Mike Lynch fell in love with the sport of surfing at a tumultuous age, 14. However our story here, all starts through skateboarding - a backward introduction to the ancient sport of wave riding through the modern sport of concrete plank pushing - and it is important that we air that out before we dig into surf talk. You see, the introduction to board sports as a young Californian is not only pertinent to your outdoor knowledge but also critical to your overall growth and likeability as a local ‘grommoisseur’ (def. Grommoisseur - a Connoisseur of grom hood; yes, we just made that word up, you’re welcome). Being an Encinitas Native, young Mike would usually be very close to the beach with a clear view of someone like Joel Tudor properly putting a log in hover or the local legend, Jeff ‘Rat’ Battisti having a shred sesh on one of his backyard made boards but his interests somehow remained in the streets, with his core group of street skating, hill bombing, break anything in their path rippers.
“Around 13 years old, my crew and I (5-7 homies at any given point during the day) would get sick of skating our home-made rails and boxes in the neighborhood and send it over to the developing Target Center, as we called it (this was the developing consumer center with a bunch of mega stores in it on Encinitas Blvd) to wreak havoc on new rails and gap opportunities. There was this one gap we would call the BBQ Galore Gap because it was in front of an unopened store called BBQ’s Galore, obviously, and it was about 5ft wide with a 4-5ft drop over some cactus and succulents. Needless to say, a couple of the homies got shishka-bobbed at that gap but I really cut my teeth at that spot (literally, lost my two front teeth) and became heavily obsessed with street skating after successfully landing a fakie tre-flip over this thing. After that, it became all about VHS home film submissions to our local skate shops (RDS and K-Five) to become sponsored groms who got free shoes and boards.” -Lynch
Endlessly chasing that feeling of gliding down the face of a wave, for Mike, is really born out of finding the biggest hills in his neighborhood and bombing the hell out of them.
“There was this insane rush we would get by sending it down this hill in our hood, that was literally a Yosemite level grade, with a gnarly 45 degree turn at the bottom. If you played your line right you could take the turn in full speed with your hand on the ground, like a bottom turn on a big wave. I mean you would go so fast on this thing that speed wobbles would start 10meters into it and it was easily 400 meters long. We would keep it as straight as we could, to collect enough speed and then take these absurd bottom turns at the end of the hill. It was that feeling that got us into the idea of surfing.” -Lynch
It seemed it was the mixture of endorphins, adrenaline and serotonin that kept him returning to the biggest hills he could find and eventually this led to water sessions. One of his pals gave him an old Tony Staples shortboard one day and forced him to come with the fam to a day trip down to south San Diego to a place called Blacks. Mike hadn’t heard of this spot at the time but his parents were skeptical of him going as they knew it as the nudie weirdo beach but against their better judgement, they let him go anyway, ultimately giving into his addiction and ongoing obsession to find perpetual motion through board sports. When they arrived at the beach, the groms were cut loose after a quick talking to:
‘I just remember being told “when you get down there just hit the beach and run to the water, don’t spend too much time looking around!” Well when we got down to the beach, the first thing I saw was a huge set of waves and my heart rate immediately spiked but that was quickly trumped by a huge set of boobies cruising down the beach. We looked left and what-ya-know, there's some dude hanging dong waving at us and smiling. We were totally spooked so we just ran right out into the water. Then I proceeded to basically drown for an hour. Following that Blacks attempt, I didn't even try to surf for years.” -Lynch
Some years later after graduating college and returning home to the West Coast, Mike was forced to face his fears of the Ocean and surfing. His good pal, Jack, had recently moved home post college as well and was surfing everyday, living down in PB. On a perfect summer day, Jack forced a 10' log on Mike and took him out for a session at PB Drive - that moment forward, surf became an everyday activity.
"I'd never attempted to surf anything but this little Tony Staples potato chip and that didn't go well for me because I had no idea what I was doing. That show Rocket Power made it look so easy when we were little dudes." - Lynch
Jack and Mike would session big waves, little waves, fat waves, anything they could paddle into. From Carlsbad to Mexico, for the next 2 summers it was non-stop discovery and amazing. That's the time zone, in between 2010 and 2012 when Mike fell in love with surfing and all of its surrounding attributes.
"My interest in shaping was actually peaked for the first time when Jack and I were getting custom spears made by RAT over in Encinitas and the dude let me in on his process a little bit. I think I just may have been asking the right questions here and there and then before I knew it, I was in his backyard shed looking at old shapes of his and conversing on how different rails and concaves and template combinations are endless and the creative key to it all." -Lynch
Mike finally got bit by the shaping bug in 2011. He actually started by shaping hand planes out of rare woods, for body surfing. That lead to the real thing and he shaped his first solo board in the backyard of his parents house and it did not go well. At the time however, he had been working with wood a lot, building furniture, skateboards and hand planes for body surfing, so putting two and two together, he tried again with wood, referencing an ancient Hawaiian design called an Alai-a.
"Its essentially a flat plank made of Pauwlonia wood but has very intricate subtleties about it so its simple in theory but challenging in actuality." - Lynch
That shape came out really well and he was hooked but still, that was a wooden shape (much more forgiving than foam) not a modern foam shape. About a month later, Mike was at a local surf shop and came across a stubby planing hull from a brand called Blackbird Surfboards. He ended up asking the clerk about the guy who shaped it and within 5 minutes had an email for Tim Crozier, the owner of Blackbird. He emailed him that night, was at his house the next morning and watched 2-3 custom boards be shaped by Tim in his bay that week. Within a month, Tim was allowing Mike to mess around with foam using his tools as long as the bay was clean and tidy and well-respected. This opportunity is what really ended up cementing Mike to shaping because Tim was one of the last greats, a self-taught, real live hand shaper.
"It was just a natural connection. It felt like I had known Tim my whole life. At the time, I was going through some heavy personal stuff and every time I would go into the bay to watch Tim, my mind would completely clear. It was pretty much, meditation." - Lynch
Tim shaped his first board in '95 under a mentor by the name of Rueben Garcia and from there went on to learn by working in glassing shops and shaping rooms for master shapers. He ran the Chris Christenson factory for many years and aside from being a local legend in San Diego, he is best of pals with the best underground shapers in the game, namely Master Wayne Rich. He operates a rad board building room in Oceanside, CA where legends like Barry Snyder are right next door and ready to talk shop or collab at any point.
"I rarely ever had someone "showing" me how to shape. I learned way more from mistakes. In '08 the opportunity to run the shaping rooms for the show (referencing the Board Room Show) really expanded my abilities because I would sit and watch the masters shape and I would also get to work with them directly which gave me access to them. That has opened doors that no amount of money could ever do." -Tim Crozier
Somewhere within the next 3 years, Tim and Mike decided to collaborate on an asymmetrical shape to enter into the best in show contest at Board Room Trade Show. It was a planing hull turned into an asymmetrical rabbit's foot with off-set fins and a deep rolling channel out the back. That board won a best in show ribbon. After that, Mike started asking Tim more and more questions about rails and the intricacies of using his planer and certain tools in new ways and at some point, it was just time to leave the nest to create his own methods building upon his new knowledge.
Fast-forwarding to present day, Mike has been shaping for 9 years now and has experimented in designing a vast amount of different styles from fishes to logs, hulls to asymmetrical and any and everything in-between. He strives to blend classic style with modern surfing, creating a well rounded selection of surf craft under the moniker of Imperfects. Every shape is made right here in San Diego start to finish - shaped by Mike Lynch and then glassed at either the Gordon & Smith Factory or the Blackbird Factory.
The next chapter of Imperfects Shaping:
Mike has recently become obsessed with the design and development of asymmetrical craft due to a close relationship with Carl Ekstrom, the Father of Asymmetry in the water, and hopes to reinvigorate assym knowledge in the surf world. Stay tuned for more on this front soon.
Where did you grow up?
It all started in Palmdale, CA. We were next door neighbors to Afroman (The Rapper), no kidding. After heavy drug activity in our neighborhood, we moved to Encinitas, CA. This is where I was introduced to my first true love, skateboarding.
What age did you start surfing?
I was 14 when I tried to surf for the first time. My skate pals, one of which who was from Hawaii, brought me down to Blacks one day and I was baptized, literally and figuratively. After a terrible first attempt, my pals thought it was only proper that they brought me to D-street. One of my buddies gave me an old beat up Tony Staples potato chip and I would take it out every day for about 2 weeks, then I gave up on surfing altogether and went back to skateboarding and football. It wasn't until many years later, post college athletics, that I came home and started seriously surfing. I would say at age 22, I became an actual member of surf.
When did you start shaping?
I started shaping at age 22. My interest in shaping surfboards was just as strong as my interest in surfing them, from the onset. It seemed I could never find exactly what I wanted to ride so I felt like I had to make what I was looking for.
Who taught you to shape?
Tim Crozier of Blackbird Surfboards in Leucadia, CA.
What inspired you to start shaping?
Firstly, the need and want to bring retro shapes into the modern world. Secondly, I walked into a local moto/surf shop one day and came upon one of Tim's planing hulls and the natural flow of the shape, got me so enthused to sculpt my own little stubby version of this thing people were referring to as a Mini Simmons. So I guess you could say, the Mini Simmons got me inspired to start shaping - the idea of the planing hull as the first short board in surfing was so interesting to me because I enjoyed riding stubby weird short stuff that reminded me of skating.
What shapers are you most influenced by?
Wayne Rich, Terry Martin, Donald Brink, Danny Hess, Bob Mitsven.
Where do you mostly surf?
A local spot.
What boards are you currently riding?
Something I call 'The Little Fucking Nightmare' - I've been trying for years to blend the shortboard with the fish and I think this one finally got there. It's a proper shortie in the front half and in the overall template but maintains the volume of a performance fish and has a hybrid style swallow tail with a single exit channel. Its a fucking rocket and a nightmare because its really fucking hard to shape (for me).
What is your favorite part about surfing?
Not knowing the troubles of the world while I am in the water and the natural expression that surfing demands from you.
Any new shapes coming out soon?
Yes, a shit load.
Most challenging things about shaping?
Rails. You are not a real shaper until you know how to take clean design into the 3rd dimension, rails.
What do you want to see/help change within the surfing/shaping community?
Recycling. I want to find a way to close the loop on these terrible materials we use.
Where’s the surf industry headed now?
It's heading back to craft. The underground shapers and board builders have kept this thing so strong that it can truly whether anything the world throws at it. Computer shapers, Chinese manufacturers, pandemics, none of that shit matters when you compare it to the strength of the shaper's relationship with creativity. It's just so intrinsic to those who properly learn the skill that it becomes something you can never walk away from. Furthermore, surfing is the best habitat for fun and people will always support fun in one way or another.
SHOP SURF CRAFT
The FrontPorch Woman said:
What a bright, interesting young man. He has such intelligence and peace for someone so young. Perhaps it can be attributed to his upbringing.