It’s early afternoon on a recent Tuesday in Old Town Goleta. The sun is hot — summertime hot — and a brilliant old beater of a bus is turning heads as it chugs its way down Hollister Avenue. The inside of the gold, white, and green 1948 behemoth named Ophelia is stuffed with things like magic crystals, wind chimes, folding chairs, busted surfboards, and a rusty wood-burning stove, but all of these treasures are unknown to the gawkers and craning necks. A refreshing breeze finds its way in through an open window and spattering of rusted-out bullet holes as the bus’s captain, Ryan Lovelace, arm wrestles the vehicle into third gear. “I expected more bras being thrown at us by this point,” laughs the soon-to-be 27-year-old as he glances over his shoulder at me. “Don’t worry; we will talk surf movie when the ride is over.”
The bus, though clearly functional, is still very much a work in progress, the latest project for this multitalented and disgustingly motivated young man from Seattle. You see, Lovelace, who moved to Santa Barbara nearly a decade ago to chase photography dreams at Brooks Institute of Photography, is that special type of person who both can’t sit still and has enough brain bandwidth to see all of his creative, do-it-yourself pursuits through to completion. He is a self-taught surfboard builder by trade who enjoys an international and quasi-cultish following (a professional development that hijacked his Brooks education before it really even started). He dabbles in web design and marketing work, tinkers with motorcycles, has a dog named Herbie that he reckons is his “spiritual leader,” and, as of this month, is a real-deal surf filmmaker, thanks to his first movie, Almost Cut My Hair, which is slated to premiere at the Marjorie Luke Theatre this weekend. “I need to use my hands,” concludes Lovelace when pressed for the reason behind his prolific output. “I feel unfulfilled if I’m not building or creating something.” And so it was only natural, I suppose, that as he started editing internet clips of people riding his surfboards, Lovelace would teach himself Adobe Premiere and eventually decide to add proper movie making to his résumé. Weighing in at roughly 50 minutes long, with heaps of aesthetically pleasing surfing from around the world on a wide variety of equipment — virtually all the boards seen on-screen, be they twin fins, single fins, quads or fin-less, are shaped and glassed by Lovelace himself — Almost Cut My Hair is one hell of a first-time effort. It’s also a refreshingly pretension-free blend of moody and melodic wave riding, set to a mostly original and equally moody and melodic soundtrack. It manages to achieve the true pinnacle of surf-film excellence; you actually want to watch it more than once. “Some people might hear about it and think, ‘Oh, it’s a retro movie.’ But it’s not; it’s just good, clean surfing with good music …. It really is a movie about what is happening right now and right here.”
Specifically, Almost Cut My Hair showcases the surf-sliding talents of the 805’s most groovy young lions of style, people like Trevor Gordon, Travers Adler, Troy Mothershead, and Simon Murdoch, alongside decidedly less local but equally groovy wave riders like Ryan Burch, Cyrus Sutton, and Ari Browne. And, while familiar haunts like Rincon and Sandspit get the bulk of the on-screen coverage, the footage, much of it shot by über-talented surf documenter Mike Kew, is of Lovelace-influenced surf action from spots all over the world, including India, Bali, Mexico, and Australia. Add to this a soundtrack comprising musicians like Johnny McCann and Landon Smith, all of whom are personally connected to Lovelace (and many of whom actually ride his boards), and you get a film that is essentially a zero-budget, homemade affair. In other words, Almost Cut My Hair is as much about “good, clean surfing” as it is about Ryan Lovelace’s own handcrafted, Santa Barbara–centered universe and all the wonderfully skilled people who inhabit it.
Almost Cut My Hair premieres this Sunday, May 26, at 7 p.m. at the Marjorie Luke Theatre (721 E. Cota St.) with live music from the soundtrack. Tickets are available at the door for $2. For more info, visit rlovelace.com.