Late last year, withitgirl spoke with surfer and artist, Kimmy Haines about a new custom she picked up from shaper Rachel Lord. Kimmy described the purchase as the “board of her dreams.” This only made us more curious. Who is LORD and why are her boards so damn awesome? We were lucky enough to catch up with Rachel and learn more about this rad artist, stylish surfer, and shaping magician.
WITHITGIRL: Tell us, who is LORD?
While I would love to tell you that I am the great-granddaughter of Lindsay Lord- author of the naval study into hydrodynamic planing hulls which are influenced Bob Simmons leading much the no drag “hydrodynamica” we see today- the truth is Lord is just my last name and I am of no relation. It is much easier doing business under your last name than a fictitious one and you don’t have to copyright it.
ALSO, I have read “lord” is Aussie slang for “the man” which is funny.
Did you make art growing up or grow up around a lot of art that influenced you?
Growing up I made a lot of art, yes. Mostly observation drawing when I was a kid, very zzzzzzz draftsmanly stuff. I had the benefit of going to schools with good art programs and was exposed to a lot of different media and styles. My parents also collect contemporary art so I had the unique experience of growing up around a lot of world-class stuff.
Before surfing, what were you up to?
Art used to be, well, my whole life. I graduated from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) in 2008 with a degree in painting, and much like many other myopic and idealistic 20 somethings fresh out of art school I was convinced being a corny art star was the only possible course in life. And I didn’t do too badly with it on paper but you can’t eat your resume and my illustrated conspiracy theory paintings weren’t a hit with the collectors. I felt like I had something more to interpret and respond to, something positive that I loved but hadn’t found yet.
FOLLOW ME, if you will, on a journey back to 2015. At the time I was heavily prescribed, dependent on, and addicted to Adderall. All my life force and focus were going into my art career as I prepared for my participation in the 2015 New Museum Triennial in New York coinciding with a presentation of paintings at Art Basel Miami. I was overworked, strung out, joyless, and I felt like my work reflected that. It was not at all how I had envisioned these milestones feeling, for which I had been deferring my enjoyment of life in the moment, and neglecting my physical body.
Upon shipping work for the triennial, I had a breakdown/ revelation/ angelic intervention that led me to quit taking Adderall the day that work shipped, cold turkey, at the height of my art career (up to that point). I realized that everything I had done in my life thus far had been driven by speed, and not the feeling of my higher self. I prayed that I would find something that would inspire me and bring me joy without the need to synthetically manufacture that enthusiasm. At first, my body was depleted, and I was chemically very out of balance. I began to recover from my dependency and found Zazen meditation which helped me develop a work ethic and peace of mind for perhaps for the first time in my life.
Growing up I was a ski racer and gymnast but ever since graduating high school, I had neglected the athlete in me. I started diving at public pools and going on long-distance bike rides to get rid of the excess energy. Eventually, someone lent me a surfboard. It was buckled and I was as Colorado as you could get. I paddled it out at the first spot I saw on the PCH, my guess is that it was Topanga or Sunset, my memory is fuzzy. I paddled straight out and into a wave, caught it, stood up, and remember feeling so regal and tall watching the water rush by and some girl who was telling me off for not wearing a leash. I didn’t even know what a leash was but I was hooked after that and would beg friends who knew slightly more than me to take me out with them. I remember it was almost painful how badly I wanted to rip and not knowing if I would ever get there. I got my first surfboard (a $200 used Fineline from some jock-shop) at age 29, and took it out the El Porto and rode white water until I could turn and go somewhere else. It was so hard passing through KOOKDOM, and I was told over and over that you can’t get good after your teens by so many I didn’t know if I would ever be competent but I was determined, to some, maybe overly so.
What is it about surfing that you love?
My favorite sensation on Earth is taking turns at speed, and the flow state of pure presence required by real critical waves large and small. Surfing is the first thing I found in this incarnation that is for me, driven by the pure joy of doing it. There is ego and bullshit in it like anything else, but in surfing, the Dharma is an accelerated course for the self-aware learner, a sharpening stone upon which one is constantly dragging one's blade of self. Surfing has required me to examine my interactions, responses, anger issues, competitiveness, jealousy, boundaries, communication, and conflict resolution skills more than another pursuit in my life. It is constantly humbling and smoothing out the kinks in my personality and teaching me daily what true joy is. And I believe the discovery of one’s true joy is the reason for incarnating on earth.
What brought you out to California?
In 2011 I was living in New York City, rather unhappily. My grandpa went into hospice in San Diego, and I came out to California to be with him at the end of his life. I had extra time on my ticket and stayed with my wonderful cousin Tini in LA for two weeks. I went back to NYC and immediately packed up my stuff as I had seen a better way. I was also acting at the time and thought I might want to do that. I didn’t.
How did you get into shaping?
FOLLOW ME AGAIN, on another round-about journey. At RISD, before I transferred majors into painting, I spent a semester in the sculpture department. I was in love with figure sculpture, carving, and working with steel but didn’t feel like it was a good conceptual match to the sort of work I wanted to make. There were 2 sculptures I made though which gave me the “foiling bug” though I didn’t know how to categorize or develop it at the time. One was a miniature sand dune I made out of wood. I was hypnotized imagining then creating the planes and smooth edges the wind would shape as I emulated this action with my chisel. I would fall asleep dreaming of the perfect wind-shaped form in my hands. Another was a large wishbone I made out of hollow sheet steel. The form of the bone I was referencing was so perfect in the way its lines concluded into the only planes they could be. There was an inevitability of the form I obsessed to recreate. In forging, foiling, I got my first taste of bending rails. I would later rediscover that feeling making my first board.
I also tuned my own skis from time to time as a kid and the training I got from a Swix rep has to this day has been the most applicable hands-on training I have received when it comes to shaping rails. No overhang. Now bear with me, I told you this would be a journey.
FAST FORWARD to year 3 of my surfing. I moved to a warehouse in Ventura. I had found the joy of my life in surfing but was now seeking a way to combine the parts of myself which had become compartmentalized: the surfer I was becoming in one box, and “the artist” in another. I desperately wanted to try my hand at shaping but every time I asked someone, young or old if they would help me out it was always interpreted as me asking them out. I got fed up and grabbed some scrap foam from my local surfboard supply shop, Fiberglass Hawaii, and made a miniature model of the board I saw in my head— a hulled and spooned, thick and bouncy mini-Simmons. I learned a lot on a manageable scale about the process and materials from that little fingerboard. It even had guitar pick keels (in the totally wrong spot.) After making 3 of the mini replicas, I realized I was nearly spending as much time (and receiving as much toxic exposure) on the mini boards and it was time to go for the real thing.
Tell me about the first board you shaped?
The first board I shaped was a 5’4 version of the aforementioned 5-inch version: a 3 inch thick mini Simmons, single concave, mostly down rail, with a step deck and glass on keels. It had a 3D blue spray on the deck with a hand-painted eye with a wave breaking over the iris and red and yellow stripes on the bottom. It was glassed by Bob Haakenson.
The opportunity to make it came after a car accident left me out of work and unable to surf. A friend’s roommate's dad let me use his storage container shaping bay at a very special place called Surf Rodeo (which I ended up renting for the next year.) I made that first board in a neck brace and remember everyone tried to temper my expectations of it but remarkably, it came out pretty damn close to what my mind's eye held and surfed better than I could imagine. Nothing could top that feeling of my first wave on my first board. Sadly, I lent that board to a now ex, who lost it sailing in the channel islands. It may still be floating out there to this day. It was a great excuse to break up and a fitting metaphor but I do hope I find it one day. Let me know if you do, it has a big #1 on it.
Who are some of the people you look up to in the surfing community?
WOW. There are soooooo many people I look up to let’s see.
FIRST OF ALL, my wonderful boyfriend Mikey Ratt. He owns Packratt Records in San Diego and is the most passionate collector and maker of strange surf craft I know. I love his art and dedication so surf custodianship and history and I just love him! Rick Griffin is like, number one, artistically. I’ve become aware of Mike Griffin through Mikey and I’ve definitely got to stick them in there because every time I see Mike Griffin’s boards, they just have a spirit and even though they are rarely signed you can always tell they are his. Everything is so perfectly wabi-sabi and considered that touching the rails has the quality of ringing a Tibetan bell. I’ve only gotten to ride one of his boards, it was an asymmetrical keel for the right points and was the coolest smoothest feeling thing. A 5’2 that paddled like a longboard. There’s Cher Pendarvis, whom I have had the pleasure to meet through Mikey as well and as a female shaper and artist, she is a constant inspiration. Lance Carson recently moved into the shop I work out of which has been a dream, getting to pick his brain and talk story and I can’t wait to work in proximity to him.
My favorite Ventura-area shaper is probably Ron aka Caveman. He does things like making cyclonic rails, wild hot curl-ish fin nubs, and combining it with his personal style, art, surfing, philosophy, and politics in a way you have to see to believe or begin to try to understand. There are so many shapers and surfers to look up to in Ventura but I have to say I look up to the groms in Ventura a lot. They are respectful, funny, smart, driven, humble and they shred. I didn’t grow up surfing so I’m always impressed by the maturity of some kids who do. Cat Slatinsky and Kristy Murphy of Siren Surf Adventures have been hugely influential on me since I met them. Cat has given me advice 3 times and each time it wildly helps my surfing and actions in the water in a profound way. Kristy’s style, ability, and grace is equal, only to her goofiness and hospitality. Jen Smith is my role model because she surfs perfectly and is always right. Last, but definitely not least, Ian Zamora. I worked out of his shop in Ventura and he has nothing but kind and helpful. I very much respect his craft and clear design/function. His boards are always "right".
How has your art influenced your shaping style?
I think it has made me a bit of a perfectionist. I'm used to spending innumerable hours on my art so the same goes for my boards. I also think it is important to have a point of view.
What are your goals for 2021? Surfing or not surfing related.
My New Year's resolution was to lie more. Sometimes you can benefit from holding your cards a bit closer to your chest. I would also like to get properly SHACKED and move to San Diego to be closer to my Hunny.
What have you been listening to lately?
Anything else you want to share that I missed?
KEEP YOUR EYES OUT for the documentary “SHAPE” which should be coming out sometime in the year. It's about female shapers.
What’s next for da LORD?
I've been learning how to glass which is ENDLESS, exciting, and very tough. I have a new appreciation for all those sanders out there. I want to make a spoon.
How do we get a LORD BOARD?