In addition to being his father's son, Ryan Hurley is a leading designer at Hurley International. He's worked on such projects as the company's now-famous Phantom boardshorts, and plays a critical role in determining and maintaining Hurley's relevance and style.
But today we're talking to Ryan not as a high-powered corporate designer, but as a guy who grew up surfing in Orange County, and who's connection to the ocean and to Orange County's beach culture runs deeper than most.
OC Weekly: What can you tell us about growing up in Westside Costa Mesa? Did the city affect your attitude and identity as a surfer?
Ryan Hurley: Well, yeah. The geography for sure. Being close to the ocean, you know. I was a surfer. I definitely had a passion for surfing. And for the culture. The culture had an influence. But there was like a grit to it, too.
OCW: What kinds of things struck you as being gritty?
RH: The history...there's the art scene, too. But mainly the cultural clash, I guess. There were all these different groups living together. In Costa Mesa you have this weird mix--entrepreneurs, artists, surfers, skaters, immigrants--all living in the same place. It just has a cool street culture.
OCW: You surf Orange Street alot, and some other local spots. Have these waves helped shape your style and the way you approach surfing as a sport?
RH: Yeah, for sure. I've been surfing there since I was a kid. I take [my five year-old son] Ashton out there now. He's a good surfer...SInce I was young, I've always been into waves that excite me. I like thrills. Those waves--River Jetties, upper West Newport, the speed, sandbars, steepness, fast double-ups. I like that feeling of danger.
OCW: Will you surf there when it's bad, like when it gets really walled?
RH: Well, yeah. When I drop into a closeout, if i can cram one turn in or do an air, I'll go out for sure. I try to get that heart-pounding. That's why I love surfing the Wedge. It's so heavy, your heart is just pounding. That danger is what I like, so...
OCW: How about Newport Point, when it gets good once every three years or so?
RH: [Laughs] Yeah, it gets good. There are some rad pictures of my dad surfing there. He always took me out surfing there when it was good. When I think of Newport Point, there's really like this strong feeling of father-son bonding there for whatever reason.
OCW: So how would you compare these spots here at home with all the places you get to surf now--Indo, Tavarua, pretty much anywhere?
RH: Well, it's a totally different thing. At those places, it's surfing. Here, it's less of a journey. More of a hang-out-all-day, beach BBQ kind of thing. Playing with different boards, fun, food, very social atmosphere. More of a backyard thing. And that's the best.
OCW: Speaking of playing with boards, you've been riding some different equipment lately. Alot of people are a part of this new "ride everything" mentality. Surfers like Rob Machado, Joel Tudor, Alex Knost and of course Laird Hamilton and those Hawaii dudes. Do you see yourself as a part of that surfing ethos?
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RH: I just thrive on challenges. If i don't know how to do something, I want to learn how to do it. But i go for excellence. I've been doing alot of stand-up paddling, getting pretty good at that. It's a whole different perspective on waves and on the ocean floor. And riding this Alaia my dad has at his house. So hard to ride, but it's awesome. I just like the unknown--surfing, freediving, boats, stand-up...whatever it is.
OCW: And you attended the annual "Waterman's Ball" at the Ritz Carlton this past weekend, right?
RH: Yep. It was a rad event. Really emotional night. Rob [Machado] got the Waterman of the Year award. And Paul Watson, the Captian of the Sea Shepherds, was there presenting Dave Rastovich's award. I don't usually get weird around famous people, but I had to get a picture with Captain Paul Watson. That guy is so gnarly. 75% of the earth is water. The Waterman's Ball is a bunch of people who think on a higher level when it comes to water. We have a shared interest because their environment is the ocean. It's their backyard, their playground.