Matthew Allen is a surfer / artist who is the creative director of The Ryde and was instrumental in the redesign of Surfer Magazine. Multi-talented, he is equally adept at graphic design, illustration, and photography. We caught up with Matthew to find out more.
What was life like growing up?
I had a pretty normal suburban childhood. I played a ton of baseball as a kid. Then I started surfing, and baseball wasn’t as important anymore.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were young?
I think my parents and grandparents. Also, I was really into historic figures in baseball. I really dug the way that Jackie Robinson played and the things he stood for. So he was probably a sort of hero too.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
Well, I taught myself to surf when I was 16 and I was attempting to learn on a 6′ 8″ gun at Doheny. So I probably wondered why I was sinking.
Where did your interest in art and design come from?
Neither of my parents are artistic per se, but they both are creative in their own way. I think they recognized that I had some talent so they gave me the tools I needed to pursue my passion. As a kid, I would randomly get the inspiration to draw at night and I’d stay up late drawing my favorite baseball and hockey players.
Tell us about your association with The Ryde.
On the last day of design class at junior college I finished my final project early and I began working on some t-shirt designs for a surf company called The Realm. Mike Figueroa came up to me, introduced himself, and asked if I’d like to do some art for a company he was starting. That company didn’t pan out, but we became friends and a couple of years later we started The Ryde. I do nearly all of the art and design associated with The Ryde. I have my dream job.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
In college, I traveled to Australia for two months with a church group. It was just a bunch of college kids and we went to Brisbane to help some people set up a ministry at the college there. We stayed in a bed and breakfast that the owners moved out of and they allowed us to take over. There were about 12 of us and we did everything together. We walked wherever we had to go, had group meals, it was very communal. The thing that really sticks with me though is that I was without all of the things that I hold onto dearly, and I was happier than ever. I wasn’t surfing or making art and I didn’t see my family, but I was in a loving community with a shared purpose and I met and befriended some wonderful people.
Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who overcome difficult situations and come out better people because of their struggles. Creatively, the photography of Ron Stoner is a big inspiration. He really captured the pure joy of surfing. Anyone who is doing something to make others smile is an inspiration.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That the God of the universe cared so much for me that he sent his only son to Earth to suffer and die for my sins so that I can have eternal life. It might sound crazy to some people—sometimes it seems a bit crazy to me—but I’ve seen God move in my life. I truly believe that if you earnestly seek after God, the evidence points to Jesus. That said, I’m not one force my beliefs upon others and I totally respect people that believe differently than me.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I have put the gifts and talents that I’ve been given to good use.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing makes me happy. After college, both of my jobs have come about because I surf and understand what it is to be a surfer. Surfing mellows me out. When I’m driving home after surfing, I tend to be the guy going too slow on the freeway.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
My family brings me the greatest happiness. From my grandparents to my aunts, uncles and cousins, I have an amazingly close family of truly wonderful people. I am blessed to be able to say that my best friends are my parents and my sisters.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I honestly don’t know. When I worked at Surfer Magazine, I was so entrenched in the surf scene that when I left, I kind of left that all behind me. I haven’t paid much attention to it for the last year. I do know that people seem to be riding all shapes and sizes of boards these days. So, probably those people who are using their imagination to take the joy of riding waves to new places.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have a Rich Pavel fish that I broke a few months ago. That board was my all-time favorite. I rode it for five years. He is shaping me a replacement now. My favorite spot is probably Church’s. I can go surf there on my lunch break and, if I have a fish or a longboard, I’m pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.
What’s your favorite meal?
I have an açai bowl for lunch every day. The girls at Juice It Up take good care of me.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
M. Ward, Bön Iver, The Middle East, Lightning Dust, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, The Dodos, J. Tillman, Luke Top, The National, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend.
What are you most grateful for?
My family and my creativity.
What’s next for Matthew Allen?
I’m working on designing some boardshorts, sweatshirts and hats for The Ryde. That’s new for us. I’m going to get a Grain surfboard kit and build myself a new wood board. I’ve been hurt for a couple of months and unable to surf so I’ve been working on a photo project. I just got some great shots down in La Jolla this past weekend. I get my cast off the 19th, so rehabbing my hand and getting myself back in the water is next too.
Find out more about Matthew Allen here.