Chris Rule is a California surfer who is the owner and operator of Surfindian in Pacific Beach. This unique gallery features art-driven products created for the shop as well as serving as a creative hub for the surfing community. Chris talks to us about what inspires him and the happiness that surfing brings.
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, a long, long way from the ocean. But I always remember loving the water, whether it was in creeks, lakes or even in swimming pools. To say that there was an absence of surf culture would be an understatement.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard in the summer of 2001. It was a 9’2” Robert August “What I Ride” model. I remember walking with it down the boardwalk and it seemed too big to even carry. Now it would almost seem like a shortboard to me. I was so stoked to be taking part in surfing scene; I had been watching surfers for about a year at that time and thought surfing was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I just remember grinning ear-to-ear. You know, that big, open kind of grin where you can almost feel it under your ears. I was so happy.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
Well, I can’t say that I really had any surf heroes, but I always admired my uncle who lived in Las Vegas. He always had a strong “go for it” spirit in everything he did. I have always tried to maintain that same kind of zeal, that same kind of zest. It was that spirit that led me to try surfing, and ultimately to open Surfindian.
What did you have in mind when you opened Surfindian?
I wanted to create a place to showcase all the tremendous artistic energy that is pouring out of the surfing scene. When I look at the surfing scene, I see all these great people and all their great projects. It doesn’t matter what the product of their effort is. It could be a surfboard or a t-shirt or a painting or a film. But what does matter is that surfing is the spark that ignites this massive ball of creative energy. I wanted to try to capture that.
How do you go about selecting the products and art that you showcase?
Initially, they have to be of the highest quality, and they have to be at the top of the game. That doesn’t mean that I won’t take a chance on a product or art that is new or unknown. In fact, I like to showcase products and art that haven’t been seen before or represent a fresh look at things. But first and foremost, the product or art must be really great. I always say that there are lots of good products and lots of good art, but there are very few great products and very little great art. I’m after the great products and great art.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
I really love Hawaii. It just has a special feel to me. And I really love the native people of Hawaii; they represent this great indigenous culture that can teach us so much. I know that Hawaii has great waves, and that’s important, but the Hawaiian culture (particularly the indigenous culture and the way it manifests itself in modern life) is something that is really special.
Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by good people, no matter who they are or what they do. I’m inspired by people who are kind to others. I’m inspired by acts of generosity. I’m very inspired by people who have a fundamental respect for others.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That happiness is only found inside you, and that the best life is a simple life.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
No. I always tell people that I’m the luckiest guy alive. Don’t get me wrong—I have had some tough times and some things to work through, but no regrets.
What are you most proud of?
No doubt about it … my two daughters, Elizabeth and Katy. They are by far the greatest things that I have ever been a part of. Everything else pales in comparison.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
For me personally, surfing has a spiritual and mystical connection that I haven’t found in anything else. When I’m out in the water, there are times when I feel so close to God—or the Creator or Karma or whatever label you want to use. You can just feel your interconnectedness to the world and the forces that move and shape the world. You become aware that you really are sharing this experience with the dolphins, the fish, the birds, the trees and all these other forms of life around you. And sometimes, I just sit there astounded at the mystical nature of it all. It’s really an amazing thing—you’re riding this natural band of energy across the water, and it makes you feel really, really good. It’s really amazing.
Surfing has changed my life in that it has helped me to realize that the simplest things, the pure things, are the most important. If you have good health, close family and friends, and the ability to splash around in the glory of nature, you are winning the game of life.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
I’m not sure about “the most happiness in the world” because a lot of things make me really happy. But, on a personal level, making other people happy brings me real happiness. My mom always says that I used to invite the other kids over to play in my sandbox, and then just sit there and enjoy watching them having a good time. I think I’m still doing the same thing except that now I invite everyone over to Surfindian.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Skip Frye is still shaping the path for surfing, and he’s been doing it for awhile now. Skip affects things on so many levels—his boards continue to evolve, he’s been experimenting around with fins and, most importantly for me, he’s a shining example of how a person should conduct himself or herself both in and out of the water. I mean, the guy has so much stoke that it is contagious. I tell everyone that I want to be like Skip Frye when I grow up.
Donald Takayama is another person that I believe is still shaping the path for surfing today. Like Skip, Donald’s boards are magic, and he continues to experiment with new board shapes and fin configurations. And, in my opinion, Donald is the very embodiment of the “aloha spirit”. He is such a caring and warm individual. I want to be like Donald when I grow up as well.
And then, of course, there are so many great, younger, talented folks out there. In the women’s arena, I think that Julie Cox, Kassia Meador and Jen Smith are all leading the front for women’s surfing. In the guys’ arena, I think that Chris Del Moro, Mitch Abshere, CJ Nelson and Tyler Warren are all doing great stuff. And even though I don’t know him, I really respect how Alex Knost really pushes the edges creatively. It’s good to shake things up once in a while.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
My current quiver is dominated by longboards. Most of my boards are from Skip or Donald, but I also have a Simmons-inspired board from Steve Mast that I really love, and I have a couple of Eaton bonzers that are a blast to ride. I have two favorite boards: my 10’ Skip Frye Braden Noserider and my 10’ Donald Takayama Double Ender. I’ve ridden a lots of boards and, trust me, those two boards are magic.
My favorite surf spot is good old Tourmaline canyon, right on the border of Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The waves, parking lot scene, crowds, sounds and smells—I love it all.
What’s your favorite meal?
Sushi, sushi and sushi.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod; I’m a stickler for liner notes and pictures. But I’m a huge music fan. I’ve been listening a lot to the Mattson 2, the Growlers, Cal Tjader, Dengue Fever, Thievery Corporation and, of course, the Stones.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for the opportunity to experience life and all that it entails, especially the events and relationships that have come my way. I’m really blessed and I love life.
What’s next for Chris Rule?
I’m opening a new board shop in March-two doors down from the current Surfindian location. It will still be under the Surfindian name, and will hopefully have the same “feel” that I have tried to foster in the current location. Ultimately, it’s going to feature the same kind of high quality, unique surf products that I currently showcase except that the emphasis will be more squarely on boards, clothes, and other surf-related products. I hope that it will be a place where people like to hang out and have fun. As for me personally, I’ll just try to keep up my simple life and get in the water as much as I can. And keep having good times and laughs with my family and friends.