Rachel Lord shaped her first board at age 33.
“It felt like a culmination of a lot of different areas in which my life had been previously compartmentalized when it came to, like, sculpture, painting, surfing,” she told me. “It felt like the creation of a funnel in which all of the different areas of my life could come together, and so I was hooked, and never really stopped, and kind of reformatted a lot of things in my life to be able to keep doing it.”
Her original plan was to make visual art, mainly sculpture. She’d graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, done a long stint in New York, and was living in LA. After finishing work for a major exhibition, she felt a certain void.
“I just had no idea what to do with myself, with my energy, how to structure my life, any of that,” she said. “I started meditating and focusing on more spiritual pursuits.”
She soon found surfing, or rather surfing found her. Not long after that she started shaping. This pairing—shaping boards, riding waves—has become the core foundation of her life.
Rachel lives in Ventura. We spoke at her shaping room in Camarillo.
JB: What do you like most about shaping?
RL: Every time I come to it it feels fresh. For me, it’s like you’re working subtractively with shadow. It’s like you’re just constantly removing shadows, which I find really satisfying. I love the way that at different stages it mirrors different things in my life I’ve loved. When you’re working with the surform, it reminds me of cross hatching, but it also reminds me of the groomer lines on a perfect, morning groomer ski hill, and looking down and analyzing those curves with that texture on it gives me a satisfaction that reminds me of carving a perfect line on the first tracks of the day. I also love them as blank canvases. They’re the ideal surface to paint on. It’s like this big absorbing watercolor paper. I love foiling. And then I love surfing them, that’s also the most satisfying thing.
JB: When did you start skiing and when did you start surfing?
RL: I started skiing when I was two in Colorado. I started surfing in 2016; I got my first surfboard for my 29th birthday. I started surfing right after I quit Adderall, and in some ways quit thinking of myself as a certain kind of artist, or at least pursuing a certain type of career-driven art.
JB: How long were you on Adderall?
RL: I was prescribed to it when I was 14. I took it in extreme amounts every day until I was 28.
JB: Has surfing has been a kind of salvation?
RL: Did surfing saved my life? Yes, it did. I think I’ve spent my whole life searching and praying for a funnel that was big enough that it would motivate me and inspire me artistically, physically, creatively. I was looking for something like that to ground my life. And for a long time, I was looking at art to be that thing, but it wasn’t the whole picture. It neglected the athlete part of myself, which is a big part of who I am. And also design, and functionality, and really serving a purpose. But having that something that is so constantly inspiring, and connecting me back to the earth and the elements, and allows for that funnel in which any input related to surfing can come out—there’s just so many ever-inspiring aspects of it. I don’t have to be on speed to be motivated to have the best day that I can. Now it’s just the excitement of the day itself. And the possibilities of it through surfing are enlivening in a way that I had prayed for before I found it.
Check out Rachel at @lordbords, lordbords.com, rlord.org. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Trent Stevens