A passionate writer, surfer & shaper, Bryan Knowles fell in love with the ocean at an early age. Shaping his first surfboard at 14, he later wrote his college application essay about board building, which brought him from his hometown on Cape Cod, MA to Stanford University.
Bryan now resides in San Clemente, CA as “Rider-in-Chief” of Ride Anything Surfboards and shares his surf-inspired poetry on his website SurfPoetry.com. He is currently involved in writing his own children’s book, Where the Albatross Soar, and is working hard on finding the funding to turn this project into reality (read the interview below to find out how you can help). Although board building and writing are not often thought of in the same sentence, we salute Bryan as he has found a way to turn his passions into his professions.
What types of writing do you do? Is there a certain type/genre that you prefer?
Well, lately I’ve been writing a lot of emails (laughs). It feels like I’m always writing one thing or another, whether it’s poetry, marketing copy, business plans or just jotting down random ideas. I don’t know that there’s necessarily a specific type I prefer, but I definitely enjoy writing poetry. It’s fun incorporating verse & rhythm when I’m trying to convey my thoughts so I guess in that sense, poetry can feel a little more artistic & creative to me than other forms of writing. There’s just something therapeutic to me about stitching words together, so when I’m confused or stressed about something it’s nice to just sit down with a blank page and see what it turns into.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your writing?
Everywhere. I grew up on the Cape (Cape Cod, MA), so I’ve always been surrounded by the ocean and nature. Just being outside and observing all the life & little things that make up our surroundings is really inspirational. I write a lot of surf-inspired poetry and definitely have my best ideas and feel most in touch when I’m in the water. It’s amazing how small the ocean can make you feel because there’s so much to explore & we don’t get all that much time to do it. Puts things in perspective & keeps me motivated.
Sounds like you’re a bit of a naturalist too?
Ha, ya I guess that might’ve sounded a little granola crunchy huh? I’m stoked on technology too though; it’s pretty amazing. I just never had video games as a kid & used to be really jealous of the kids who did, but in retrospect that was one of the best things for me because it forced me to be outdoors and realize how amazing nature & ecology are. Pure entertainment!
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Was there a defining moment where you said, “This is the path for me…”?
Hmmm. There has definitely not been a defining moment & I don’t know that I’m ready to say that it’s “the path for me” or anything like that. I mean I definitely love writing and always will, but I really like having lots of different projects going on, especially the shaping & entrepreneurial stuff. Keeps things fresh & interesting. Let’s see how this first book goes before we go labeling me a writer (laughs).
Besides the words on a page, what does it take to be a successful writer in this day and age?
How should I know? So far all I’ve sold is a few Surf Poetry Calendars! I guess it seems like success in most things is a combination of authenticity, connecting with people, marketing yourself well and a bit of luck. In terms of children’s books I think it’s recognizing that kids are digesting literature much differently than when you or I were young. I hope there’s always a place for old-fashioned print, but it’s no secret that kids now are most engaged when they’re interacting with literature on the iPad and other digital devices.
You also shape surfboards. How did you get started in board building? And what are your inspirations for surfboard design? What types of boards do you make?
When I was 14 I broke my ankle and couldn’t play basketball for a season so I ordered a blank, cloth and some resin and made my first board. The glass job left a lot to be desired, but the shape was descent and it surfed surprisingly well. I loved the idea of riding something I made so I turned our woodshed into a shaping bay and started making boards for myself and friends. I knew early on that pro surfing wasn’t in the cards for me, but was getting really positive feedback on my shapes and felt like building boards for some of the best surfers and waves in the world was within reach. My company is called Ride Anything, so I make all types of boards from performance shapes and grovelers to guns, logs & alaias. I’ve kinda been on a square-nose kick lately and boards like our Chicken Nugget have been really popular.
As someone who started shaping in the backyard, what would be your advice to a youngster who wants to make their first board?
Go slow, light hands near the stringer, don’t cut your finger off.
What do you see as the future of surfboard design.
People will always be tinkering with shapes, modernizing old concepts and calling them “revolutionary.” The real breakthroughs will be in materials that are more durable and sustainable without sacrificing performance. I hope we can explore new ways to fine tune flex properties at different focal points throughout the board. We all need to adopt more environmentally responsible processes, myself included.
Carissa Moore. I’ve seen her out at Lowers quite a bit lately just killing it. I hope she gives the boys a run for their money at Triple Crown!
You’re based in San Clemente, CA, but I understand you have roots on the East Coast as well. Can you tell us a little about how you made it out west?
I grew up on Cape Cod, MA and absolutely love it there. There are some amazing waves when it’s on, with a really solid crew of local surfers. When I started looking at colleges I was pretty set on California and applied all over the place. Somehow I tricked Stanford into accepting me and was really fortunate to go there. That place is just so special and it didn’t hurt that Santa Cruz and OB were about an hour or so away. I still love the east coast and make it back often, but for the past 9 years CA has been home.
You are working on your book Where Albatross Soar. Tell us a little bit about the book and what you are trying to convey?
Ya, it’s been a really fun project and I’m super excited about it. Basically it’s a surf- inspired story about waves and the big, spinning storms that create them. The best way to learn more about what I’m trying to accomplish with Where Albatross Soar is to check out the video on my Kickstarter page. I introduce & narrate the story there.
What was the inspiration behind writing a children’s book?
I’ve wanted to write a kid’s book for a while now. I think being part of a child’s development and influencing the way they think about things is one of the most humbling, inspirational things I can imagine. I can’t wait to see it come together and hope it becomes a story that inspires children to explore nature and appreciate the ocean a little more.
What’s your vision for where you’d like this book to take you?
Hmmm. I don’t really know. Indo would be nice! Honestly, I’m just excited to get it out there and see what people think. Hopefully it leads to more books, maybe not all children’s books, but stuff that makes people think, without being overly preachy. If I can use my writing to inspire people to get out, enjoy the outdoors and develop a stronger appreciation for nature I’ll be very happy.
How can people help?
Check out Where Albatross Soar on Kickstarter. Watch the video and if you like it I hope you’ll consider supporting my project & spreading the word, which will allow me to move forward with the next phase of the book. There are some pretty cool incentives including pre-ordering signed 1st edition copies, dedicating or sponsoring the book and even one of a kind, collectable surfboards. We’re also looking for back cover endorsement quotes from any top pros & surf icons out there.
To support Where Albatross Soar, visit & share the following link:
To contact Bryan directly you can email him at email@example.com
Or check out his various work at: