Some would say the surfboard is already a work of art. Twenty-two-year old world class surfer, Christian Wach, sees it not only as a work of art, but also as a canvas for his brush.
BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA — Born in San Clemente, California in 1989, renowned surfer Christian Wach (pronounced “Wa”) first climbed on a surfboard at six-years-old. Not that it was much of a board, as he recalls.
“It was an old Capo Bay with the corkiest airbrush to match, duct taped rails and a semi-busted side fin.”
Board quality aside, from there on out he was hooked and has since put together an impressive resume for a guy who is still only twenty-two. Wach’s surfing accolades include taking first at the Noosa Noseriding Festival from 2007-2009, being voted #1 longboarder by Surfer Magazine’s Hot 100, and he’s been on the cover of several top surfing magazines worldwide.
Then there is his artistic side. Along with writing songs and making short films, Wach has had a love of painting since childhood. “I have enjoyed drawing since I was very young,” Wach said in a 2010 interview with the surfer site, Liquid Salt. “My uncle Kenton is a successful oil painter and my great uncle was a famous Mexican muralist.”
It was this fusion of a love for painting and surfing that inspired Wach to launch his own company, Canvas Surfboards in 2009. Joining up with longtime friend (and former babysitter) Ryan Engle, the pair set out to start an underground, artist-based label specializing in custom made surfboards. And business is booming. One of the pair’s boards is ridden by actress Blake Lively of Gossip Girls fame, in Oliver Stone’s latest movie, Savages.
Canvas Surfboards recently announced a distribution deal with Busan’s Gwangan-li surfshop, Kai Surf, so now you can pick up one of Wach’s unique creations right here in Korea. Haps had a chance to talk with the California native recently about both the art of riding and making surfboards, his dream surf companion and what advice he has for Korea’s fledgling surf culture.
Ask the average guy on the street and he will say surfing is a “sport.” Ask a surfer and they will describe it as an “art.” What is it about surfing that makes it art?
Surfing is an art because it’s very personal. You can go out by yourself and surf and really make what you want of it. It’s a close connection to the ocean and it brings out someone’s true style.
Speaking of art, you’ve made a name for yourself not only riding surfboards, but painting them. How did you get into that and what are the personal rewards you get from both riding and designing boards?
I’ve loved to paint my boards since I was a little kid. I came across an image of (surfer) Joel Tudor in a magazine and asked my dad to help me paint my board the same way his was painted. That was it, I was hooked. That was the first time and the last time I ever needed help because I picked it up so quick out of the love for doing it. I just always had a vision for my board and wanted it to stand apart from others while knowing I made it look that way.
Let’s say someone invented a time machine and you could surf with anybody during any time period throughout the ages. When, where and with who would you surf?
I would probably go back and surf with one of my favorite surfers by the name of Tom Blake in the 1920s. It was just such a unique time and era in surfing. Surfing was just being born really. I’d be curious to see how those old boards rode and how I’d be able to surf on them. Of course, it’d be awesome to meet Tom Blake and Duke Kahanamoku (Hawaiian surf pioneer) too since they were friends.
The surfing lifestyle elicits many images in the average person’s mind. What’s the good, the bad and the ugly in the life of a sponsored surfer?
The best part is going to a new place and scoring fun waves with no one really out. Those are the perks as a pro surfer, but there is also the behind the scenes. Your boards not showing up, driving for hours on end, sometimes frigid water depending on where the trip was. I mean pro surfers do work pretty dang hard to get those amazing moments that we all see in surf media.
Korea is just getting into surfing. It’s rarely going to get the big waves like other spots in the world, but the passion is there. What advice would you give to the burgeoning surf scene here on the peninsula?
I would tell people to go out and have fun! Watch what the guys in the movies are doing and imagine yourself doing it. Wanna do an air? Go out and try it over and over even if you you can’t do it for a while. That’s how you learn. I also think it’s good to realize that with little surf, comes different board choices. If the waves are small, take out a longboard and have fun on it! Learn how to walk the nose, hang five, hang ten. When the waves get bigger take your shortboard out. Don’t assume one board is made for all wave sizes. The cool thing about our line up of boards at Canvas Surfboards is our boards cater to people who just want to go out and have fun. They are easy to ride and we even make a mini longboard that surfs like a longboard and a short board. Just ride what’s fun!
Related Article: “Surfing the New Korean Wave.“
Lead photo by Kathy Cacicedo www.kcphotographer.com
All other photos courtesy of Christian Wach.