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Then you drove it cross-country, right?

This is where the love story comes in. Rachel and I had broken up at the time and she was living in New York. In the winter, I just drove out there, showed up at her door and pretty much moved in with her. Then, in a similar manner, I went to Bard for graduate school and turned up for the summer program with that same car and all my art inside it.

And what did people make of you and this vehicle when you showed up?

I don’t want to say I was ahead of something, but right now there’s so much more excitement about camper cars than when I built my first one. Now, living in a camper or a car is really cool. I guess it was also cool back then but now it’s almost respectable to do that because it’s a thing. My sister lived in a VW van for eight years and now people create entire careers from living in VW vans – they blog about life on the road and the food they cook in their little kitchens. It’s such a thing now, but when I first built my camper, it was like, oh, some crazy person on the road.

Jay Nelson

Most people thought you were crazy, huh?

Yeah and I was kind of into that, like I was playing it up a little bit. Crazy people are what inspires me, you know? I’ve always been inspired by people who just kind of make do. Like in this case, you have this car and you want a house, and somehow you just figure out how to make it work.

What’s the first thing you made that you were truly proud of?

Jon Wegener was making all my boards at the time. I would constantly go there and watch him shape boards and he would make me do chores, like sweep the floor or paint his old shaping room

Probably my first surfboard. I shaped it when I was 16. Jon Wegener was making all my boards at the time. I would constantly go there and watch him shape boards and he would make me do chores, like sweep the floor or paint his old shaping room. He was a real mentor to me. One day he was like, “hey, I got this blank here that was a screw-up. You should make it into a board – I think you’re ready.”

It was a piece of junk, but no matter what, the first board you ever shape and ride is going to be magic, there’s just no way around it. When you make it yourself, there’s this incredible relationship with the surfboard and you’re open to the way it rides, you’re patient with it. I mean, that first board was amazing. It was fucking awesome.

How has your connection to the ocean and surfing formed your aesthetics and the things you make?

I definitely love surfing and it’s a huge part of my life, but if you want to dedicate your whole time to it you have to live a life revolving around what the waves are doing. Sometimes that feels like a curse. But it’s a nice rhythm of life and I feel like it sort of happened naturally for me – I became an artist because I was a surfer. They just seemed to fit nicely together.

When I went to art school, it was so uncool to be a surfer. I would never tell anybody back then.

Because they wouldn’t take you seriously as an artist?

Yeah, they would be like, oh, surfer dude. Eventually they all figured it out and they would totally make Spicoli jokes. I think surfing becomes cool every 20 years and then it goes through a dark age, at least in pop culture. In the ‘60s, it was incredibly cool, everybody wanted to surf, and then again in the ‘80s probably. It seems like now it’s cool. It’s up again. So I keep wondering if it’s going to go out of fashion at some point. It’s kind of hard to imagine.

Jay Nelson

Let’s talk about this neighborhood. About a decade ago you were here helping to build Mollusk Surf Shop, then you left and lived in New York for a while before returning to make a home for yourself. What’s changed around here?

The neighborhood’s changed a lot. I feel like it was a lot foggier but I don’t know if that’s just because there are more people and things happening now. It feels sunnier, nicer and happier. As of now I’m never going to leave this house. I really love it here. I lucked out big time.

Yeah, I agree. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for living in this neighborhood. It’s such a great place to come home to.

I found my people out here, you know? I really believe that the friends I have here are my lifelong friends. This is my community and I’m not planning on leaving.

You did a project at the Facebook HQ a while ago and now you’re back there again. How was working with them?

Well, I was the first person to do an artist residency there. I feel like in San Francisco there’s a lot of tension between the tech community and everyone else. I think it’s really cool that they’re bringing two different groups of people together that don’t necessarily understand each other. The other great thing about Facebook is they pay you what an artist should make and they have no problem with it.

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