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Blind Optimism | The Lineup

Over three years, friends and creative collaborators Daniela Laborinho Schwartz and Lukas Olesinski created a 100-page coffee table book from scratch that showcases the intricate lives of long-term Isla Vista (IV) surfers. Started while college students at UCSB, the two learned many unexpected new skills to publish the book on their own. Thus far, they’ve sold nearly 500 copies and have their book in shops near Santa Barbara and throughout the California coast. Learn about the process in the story below. 

In December of 2023, Lukas and I drove to an LA port warehouse to pick up 50 boxes of our freshly printed books. Surrounded by 30 semi-trailers in a massive parking lot that contained all kinds of cargo, we waited for our boxes and merely hoped our two SUVs could fit the books. 

Isla Vista (IV) (2021)

Kevin and Bela Lafferty and Chicho, Isla Vista (Jan 2022)

Lesson 1: When creating a book for the first time from scratch, you quickly realize blind optimism is your best friend. 

Inside those boxes was The Lineup, a 100-page coffee table book created by Lukas Olesinksi and me about the relationship longstanding surfers form with their coastal community. It started with a shared curiosity between two friends about who the “locals” really are in a town of 97 percent college-aged kids. So we banned together, an aspiring writer and photographer, to create something tangible that shares untold stories of IVs surfers. Little did we know where the idea would take us—we were simply excited to create something special for us and our community. 

Our first step was finding sources. Some surfers we already knew through countless overlapping surf sessions, and others we met through sheer curiosity. Early one morning, when Donna was walking back up the Dreamies staircase with her board under her arm, I gathered my confidence and asked her, “Have you been surfing here awhile?” That was the first of many times I asked that question. 

Mila Berntsen surfing Devereux (2021)

Aaron Howard, Isla Vista (Feb 2022)

Shae Walker, Isla Vista (Feb 2022)

Lesson 2: Asking a surfer about surfing will almost always lead to more conversations, and for my sake, more potential interviewees. 

Next, we organized photoshoots, began writing and captured the stories. Lukas photographed each surfer in a location that symbolized home with their favorite board in hand. He chose a golden hour, sunrise, or landscape that could rightfully convey the surfer’s connection to IV. Meanwhile, as the stories progressed and begged to be reviewed, I turned to my friend and personal favorite wordsmith Ella DeAmaral to copy-edit my words into publishable material. Ella rocks!

Lori Givans, Julie Schneiderman, and Donna Davirro at Devereux (2021)

Lesson 3: When creating a book from scratch, it’s quite awesome to have tons of smart and talented college friends around to support and encourage you. 

Each week, when we thought we were nearing the end of our project–hah–we discovered another step involved. And as these months progressed, Lukas’ and my goals changed. We wanted to do the sources, the project, and the time spent justice so we decided to go even bigger and make our zine into a coffee table book.  

The Lineup became our priority, often trumping other plans. We spent countless nights staring deeply into Lukas’ monitor deciding which of our 50 cover options would be the one. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, I promise you, font and color choice are worth a couple thousand more. On one occasion, while temporarily living in San Francisco, I dropped everything and drove six hours south when Lukas informed me that the elusive Randall Stoker was spotted back in IV.  While our curiosity to tell a few Isla Vistans’ stories fueled a joint passion for creativity and storytelling, the interest and enthusiasm of those we interviewed helped fuel our seemingly endless endeavor.

MJ Butts, Isla Vista (April 2022)

But, when we transitioned from bookmakers to book publishers, we entered unchartered waters. It was high time to ask our good friend “blind optimism” for guidance. We dove head first into printing protocols and fundraising tactics. We researched various surf-related publishers and talked to the famous Santa Barbara publisher, Tom Adler, for advice. If we wanted to maintain our envisioned design and quality standards, we needed to self-publish the book making our next task relatively straightforward: raise $14,000. 

Lesson 4: Kickstarter rocks. 

After some heavy debate and research, we chose to do a month-long, all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign to kick off our marketing and crowdfunding careers. Having a limited timeline was as terrifying as it was strategic; we were fired up. We told everyone we knew about the project and asked anyone remotely interested to consider pre-ordering a book. When we weren’t at our day jobs, we were running around Santa Barbara sticking fliers onto phone poles. If my day didn’t start and end with another email, then something felt wrong. With varying degrees of success, we pitched to surf shops and boutiques why our first-ever passion project deserved a spot on their shelves. Via Instagram, emails, listservs, family, and friends, we kept spreading until a class of ‘88 UCSB alumni and my distant relative in France knew about the book. 

Again, the support and stoke from our community was unparalleled, further boosting our ambition. I watched the campaign grow with arguably concerning obsession. Could we pull it off in a month? On June 29th we did it, we reached a total of $14,850 to publish and print The Lineup! Our book was coming to life! 

Reaching that goal was the pinnacle of this project. For three years, Lukas and I’s conversations revolved around creating the book. We knew it could be done, but we never imagined how; now looking back I think the secret ingredient was teamwork. Be it typeface and colorway ideas, opinions on interviewees, or encouragement to send that email to Patagonia, we had each other’s back. We persevered when emails got dismissed, design errors were found, and shipments were delayed because we were in it together. Reaching the funding goal was the moment we realized unimaginable goals are indeed achievable. 

Quincy Smith, Isla Vista (Jan 2021)

Lesson 5: A lesson that Lukas constantly told me: the best goals and projects don't take months, they take years.

Even after reading the stories and staring at the photos hundreds of times while producing the book, some of the themes inside the book and lessons learned throughout the process didn’t dawn on us until after the project was finished. Originally, we knew we wanted each story to be unique and that we wanted to represent various aspects of the surfing community. However, it wasn’t until after we finished the book and publicized it that we noticed we unintentionally united various generations of IV surfers. 

Each story tells of an individual who has surfed in IV for over 10 years and what they’ve witnessed. Camille Ysbrands notes the growing dangers caused by more people and toys in the surf break. Randal Stoker recalls the dune buggies racing down the beach in the 70s and 75-year-old Hank Pitcher recounts when pirates and chickens were his neighbors on Sueno Rd. But, the stories also display inclusivity, hardships, and environmental changes in the surf. Surfer MJ Butts elaborates on the warmth they experienced from the surf community when they changed pronouns. Additionally, nearly every surfer noticed the rise of women in the lineup in the last ten years and the predominant positivity in the water. Not everyone likes the inevitable changes, but just about everyone can relate to the wild and youthful spirit they feel in IV.  

After sharing the book far and wide, we realized the population of over 25-year-old Isla Vistans is far greater than 3 percent. Thousands of us will forever consider Isla Vista home thanks to the inclusive and genuine environment that the longstanding locals continue to foster. There’s a camaraderie towards the town that quickly surpasses the 1-mile square radius and just seems to stick with you; a lesson I came to learn afterward. 

To boil the bookmaking and publishing process into one overarching takeaway is tricky. (However, as a journalist, I can say it's to never forget to ask for an age without a birthdate.) I loved sharing one’s connection to the sea and the history of a place. But, I also loved standing by at photoshoots and editing on InDesign. I loved seeing a project through and sharing the stoke with others. But ultimately, making a book is a lot like Isla Vista’s surf scene: it has many, many layers and if you stick at it long enough, you’ll start to peel them all back. 

The Lineup playlist for WIG..enjoy!!!


Daniela Laborinho Schwartz is a storyteller, creative producer, and environmentalist. She can’t decide where to say she’s from, but San Francisco and Portugal are her go-to answers. She’s worked in a variety of sectors with the continuous overarching goal of simplifying and solving coastal issues. With a UCSB bachelor's degree in environmental studies and related work experiences, she’s equipped with cross-functional skills and communication tactics. Her most recent projects include writing and publishing a 100-page book with Lukas Olesinski, in which she led a $14,850 marketing campaign to fund the book. 

She’s spoken and competed in three international ocean conferences including the UN Ocean Conference in 2022 and Global Wave Conference in 2023. In February of 2022, she and her team were first-place recipients of Sustainable Ocean Alliance’s (SOA) 2022 Ocean Hackathon and in June of 2022, she was awarded Wavemaker of the Year by the Surfrider Foundation. The Inertia, SavetheWaves Coalition, and The Bottomline Newspaper have published her writing. 

Lukas Olesinski, a versatile freelance photographer and filmmaker, draws upon his enriched academic background in Earth Science and Environmental Studies at UCSB to craft compelling narratives that advocate for environmental protection and human connection. Inspired by a deep connection to the planet, Lukas aspires to create stories that shed light on individuals intricately linked to the Earth, aiming to instigate impactful change that addresses the challenges faced by those most affected by climate change. Driven by an evolving passion for photography and filmmaking, Lukas is committed to producing meaningful and impactful visual narratives that resonate with audiences. His portfolio reflects a journey of growth and a dedication to storytelling that leaves a lasting impression.

All photos by Lukas Olesinski except photos of Lukas by Daniela Schwartz

UCSB Alumnae Publication Announcement (2023)

Some of the Surfers in the book:

Julie: @ecostiks

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