Asbury Park, New Jersey. In a gritty parking lot strewn with rusting car hulks and surrounded by barbed wire fence, we were greeted warmly by a tall and dusty Ryan Lovelace, who ushered us into the primitive surfboard factory he's been helping set up with Asbury Park local and owner of Glide Surf Co, Phil Browne. The place is fondly known as Heavensap. From the outside it’s anything but heavenly: shortly after Phil signed the lease, the building behind it literally collapsed to rubble, with little more than a raised eyebrow by the owner.
Ryan showed us around the glassing studio and then the shaping bay at the top of a set of newly constructed stairs, covered in fresh sawdust. A few moments into our discussion Ryan, who’d already shaped three boards by 10:00am, excused himself, disappeared into a nook at the side of the shaping bay and stood facing the corner. I peered after him into the bare, dark room trying to hear whatever he was mumbling. He turned around with a large Poland Spring bottle in his hands, cut off at the neck and full of yellow liquid. He walked over to a windowless hole in the wall and emptied it into the alley behind the building. "We don't have a bathroom yet. It's kind of a boys only hangout for now."
When Phil joined us from his store across town we sat down on scraps of wood, an old barrel and some pizza boxes to talk.
Phil began to tell us his story: "I started surfing aged nine - lived on the East Coast my whole life, mostly in New Jersey. I surfed competitively for 15 years, did the whole shortboard contest thing for a while. Got really burnt out on it and stopped for four or five years. Went to school in Boston and lived in Baltimore for a couple years. Then came back five years ago and started everything again."
"I had studied advertising and went into a big ad agency in the city for a while, found out what I didn't want to do for the rest of my life.... That's when I moved back to New Jersey and started thinking about opening my own store. It was about six years ago, in my mind that this alternative surf craft idea started to get a little traction. I was just over riding shortboards on the East Coast every day. The idea had legs. So many different boards to ride, so many different feelings to have; that's what started me thinking about having my own store. There was just Mollusk in Brooklyn - the surf scene in New York wasn't really such a big thing then."
"It's not like New York here [in New Jersey] - we live on the beach and guys just surf. The scene I've tried to create is getting good surfers on some different boards and just changing perspectives a little bit. Like Sam Hammer has seven Lovelace boards now. Sam still claims to this day that one of Ryan's boards is in the top three boards he's ever owned."
Ryan laughed, knowing the improbability of a hardcore performance surfer in New Jersey picking out this stick: "It's a Piggy Back - a fun sized board!"
Phil: "The reaction from people, in 2011 when I first opened, was "what is this?!" People were really tripping on this Mini Simmons I had, asking: "is that a knee board; is that a body board?" And then within a year people knew it was a Mini Simmons and how it worked. Pretty much every board I own is a demo board. It's funny how many people don't take me up on the offer... I personally no longer ride anything I would consider a shortboard. This tube board we've been working on - it's narrow, it's thick, it paddles like a dream, but it's like a low performance tube rider."