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Daniel George: Putting Out Positive Vibes Using His Creativity

Listen on: Spotify | Apple | Google | Breaker | Overcast | Radio Public | Pocket Cast | Stitcher

Sixteen years ago, Daniel George moved to Malibu from Gainesville, Florida. He graduated with MA in Ceramics 10 years ago and has been working as an artist since then.

Describing himself as a batch artist, Daniel is a ceramic artist, a surfboard shaper, glasser, surfer, all rolled up into one incredible human being with so much artistic creativity and love for the environment. 

Daniel shapes surfboards out of old foams giving them a new life by turning them from trash into something beautiful. As a ceramic artist, Daniel puts his creativity in creating beautiful, functional ceramics that can touch people’s lives and become part of their daily existence.

He was also one of the finalists of The Inertia Film & Photo Challenge 2021: Short Profile Film.

Social Media Profiles:

Topics Discussed:

  • How did a Florida boy end up moving to Malibu?
  • Story of meeting Kelly Slater on IG?
  • Ceramics—what got you into that?
  • Do you think there's energy infused in the ceramics as you're making them?
  • What’s your style?
  • How did surfboard-making come about?
  • What's special about glass-ons?
  • The Inertia Film & Photo Challenge 2021: Short Profile Film
  • As a foam gets older, it doesn't surf as well: What's your take on that?
  • How do you decide what to work on in the day?
  • How do people find your stuff?
  • Tell me more about your lighting designs
  • What was your first surfboard?
  • What was the first board you shaped?
  • What's your best surf trip?
  • If the aliens come and they tell you you can only take one board with you on this new planet, what board would it be?
  • What advice would you give to your younger self?

Location: Malibu, CA

Transcripts

Daniel George, welcome to the Saltwater High podcast. How are you, brother?

Thank you very much. I'm doing well. Happy to be here.

Yeah, man. Super stoked. We have a common friend, Christian.

Yeah.

Who dates your girlfriend's..

Sister.

Sister. Yeah, that's it.

Correct.

So what do you think the odds are of 2 Malibu boys hooking up with East Coasters?

I know. It's wild. I met my girlfriend through him because she was out here visiting and visiting her sister. So, kind of meant to be. A little out-of-the-way place but right place at the right time on a full moon.

There you go, dude. Got to watch those full moons. Yeah, man.

Yeah, love the energy there.

Yeah. So Florida boy, how does he make it to Malibu?

Oh, man. It was really pretty random. I grew up inland Florida, in Gainesville, which is a small college town in north-central Florida. And I applied for a Fulbright scholarship because I was studying Anthropology and I was really interested in Ethnobotany and so a part for a scholarship to go to the Andes and follow one of these healers around probably would have led me down all the plant healing medicinal stuff. And I ended up not getting that. But my plan B was to go to Central America and learn to surf. And I had stood up on a few waves in St. Augustine, Florida, which is about an hour and a half from where I grew up in Gainesville, and so I had a little taste. I've been on one little green face of a wave. And so plan B was to go to Central America and I had studied Spanish for 8 years, so it was an opportunity as well as to appreciate the culture, but to integrate with the language.

Super cool. So you land in Costa Rica?

Yeah, I spent 3 and a half months in Costa Rica and did a month in Nicaragua and a month in El Salvador, and yeah, lived in a hundred bucks a week and spoke Spanish and harvested mangoes on the way down to the surf. And yeah, I actually had Terry Martin single fin, one of the original Hobie Shaper. My friend worked for Hobie at the time. And I said, "I need to learn how to surf. Do you have a board you would sell me?" And my friend Boston sold me this beautiful 6'8 Terry Martin Egg single fin. And I went down there and it took me weeks to even just get out the back. The Whitewater is kind of my learning place for a bit. But yeah, I spent 6 months down there.

Killer.

Yeah. Really connected with the ocean and realized how much the water was important to me.

What year was this about?

This was 2004.

Yeah, interesting. Because I actually drove to Costa Rica from California. I was just wondering if it happened to be at the same time. But I was a little earlier. It was about 5 years before that.

I met a girl down there and later moved to California with her and we split and went our separate ways and I ended up in Malibu with her and I've lived here for 16 years.

Very cool.

It wasn't even really on my radar prior.

Yeah. Dude, that's amazing. Isn't the way life kind of twists and turns and you have no idea where you're going to end up. And here we are.

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Who would have thought? But yeah, I feel very blessed to live here and I love it. And yeah, the ocean has become a really important part of my life that I had no idea it would be when I grew up playing soccer, mountain biking, disc golf, all the stuff you do inland.

Yeah, super cool. And looking back on that trip to Central America, is there any particular wave that really stands out? Like if you think back, you're like, "Oh man, El Salvador or Costa Rica, Pavones."

I was really fortunate to experience a lot of different waves. I spent a lot of time in Santa Teresa and Malpais and then Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, just getting hammered by the beach break. But then when a big swell would come in, we would go surf some of those long left points down there. I surfed Boca Barranca more than I do Pavones. But yeah, I had a nice connection with the little family on the point there just on the river mouth. And so yeah, I went there a few times. Pavones is a beautiful tropical place. I spent my last week there, but I was in some surf in El Salvador that I would love to be in right now. It was like 8 foot and perfect at Punta Roca and I was getting just hammered on my single fin, going over the falls. I'd love to be there right now and try to pull in and do some laybacks. But yeah, Nicaragua was awesome with the offshore winds and I was in Maderas, this little tiny place at the time. There was just a chicken shack and a couple of rooms upstairs. Now, I heard the whole place is like yoga and whatnot.

Yeah, that's near San Juan del Sur, right? Down the south.

Yeah, exactly. But so, yeah, I was really fortunate to be in so much good surf, but yeah, Malpais and Santa Teresa was really the training grounds for me, just putting in the time. But all those point breaks are so beautiful down there.

Oh, dude, that was probably an epic time to be there to kind of before the crowds really hit hard about 10 years later. So stoked.

Yeah, it was pretty neat. I digested it later and was just kind of realized how lucky I was. But it was really nice to be just organic about it. And speaking Spanish for me, everything that I had learned just really started flowing. And my Spanish has stayed solid since then. So that was a really nice thing to do for it.

Very cool, man. Very cool. Alright. So I saw that Kelly Slater was on your Instagram feed. Tell me about that.

I was really fortunate enough to make some custom ceramics for he and his family via his girlfriend's sister. She commissioned a bunch of work for me and did some very custom stuff. Yeah, for him, I did Action, the dog, his awesome little dog getting barreled on a surfboard.

Very cool.

Yeah. Did some other yoga stuff for his mother-in-law, gal, and surf. Yeah, it was an honor to make that family that work. It was really neat.

Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about your ceramics. How did that all kind of come to fruition?

Yeah, as a kid, I grew up in an art family and sort of touched clay probably as a youngin. But then, actually, my second semester at University of Florida, where I got my undergraduate degree, I stumbled into a ceramics for non-majors class, and half of it was hand-built forms and sort of learning those processes, and then the second half was wheel throwing. And yeah, I just was just enthralled with it. And then basically, it was really fortunate because it's such a large university, they don't offer art classes to non-art majors. So the fact that they had a ceramics for non-art majors classes was really fortuitous for me. And so I basically once had my foot in the door, I ended up taking ceramics throughout the rest of my time there and just really fell in love with the process. I think a lot of the art that I've made since then, including ceramics, is such this amazing process-oriented work where I even like to recycle the clay and wedge it and then throw it and all the steps, all the firings, glazing, it just really resonated with me and be able to make beautiful, functional things out of essentially just mud, and then for them to be in people's lives and to create those familiar and awesome moments on their daily existence is a really neat sort of grassroots vibration that making functional ceramics has allowed me to do. My parents in Florida both have kitchens full of my ceramics. My brother, all of my family, friends are using my work. Even though I'm not there all the time, there's that reminder.

Yeah. Dude, there's something super special about having a killer piece of ceramic. When you open your cupboards, right? And I drink coffee every morning and my go-to is always it's one particular, well, it's 3 or 4 mugs that I got in Mexico in a place called Tlaquepaque and near Guadalajara which is known for their ceramics, right? And it just energetically, that mug feels different than any other mug in my whole cupboard. So I totally know what you mean. Do you think that some kind of energy is infused in the ceramic as you're making it? Or do you think it's just kind of a special thing that people have a connection to?

I think it's a combination of a sentimental and a tactile thing. Also just making things that people feed and drink themselves and their family, which I think is important. I feel like my hands are touching other people's hands when they're like the way that I finish that handle. That comfort that they feel when they pick up that mug in the morning, I do feel like there's a definite energy infused in that. And yeah, like I said, it's sort of that subtle grassroots, positive vibration that I think is pretty neat.

Yeah. If someone prepares food and they're pissed off or in a bad mood, I always feel like I can feel that in the food. It has to be a similar kind of dynamic happening in the universe in that stance, right?

Totally, totally.

Super cool.

Yeah, I think that applies to a lot of different art forms and connections throughout the world. But yeah, I think that's definitely totally true. Each person's touch is different. Yeah, I think it's a big connection.

So are you doing ocean-inspired? What's kind of your style?

So the foundation is functional, wheel-thrown pots. And then actually, a few years after I moved to California, I went back to school at Cal State Northridge and took a leisurely 3 years to get a master's degree out there. And I learned a lot of other processes. They ultimately to inform my work in ceramics. I did sculpture, printmaking, mold making, all these different things. And my ceramics is actually a lot of the surfaces are relief carved kind of like a woodblock or a linoleum block print, which is one of the processes I learned when I was out there. So I had a little background in wood carving, chip carving, and a lot of walking stick whittling and stuff that I did at little art shows in Florida prior to my falling in love with clay. So that reductive carving process really made sense to me with the carving of a linoleum block or woodblock. And so then I sort of amalgamated the surface of my ceramics with this sort of tactile block print look. So essentially kind of like what a linoleum or woodblock would look like. I kind of carved the surface of my ceramics like that. I was looking throughout grad school as I was more and more involved in ceramics, I was looking for a way to put more love into each piece and to be more intentional about each piece. Yeah, I was just looking for a way to make each piece more important. And so because it can become a little bit formulaic. With ceramics, you can just make a pot and dip it in a glaze and fire it. And some of these different kilns and different atmospheres that you can use create these really amazing effects. But where I was at school, we didn't have as many of those atmospheres in those things that where you could just do that. So sort of my style evolved in lieu of not having a wood kiln where you're having ash dripping down the pots. There's so many variations on that. So I think, yeah, that's how my style evolved from that. I'm fine. Sometimes I like to make a cleaner, more simple, just aesthetic with just a glaze, but I really like the way that a carved pot will sort of tell a story, and that texture, while it's an image or a pattern, will also reinforce the functionality of the pot because it's tactile, that carved surface.

So it's kind of textured? Is it textured? Yeah.

Yeah, it's textured. Yeah, it's textured.

Interesting. Very cool.

Yeah. So I like that about that because if you can increase the functionality of a functional pot, to me that's a win.

Yeah. Very cool. So I guess you didn't pivot but you layered, let's say, surfboard-making on into your artistic expression. How did that come about?

So I'd say about 10 or 12 years ago, I shaped my first board out of an old windsurfer. When I moved into Malibu, I met a guy and he turned me on to this whole recycling vegetable oil and so I bought a diesel pickup truck. So I've loved the idea of seeing these patterns in our culture where there's excesses and people don't see them as excess, they see them as trash. So recycling oil and running my truck for 130,000 miles. So from that same wear, I seen that in a lot of these older surf cultures, especially California, there's a lot of this excess foam lying around. So the combination of wanting to recycle, I was studying conservation and stuff in college, too. So I was always just like, save the whales, Greenpeace back in the day. That was my perspective, really. Conservation was important. So, yeah, so I just started messing around with recycled foam. And I have so much respect for shapers and board builders. I'm really just scratching the surface at 43 boards that I built so far. But yeah, so I shaped a few and then I had an art show called Sticks and Mud, which was recycled surfboards and ceramics at a gallery in Mar Vista. And I had shaped 6 Mini Simmons boards and I'd done India ink, rice paper lams and had somebody, Michael Emery, this awesome glasser down in I think he's in Orange County and Donald Brink, the awesome South African shaper—asymmetrical shaper—shaped all the fins and then Michael Emery laminated them all. But I sort of shaped the boards and conceived of the artwork. And so that was my first sort of presentation of my boards. And those were just arcane. I think my shapes are still really got a lot of room to improve, but that was the very beginning. And then from there, I just continued to shape a little bit. But then about 5 years ago, I went to France and Portugal and I was in Portugal, in a little town just outside of Lisbon and was got in on the building of 12 boards. And so I got to watch these boards get glassed. I'd like to teach art, but I also love to learn art. So when I was there, I was taking notes and shooting videos, and drawing diagrams about how to set fins. They were all glass-on fins that they were doing. So that's kind of the foundation of the boards I built are mostly glass-ons and I'm learning fin boxes now. But yeah, so when I was in Portugal for a few weeks watching that process, I got really excited to come back and actually start shaping and then using that glassing knowledge. So I probably shaped around 50 boards but built from the bottom up, 43.

Nice. And why glass-ons? What's special about glass-ons?

Well, that was what I've learned, that's what I was comfortable with. And then I also liked the idea of shaping a fin out of again, finding some cool redwood from some hand railing or something or whatever, wherever I come across it and shaping the fins and then glassing them on. Yeah, I was just comfortable with that process. And so, as far as the camber in the can and how to set them and tack and taped them.

I love glass-ons. I think glass-ons are super underrated in today's world. There's just a different feeling that you get when you surf with glass-ons. The way that they bend is different, the way that they snap back into place is different. I'm a huge fan of glass-ons. I think we should bring them back as much as possible. And so I'm stoked to hear that. And the Mini Simmons. I don't know if you know this, but I've been riding and shaping Mini Simmons for probably longer than a lot of people even knew what they were, right? Back in the day, I'd be going down the beach and people would be like, "What's that sort of longboard you got under your arm?" Right? So super stoked. I'm going to check out those photos after we get off. And I'd love to see that first 6 that you did, yeah.

Yeah, yeah. That shape for me just sort of I resonated with that. Our friend had one and so the first board I ever shaped was a Mini Simmons and my friend Gary Larson, shaper down at Hobie, kind of helped me finish it up. I think it was pretty arcane, but he helped finish that one and then had it glassed and I rode that thing forever. Hollow waves, point breaks, everything. It worked beautifully, a little 5'7 and so then that's why I made all those other Mini Simmons for my art show from anywhere from 5'1 to 7'11, I think, were those ones.

Oh wow. That's a big one.

Yeah. Those were kind of more just like Trimmers.

Yeah. One for Christian.

Yeah. That one was sold and then I kept one and surfed it a lot and then it snapped at Zuma. I put it in the wrong place, was going without a leash and that happens. But yeah, I think it's a great shape. I actually haven't made a lot of them since that time. I tried to explore all the different shapes - a Bonzer 3, a Bonzer 5, various log shapes. My Twin Pin Channel Bottoms, which is definitely a trend in the last few years, have been my most popular models. I shaped my first 20 or so just as a learning experience. And then I felt confident that people were going to be able to have a good time and that my skills were up to snuff. And then since then, people have been ordering boards and most of them that I've been making have been customs for other people.

Sweet. Yeah, I checked out. You are, I guess, the runner-up for a film that was on, what was it on?

Oh, the Inertia.

The Inertia, yeah. And I checked it out. Super cool. So you were shaping a 6'1. The Surf Wrangler, I love the name.

Oh, Foam Wrangler.

Yeah, Foam Wrangler. That's it, yeah.

Yeah, that was my 40th board, yeah, for my good buddy Mike, who was actually the first guy to order a custom board for me. And so then that was his second one. And yeah, he ordered a 7'4 which he just had a ball on. And I actually just kind of tightened it up and fixed it up for him recently. He rode it hard for a couple of years. And then he got a second one and he likes that little shortboard. He really likes it.

Nice.

Yeah, that was a really fun project. Really talented friend of mine, Kyle Stewart, shot and edited that and did a great job.

Did a great job. We'll put that in the show notes too so people can check it out. That's really cool.

Cool, yeah.

Yeah. And so tell me a little bit about working with old foam. Because I have this kind of I don't know if it's a theory or a hypothesis that as foam gets older, it doesn't surf as well. Right? So what's your take on that? And yeah, give me your position.

Yeah, less springy, less responsive.

Yeah, exactly.

I don't really have any experience. I've shaped one board out of a proper blank. I actually a couple a friend of mine actually took my first boards international and flew them over to Portugal. And so those were my first fin boxes. And that was actually someone left a blank in my shaping bay. And I had sort of had an outline for myself, because a lot of these older blanks, they don't have rocker because I'm using longboards, right? So they're pretty flat, which I like flat boards. So that was really my first experience of shaping new foam. So I don't have much to compare to. However, I feel strongly about the recycling, so I really don't want to buy blanks. So I would say that what I think about with the older foam is that even if the blank is not as strong or as new, I really like to glass it really well. So my glassing schedule's probably like the step up from probably what a lot of my boards are 6/6 in the deck and 6 in the bottom or logs I make are 2/6 on the bottom and 3/6 on the deck with tail patches. And so yeah, it's definitely a challenge. It's a whole art form just learning what is the best way to get the glass off for one so that you sell the foam the best. I've also learned about foam patching, so sometimes I'll have to cut out a section where there's a chunk in a rail and pop some old foam in so that I can get the outline that I want. Yeah, I don't know. Yeah, I guess I'm blissfully ignorant of what actual new foam is like but I just get so jazzed on turning an old piece of trash into something beautiful and functional. So I guess I'm moving forward like that.

Yeah. I did notice when I watched the film and I've seen some others it looks like you take off quite a bit of foam. So in that 6'1, I think that was a 9'6 or something in the beginning. So maybe as you take off those outer layers of foam, you really get into a functional blank that it feels more like new foam because you've taken off kind of those outer layer.

Yeah, it's definitely wider and fresher. I don't use a planer heavily because I'm not that good with the planer or love the tactileness of a sure form. But yeah, definitely, all that sort of delam, usually the bottoms tend to be better, but where someone's foot has been in the back and sort of maybe some water is in there, usually I'm trying to salvage and get as much thickness out of the blank as I can while taking enough of that off to make sure that I get down to that fresher white foam. But a lot of times, I take a quarter inch or a half inch off in thickness and then it's pretty white under there and relatively new. Again, with the heavier glass job compensating for the fact that maybe this blank is 30 or 40 years old. But yeah, yeah, I enjoy the challenge, all of it actually. Board building is a very humbling process coming from this comfort zone of ceramics for 20+ years and then just sort of biting off shaping. I recognize that you could spend your whole life just shaping and just that whole art. But I love transforming that sort of flimsy piece of foam into something you can really stand up and ride on and get barreled and do your thing. It's kind of magic to me.

Totally. And in many ways, when you're doing ceramics, you're taking clay, which is kind of dirt, and then you're turning into something beautiful. So in this case, you're really doing the same thing with surfboards. You're taking an old board that would be dirt, probably going to the landfill, and you're turning into something beautiful. So that's amazing. There's a friend of mine, I'll hook you up with her, she's doing art. She'll do big laminates. She's a professional photographer, so this might be a cool project that you guys could collaborate on. She'll take her professional artwork and then laminate it on the boards, right? Sometimes people surf them, but in many cases, they are just art. So that might be another case where you could take off all of the old parts of the board and the blank is actually a beautiful canvas for some piece of art.

I love that. And a lot of my boards are that. I would say that intersection I've been doing is these psychedelic tissue paper inlays. And I actually just started working with the company BoardLams out of Orange County. And a friend of mine, Greg, sent me a file and they printed his grandmother's painting on a piece of fiberglass and sent it to me and I laminated it on the bottom of a 7'7 Channel Bottom Twin Pin for him.

Sweet.

And he got chills. He got total chills seeing this piece of his grandmother's work glassed on. And it's really neat what they do. They really do a good job of literally just printing on fiberglass. It's kind of like a 4-ounce type cloth. And then, yeah, you laminate it under another 4-ounce or 6-ounce and do both at once. And yeah, I definitely see the intersection of art and surfboards. I feel like my place as a board builder is to create those special, one of a kind, special to me, special to the person that I'm making it for. In this modern world, the production of surfboards has really changed with all the shaping machines and the mass production. So I kind of like making this old-look. A lot of people think my boards are from the 70s when they're just fresh finished. They got foam patches and trippy little drawings and whatnot. But for me, I love that making those really special custom boards for people. So when I first started, I would do dog portraits or whatever, like send me a picture of your dog and I'll do a little India ink drawing on rice paper. And so I really like to take the opportunity to make each piece kind of an art form. But coming from this ceramics background, that sort of form and function and the balance of the aesthetic and the function is really important to me. So just like you put a handle on a cup, you glass a fin on a surfboard, I see this crossover of form and function. And yeah, I don't really care if they're perfect white whatever because there's thousands of those boards all over the place. But, yeah, I love just all the different ways that you can do it. And I think the surfboard is it provides a great canvas and I do like collaborating with other artists and in all mediums, but surfboards is a neat one. So yeah, I'm into making a custom board for this gal and she's going to paint the whole thing and then I'm going to glass it. So we've been doing some tests, so yeah, I really like that aspect of it.

So you get up in the morning and you've got ceramics, surfboards, I'm going to go surfing, you're probably doing other art too, I imagine. You seem like you have a lot of different expressions. How do you decide what you're going to work on that day?

These days, I'm trying to be pragmatic. These days, I'm trying to surf the one foot days less and wait till there's a little bit of a corner and it's two to three. I mostly surf Zuma because I don't like to get into the crowd point break dynamic. I love just getting out and getting a little close out with my buddies. So yeah, I try to make space for that. And I also try to work hard when there's no waves or small waves and work on my laybacks on shampoo treatments when there's waves. But I would say that I kind would describe myself as sort of a batch artist. These days, I'm really stoked on board building because now, things are happening, people are hanging ten, having a good time, really enjoying that. So, the newness of it and what I've learned over the last 5 years, everything has gone into all the board building. Now, I'm reaping the benefits of that, just seeing my friends having good times. But yeah, so I've been really fortunate to just kind of have board orders piling up while I'm working on my ceramics and then sort of back and forth. So I do some custom collaborations with different ceramic projects. And so I'll try to work on those and then the board order will pile up and then I'll go shape a bunch of boards. I'm realizing that I could work on 3 or 4 boards at a time. And I like to have my own little production line because I can easily do 1 board at a time, but I can laminate a board, cut the laps, put it on the shelf, and then laminate another and do that. So I'm trying to find that balance. But yeah, it sometimes is difficult to like what am I going to do today? I'm really blessed with having workshops in my neighborhood for all this stuff that I love to do. I do a lot of plain air watercolor and ink work. So if I'm at Leo Carrillo and I see a beautiful setup, I'll do a little line drawing. I'm working on a little coloring book series with my linework and watercolors.

Sweet, sweet.

Yeah. Creatively distracted and inspired simultaneously.

Welcome to the club, bro. Welcome to the club.

I feel really blessed to be able to do all these things and people appreciate and buy and have these various expressions of mine in their lives. And so that's kind of neat. I've realized that putting out positive vibes via using my creativity is really kind of the foundation for me.

That's beautiful, bro. How are people finding your stuff? Besides a podcast like this where we'll have all the links to everything, but are people ordering direct, or how does that all go down for you?

Let's say for the surfboards, it's really been this beautiful grassroots process where one buddy lives in Venice, he's ripping on this board, and then somebody sees him and asks him about them. My boards, they kind of stand out in the lineup. So people are always like, "What is that thing?" And he's a good surfer, right? So then his people see him having a good time and he's paddling circles around shortboarders. And so that kind of grassroots way it's happened. I think social media has a little bit of influence in there. Ceramics, again, it's a kind of a grassroots thing. I end up doing a lot of custom work. I started doing a lot of lighting designs these days with my ceramics because I've realized that that's a cool niche to be in and sort of to build. So I've got some of my sconces at this restaurant called Great White down in Venice next to Mollusk Surf Shop. And yeah, I've realized that that's kind of a cool and neat way to express myself ceramically. And I think unless you are sort of some famous artist guy or recognized in the academic world, neither of which I'm that interested in, I like for people to know what I'm doing. But I kind of also like to sort of have a low profile. So it's a tough one, it's a little catch-22 because coming from a small town in Florida, coming out to L.A., everybody's lunging for the limelight, and that whole trip is really not my vibe. But as an artist, in order to sustain myself with what I do, people have to know who I am and what I do. So I guess I used to just really downplay it. Now I'm actually really embracing promoting my work because otherwise, how am I going to make a living doing it? And so, yeah, it's a tricky balance, but yeah, people seek me out. But I think ultimately what I'm realizing is that I can spend a lot of time working on these very custom pieces and not make a whole lot of money. And money's not that important but you got to survive.

Yeah, for sure.

Ideally as an artist, it's neat to create something that embodies your aesthetic that people dig, that they can incorporate in their life. So that's why I'm getting with these lighting designs and I'm working on a little catalog right now to present these designs and put them out there so that I can say this is what I dig. These, I think, are beautiful. If you dig it, great. If you want me to make it custom, you want a different clay body or different clay finish, we can tweak that. But I like to sort of put it out there in that way and I'll always make custom work, but I kind of want to put my best design foot forward and I think people will dig that.

When you say lighting designs, what exactly are you referring to?

Started with table and floor lamps.

Okay. Got it.

Yeah. Down in Great White in Venice, they have sconces of mine on the wall, plastered to the wall with light shining down and up, and sort of really sets the vibe in their restaurants down there. It's sort of a mood lighting. And then I've got a series of lighting designs like pendants, something you would have over an island in the kitchen or over a bar or outside in a pergola in someone's patio area. So, yeah, just exploring all those avenues.

It'd be cool to have your ceramics at that place you're telling me next to Mollusk and then have your boards at Mollusk. You go "Hey, check out my boards next door."

Yeah, that would be really cool. Maybe that'll happen at some point.

Yeah, yeah, dude. I think you're on your way, bro, for sure.

It feels like the trajectory is right. Being a 40-year-old dude, figuring it out here out in the world, I feel good about it. Things seem to be heading in the right direction.

That's awesome, bro. That's awesome. Cool, man. I have a few more questions for you. What was your first surfboard ever?

So that was that Egg, that Terry Martin. I understood at the time what an honor it was to have one of his boards, but then the gravity of how cool that was, that that's the board that I learned on. And my buddy Boston did me such a solid and sold me the board and the fin for 250. Everywhere I went in Central America, people always were trying to buy it off me. They're like, "Well, that'll be a great lesson board for my this or that." I'm like, "Are you kidding me? This is my heart and soul." And I think that single fin, I eventually learned how to duck dive it and that opened up a whole world for me. But that sort of set my trajectory of surf style and moving to Malibu and then I met a guy who really was into traditional logging and he was like, "Get this 10'0 square tail nose rider." And we talk cross-stepping at an item. But that board sort of set that trend for me to go with the flow wave. I don't ride a lot of shortboard aggressive-type stuff or go-with-the-flow kind of boards. But yeah, that Terry Martin Egg.

And the first board you shaped, what was that like? Do you still have it?

I don't. I don't. So, the first board I shaped was that first sort of like a bullet, like a sharp nose Mini Simmons. And that was that board I chopped down from a windsurfer. So I had that one in the mix. And when I did my Sticks and Mud art show in Mar Vista, I had shaped 8 boards. And then I took them to the glasser. And he's like, "I think these 6 are really actually worth glassing." So that first one didn't really make the cut.

Oh, wow.

Yeah. I don't know. I think it end up being like 5'0 or something. I guess it doesn't seem like it was that good or whatever. So I kind of let it ride them. I don't actually know where that one ended up. I brought 8 down there and I picked up 6 finish stick or maybe that one ended up in the trash. I don't know.

Right. I remember my first board and I surfed it only once because I was like, "Oh, I got it glassed. I have to surf it." But it was so thin. It was way too thin and the rails were all wrong and everything was wrong about it. But I have to tell you, I don't know if I've ever had a similar feeling of riding the very first board that I ever shaped and then glassed. It's just amazing. But I only had once.

That 5'7 Mini Simmons that Gary Larson helped me finish up and then had that glassed, that would kind of fall under first rideable board. And that thing was a dreamboat. And later, it got smashed at one of these little rock breaks around here. And I still keep it around for a template. And that was really gratifying. I love that board. So I'm actually now that we're talking, I'm kind of inspired to shape myself a Mini Simmons because now I even have a better take on it. And what do I want the tail to look like in the rails.

Dude, totally. I actually run a Mini Simmons Facebook group. There's over 3000 shapers from around the world in there. So I'll send you the link and you'd love it, dude. You'd love it. Those guys are just going off in there.

Yeah. Are you friends with Richard Kenvin? Are you like the Casper crew? Are you connected with those guys?

I don't think so, dude. I'm always rogue. I've had a surf company since 2008, but I'm kind of anti-establishment, not part of the surf industry, doing my own thing. So those guys might even be in there. I don't even know. But it's mainly shapers like us that just love to shape. And yeah, it's a really good group actually.

Cool. Yeah. I love the camaraderie and I'm like a sponge as far as like where do you put your fins, how much are they towed in, that whole thing.

Totally, totally. Actually, I wrote a book on the Mini Simmons too called The Keel Nation. So, I'll send you a copy. You can check it out.

Awesome. Love to read it. Yeah, yeah. That's cool.

Yeah, man. So, best surf trip besides the first one you told us about. Best surf trip ever for you. I know that's a hard question.

I've had a great time in Central America, but I was really fortunate to score a lot of awesome swell in southwest of France.

I love that there.

Yeah. Those peaky beach breaks, it's kind of like different in here. We go to get away from crowds at the beach breaks here, but there, the peaks are so defined that it's just unreal. The shape is amazing. A highlight would be I went up and I surfed La Graviere in Hossegor and a buddy picked me up and we drove there at dawn and we're checking it and I'm seeing some absolute caverns. Cole Smith and John John Florence run right by. They were warming up for the contest. I was over there in late September, early October and surfed a peak down from those two that morning in some probably head and a half. The set waves, I didn't even want to have anything to do with, but I caught a couple of the little corners, but it was just unreal shape. That beach break, I think, is probably about as good as it gets.

I agree. I agree.

Yeah, yeah. That was super positive. But I love the warm water of Central America and now that I can surf better, I would love to go to Nicaragua.

Yeah, nice. It'll happen, I'm sure.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Alright. So the aliens come and they tell you you can only take one board with you on this new planet because they're taking you away. What would that board be? It could be one that you haven't shaped yet. What's the length? What's the style? But this is the only board you can surf for the rest of your life.

Okay. I shape myself a 6'7 Channel Bottom Twin Pin with my glass-on cedar keels and I loved that board. I recently smashed it and it's been drying out. But that was the board that spawned my buddy ordering the same one. And then probably 6 or 8 other people have them. And I would say something like that because, look, if I need a real legit step up with 3 fins and whatever, I probably shouldn't be out there. But that board works in well overhead surf and will still catch small, clean little waves. So I would say something in this mid-7s, something duck divable that would be like a Trimmer in small surf, but something I could still late take off pig dog on a big gnarly tropical left. I think it would be mid-length Channel Bottom Twin Pin. I don't even know what the channels do, but they've been really fun and I haven't made a non-channel twin pin. I think I'm going to do probably soon and it's way easier to glass, but there's been some magic with those channels. So I've just been up with it.

Yeah. Like the ones you put on that 6'1 in the film, is that what it is?

Correct. And my buddy loved his 7'4 so he just wanted a smaller version, just to get a little whippier with the turns. And apparently, it's been working out for him. But yeah, I would do that kind of mid-length. I love a little Fish, but I feel like when things get heavier, it's nice to have that pin tail that holds. But as far as fins, I think 2 is the way to go.

Yeah. No, I love twin fins too. I'm all about twin fins.

Yeah. So that's what I would take to Mars or wherever.

Nice, dude. So what advice would you give to your younger self?

It's hard to say. I think go with the flow, which is kind of what led me to where I am now. So I think intuitively that's what I did. But, yeah, I think that's pretty important. It's really just being intuitive and feeling through it.

I love it, dude. It's a great answer, man.

Yeah, yeah, I think that's kind of what's led me here.

Yeah, beautiful, man.

Feels right. Feels good.

Yeah. Cool, man. Is there anything else you want to say to Saltwater High? Maybe tell people where they can find you and order a board?

I guess really just that you can find my work on Instagram, Daniel George Designs, or my board building projects at Foam Wrangler on Instagram as well. And Daniel George Designs, it's ceramics and block prints and watercolors and with a few surfboards mixed in there. But yeah, if you can hit me up on Foam Wrangler if you want to talk custom orders and find an old longboard and I'll make you something groovy out of it for sure.

Sweet. I love that. Or a windsurfer, right?

Or windsurfer. Yeah, find some foam. SUPs have been making great logs.

Oh, yeah. That's a good idea. We have to get those out of the water anyway. Christian.

Oh, that's funny.

It's super cool to meet you, bro. I look forward to surfing with you and hanging out sometime.

Yeah. Likewise, likewise. Let's go to a tropical destination.

I'm in. All in, bro.

I haven't been to Indo. So there and New Zealand are high on my list. So I'd love to go. I'll make a couple board with fin boxes and go explore.

Dude. Well, let's talk to Christian. We'll start planning it. Yeah, bro.

Right on, bro.

Cool, man. Good to meet you, man.

Thank you.

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