Some say idle hands make for the devil’s handiwork. If this is true, then we might start classifying Tyler Warren as the patron saint of a new generation of surfers who splatter as much paint and resin as sea foam at their favorite point breaks. Okay sure, sainthood is admittedly a ways off. But speaking with Tyler is like talking to a craftsman who seems to know something you don’t. It’s almost as if he sees something in the world that you don’t see. Maybe it’s his SoCal roots. Maybe it’s his family history in the arts (his mother’s great uncle was close friends with Frida and Diego Rivera). Regardless, once you get a whiff of his sun-soaked paintings and boards you’re able to get a taste of his vision, his love for the ocean, and his passion for the craft.
And when he’s not travelling the world and gliding about on his hyperstylistic wave machines (which you may have seen in the film “One California Day”), you’ll probably find Tyler slinging foam in the shaping bay, editing films, painting in his tiny studio, collaborating with international brands like Japan’s Master-Piece, or just casually traversing the California coast with legends like Shawn Stussy. More than anything, what makes time with Tyler so interesting isn’t so much his involvement in surf culture, but rather his drive to make, create, and continually evolve his journey as a modern craftsman. We found time to talk more about his work, his Art Deco inspirations, and what pushes both him and his handiwork forward.
You stay super busy. What’s a day in the life of Mr. Warren? Usually I make coffee in the morning. Then check the waves. But you know, I go in cycles – sometimes shaping, sometimes art, or making a movie. It’s kind of rotating all the time. I usually like to surf once a day, but I’m learning to give myself breaks. Well I’d say you definitely fall into the category of a busy craftsman. What in your own words is craft? And why is it so important to you to create? I think it’s the idea of having something in your head and then bringing it to life. Or bringing it to reality. I think the coolest part is having a vision and being able to follow through and make something new. I’d say the most important part of craft is vision and being able to bring it to life.
Who or what do you look to for inspiration? I love old illustration art books and anything Art Deco or Art Nouveau. I could just turn two pages on some of those books and be mind-blown because these guys create such amazing work. But I think a lot of times I kind of wait for inspiration. Like if it’s raining I tend to get inspired to hunker down and get some work done. I guess you could say I live my life by the tides and the winds. Let’s talk about your boards. They nod to the past as much as they look to the future. How would you describe the boards you make? Well, I grew up longboarding so I like that feeling of glide and not having to work too hard. So I guess you could say that’s mainly what drives my shapes. But I’ve always short-boarded as well, so I guess you could say that keeps me messing around with shapes and fin setups. I basically started making boards when I was 14 and I guess my path has seen me evolve from longboards to guns to thrusters, quads, and bonzers. Basically just trying it all and trying to master the craft of every shape. You know, trying to be a shaper that can make anything work, but with a constant flow and style to how they ride.
What are you most curious about as an artist and surfer? I think just that feeling of escape. You know, when you’re zoned in on something and nothing else matters. Like with shaping when you close the doors and you’re completely zoned into the moment. Surfing, art, and shaping all need you to be totally in the moment where nothing else matters. You’re 100 percent in tune with your surroundings, movements, and creativity. You’re really in your own head, but you’re also not in a kind of strange way. You were recently hanging with Shawn Stussy and surfing around the coast. How’d that come about? I met Stussy through my friend Andy Davis and I ordered a board from him (and he ordered one from me). And the craziest thing is that outside his shaping room door he has a little drawer full of photos of boards. And it turns out he has photos of my boards as inspiration! And then I look at his computer and see an old shot of me doing a bottom turn in Australia! So, you know, he’s fully jazzed on what the young crew is creating and he’s fully revived on creating boards like he used to. And the guy runs 100 mph!