put them in a surfboard.

Imi Barneaud: It’s true though.

Ryan Lynch: That’s how cool, what a cool concept.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Oh, excellent. Excellent. So, I was just wondering if you had any sort of specific books, or podcasts, or things like that that inspired you on your journey to self employment and to your new project.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, I podcasts all the time. Always listening to podcasts, the stories behind the brands, like “household name” is a cool one, I just like learning a little bit of the backend behind various businesses. And there’s one specific podcast, I even re-listened to it again last night just because I love it so much. It is the story by Guy Raz, and it’s the story of Yvon, I don’t know how to pronounce his last name, but the founder of Patagonia,

Imi Barneaud: Chouinard, well in French we’d say Yvon Chouinard (french accent) but yeah, you say it in English.

Ryan Lynch: I won’t pronounce it, I’ll leave that one with you. But yeah, that story is really profound and just hearing, it’s certainly an outlier. You can’t expect to start a business that just does what he does, that’s what his business has done. But that was a really motivational story to hear specifically because his founding principles were not to make a ton of money, or to rural the world, or you know, govern the market. It was just, Hey, let’s make products better. And yeah, they’re going to be more expensive, but we’re going to make them better. And also we’re gonna tell the entire customer base to buy less stuff. Hey, own less things, but Oh, nicer things. Own things that last. Yeah, such a cool story. I think it’s called, How I Built This is the name of that podcast with Yvon.

Imi Barneaud: Okay. We will put them in the show notes. We’ll put links to your business and also the podcast that you enjoyed in the show notes, and yeah. Are you a member of 1% for the Planet? Cause that’s part of their Patagonia kind of empire.

Ryan Lynch: We just reached out to them two to three weeks ago, and we haven’t followed through with that. There’s a lot of initiatives that we’re weighing as far as which ones to get involved with.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Ryan Lynch: 1% for the Planet kind of is like the most ubiquitous and easy, so I think we will end up.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, I’m a member. My personal business is a member of the 1% of the Planet as well. So yeah, it’s quite straight forward, it’s very easy to do, and easy to sign up.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, we are with Surfrider Foundation as well and there’s a couple that we’ve been talking with SmartFin, just trying to find out a way that we can be involved with them cause I think supporting oceanographic research is really key to us. And that’s a cool company and we’re trying to figure out, again, like we don’t make very many boards, the volume is just not there so I want them to be a partnership there. I think when we scale up, SmartFin would be a great company to support and to have support from. For those that don’t know, just simply, they make as it sounds, they have data and microprocessors inside of fins. And in our mind, we have brand ambassadors, like you said all over the world. Surfing with SmartFin, and these fins are constantly sending back data on ocean temperatures, and salinity, and all the various things there are to study, and just think that’s such a cool company to be associated with.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I guess we’re running to the end of this interview, which had been a fascinating conversation, I really appreciated it. I just wondered if you could finish a few sentences for me, they’re very short.

Ryan Lynch: Okay.

Imi Barneaud: So the first one is I LOVE.

Ryan Lynch: Sounds cheesy, my life.

Imi Barneaud: I MISS.

Ryan Lynch: Oh gosh, nothing. Is that lame? Is that really lame to say?

Imi Barneaud: No, that’s fine. That’s fine. I WISH.

Ryan Lynch: That more people could be crafting eco-friendly surfboards, and durable surfboards.

Imi Barneaud: And I WANT.

Ryan Lynch: To live happy and free, and promote others to do the same.

Imi Barneaud: Lovely. Well that’s a lovely way to actually conclude this conversation. Just good recap, your Instagram handle and your website.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, sure. @timbersurfco, all one word, no dashes spaces or nothing, just @timbersurfco on instagram, and the website is timbersurfco.com, and either way. Yeah, reach out there and we normally respond within a day or two.

Imi Barneaud: Great. Great. Well, thank you ever so much, Ryan, for being a lovely guest for this beautiful conversation, and I wish you well with your products and I hope to see maybe some timber surfboards in France one day in Europe.

Ryan Lynch: Yeah, absolutely. The day I come I’ll bring some boards for you, for sure.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, then we’ll take care.

Ryan Lynch: Okay, thanks Imi.

Imi Barneaud: Have a great day. Bye

Ryan Lynch: Bye.

Imi Barneaud: That was a delightful conversation. I love the way Ryan is living a fulfilled lifestyle, tinkering around in his workshop and producing some beautiful pieces of art. And the fact that, with his history at Tesla and his university training, everything is thought through and thoughtfully planned out on a computer before he starts chopping away at his resources. Anyway, check out his website, timbersurfco.com. And his Instagram page @timbersurfco to order your boards today.

The Oceanriders Podcast is a passion project and if you like it, you can support it in a number of ways. Number one, share your love for this podcast on iTunes by subscribing or giving it a few stars, or a review. Anything in this direction increases my ranking and lets people hear about my fascinating guests, and how they are creating a dream job too. Tell your friends, your family, and everybody by sharing the awesome content provided by my guests on social media. So number two, you can comment and join this conversation on social media. You’ll find links to my social media accounts on my website, theoceanriderspodcast.com. And you can connect with me on Instagram @theoceanriderspodcast. On Facebook, @theoceanriderspodcast. And on Twitter @ImiPodcast. And number three, join me for an episode or sponsor my podcast. Just send an email to hello@theoceanriderspodcast.com with a quick bio and I’ll take care of the rest. Everything, all the housekeeping out of the way, I would just like to thank Ryan for being such an inspiring guest and to thank you guys ever so much for tuning in this week. Until next episode, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves. Ciao.


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