Branches on the Burch family tree

My dad surfed a little in the early ‘40s. He mostly bodysurfed, however, and
played around occasionally on wooden planks at Santa Monica Pier.  Nonetheless, his stories and his encouragement in my early years were the primary stimulus in getting me to ride waves.

Ryan Burch with one of his newest experiments. Photo by Chris Ahrens

It’s only natural for a parent to pass on the gift of surfing. Famous father/son teams from the past include: Herbie, Christian and Nathan Fletcher; Pat, Tom and Joe Curren; and Joe, Josh and Joel Tudor. My attention has been recently trained on North County’s Jerry and Ryan Burch.

Jerry was in Maui in the late ’60s as a part of the migration of a South Bay crew. I didn’t meet him then, but would later be introduced by our mutual friend, surfer/filmmaker, Steve Cleveland. By the early ‘80s, Jerry had spent a decade in Maui and returned to California where he settled into North County life with his wife, Lindsay. It was there, 23 years ago that the couple had a son they named Ryan. From the age of zero, Ryan followed in his dad’s footsteps as a surfer. As a young teen, the kid was another hot young competitor, ripping through the NSSA on tiny tri-fins. By his late teens, however, his aspirations had changed somewhat. While he wanted to surf more than ever, competition had little to do with his career path. He was experimenting with various types of boards, including wooden Alia Surfboards from the ancient past to Carl Ekstrom’s recently resurrected asymmetrical designs.

Jerry, who had experimented with various types of surfboards way back in the early ‘70s, encouraged his son’s look into new shapes. The result of the experimentation on Ryan’s part opened up new worlds in finless surfboards, once cutting a piece of surfboard foam in two and riding the shorter half in the Windansea shore break. Other experiments by Burch the younger took the asymmetrical design further than anyone ever has by making the frontside rail nearly razor straight.

Of course surfing is for fun and both father and son are out most days of the week, having as much fun as possible in the water. From Swami’s to Seaside, you will find Jerry and Ryan, trading waves, with Ryan on one of his latest creations, riding boards from 10 feet to 4’11’.’ While Ryan breaks out whatever the swell calls for, Jerry is generally on a longboard made by Ryan. When the surf is huge, Jerry pulls out a big wave gun that Ryan made him for Christmas last year. That board usually requires waves twice the size of any found even on our biggest swells to really get moving. When it does reach speed, however, it cuts through the ocean like a hot knife through butter.  It doesn’t really matter what they ride though. Surfing on a piece of wood, or a precise carbon fiber composite is still about fun. And the gift of fun is not wasted on the father or the son, since riding waves brings out great joy in both of them. To see the way they apply use this gift is something that would make any father or son proud.

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