Ecoboard Shaper Highlight 009:

Breaking Barriers, Shaping Waves: An Earth-Conscious Journey with ECObyRy

by Kailani Wetherell for Sustainable Surf. 21 March 2024.

We had the pleasure of getting to sit down and talk with Ryan Harris of Ryan Harris Shapes, a leading ECOBOARD builder based in the South Bay, Los Angeles. As a pioneer of the sustainable surfboard movement, Ryan collaborates closely with us at Sustainable Surf and plays a vital role in developing Entropy’s Super Sap resin. From crafting high-performance shortboards to experimenting with alternative shapes and foil boards, his expertise in eco-friendly technology and remarkable color work knows no bounds.

We’re thrilled to introduce you to the mastermind behind the brand..

Dive into his story below!

Don’t worry, we’ll dive into the meat and potatoes of this interview but we have to ask:  How are you holding up with all this record breaking rain in the LA area??

It’s been absolutely Bonkers. I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest, so I’m used to rain…and I’ve been down here for about half of my life. Never seen rain that hard in LA County. We had something like 17 days straight of rain about 15 years ago or so during the last strong El Niño in January…but nothing like this. We basically got our annual rainfall in a week. We’re in a relatively “safe” zone in Redondo Beach, so no mudslides or anything to gnarly other than flooded streets and intersections. Lots of people inland or near canyons in surrounding areas were adversely affected. It’s kind of hypocritical because it’s a costly set of storms but all us surfers can keep thinking about his how good the sandbars are.

We read an article on STAB which was done right around the time when the BLM was really kicking off… 4 years later have you seen much progress in the surf industry around the education and inclusion of African Americans both in the shaping world as well as the surf industry as a whole?

Yeah, that article was rad. It was pretty blunt and touched on my experiences dealing with racism in Southern California. The resurgence of the BLM was a positive that came out of some really terrible and horrific acts…4 years later, it’s definitely encouraging to see how many Orgs, Groups and Brands representing the BIPOC community emerged and continue to do great work. Also, SIMA recently published the numbers on how much the demographics have changed in the surfing community over the past few years, and the African American Surfing population has grown the most. It’s rad. It’s also rad to see more aspiring professional surfers competing who are African American. Still not very many shapers though but atleast I know now that I’m not the only one and have worked with and know the others.

Why is it so hard to find a professional board builder that is African American?

I can only speak for myself…but I’d say there’s a number of reasons…most of us didn’t grow up surfing, and the ones that did, didn’t see any of us represented in the profession so maybe felt it wasn’t an option. To break it down further, there’s a barrier to access…we still meet kids that only live 5-6 miles inland that have never even been to the beach let alone surfed…and the misconception that if you’re black you don’t surf. “We dont surf, that’s for the white boys, stick to basketball or football”…shattering these stereotypes is what it’s all about.

How does someone that may not have roots in a surf town or grow up in a surfing family get started shaping/glassing a board?

You follow your passion. That’s what I did. The more I surfed once I moved down here from Oregon, the more I became obsessed with it. Also, I’ve always been an artist and I was eager to learn something new. I grew up drawing, painting, and designing. In college I was super into ceramics, sculpture, photography and fine art. I even worked at a stained glass studio before I eventually found my calling. Surfboards are my medium and canvas. So you follow that passion. Buy a blank, buy some tools, watch videos online, go into a surfboard Factory, offer to help, sweep the floors, clean…consider yourself an unpaid intern and be a fly on the wall. Learn the tools, learn the craft. Ask questions, and don’t dkip steps. You better master the planer before you jump to getting CNC cuts!

If you could snap your fingers, what are the top 3 changes you’d like to see happen in the surfing world?

That’s easy!

1. More Surfboard Factories making sustainable boards that are less harmful to the environment and the craftsmen and women building them…all the while accepting that our industry generates way too much waste and that its unacceptable and that it has to change.  Which is connected to

2. Glass shops accepting and utilizing the concept of the Zero Waste Initiative that I created because it will dramatically reduce our industries impact on the environment.

3. More professional African American and Black Surfers on the WSL Championship Tour. There’s been one, by the name of Mikey February. Now we’re back to zero…it would definitely be more encouraging to Black kids and the next generation trying to get into it.

What does 2024 have in store for you and your brand ECObyRy?

2024 is a huge year for ECObyRy. I am/we are the newest tenants at AltaSea… AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles is dedicated to accelerating scientific collaboration, advancing an emerging blue economy through business innovation and job creation, and inspiring the next generation, all for a more sustainable, just and equitable world. It’s a perfect fit for the Future of my brand and the evolution of the eco board. In addition to my new Eco Board studio and factory, I’ll be launching an innovative Recycling and Educational Center on the campus where we can continue the evolution and advancement of the Zero Waste Initiative and circular system. New board models, growing the sustainable clothing line and adding more rad sustainable lifestyle products we can make from our upcycled waste.

Any new developments or collaborations in the realm of sustainable surfboard construction?

Yup! We’re developing a rad new sustainable Pool Tough Tech with one of our vendors to dramatically increase the strength of boards surfed in wave pools…because currently they tend to get a little mangled when bouncing of concrete bottoms.  We also just started collaborating with Swellcycle…they make 3d printed boards that are printed out of recycled lunch trays!

Well this has obviously been an honor and a pleasure to speak with you, but before we wrap this up, tell us… what’s your WHY behind it all…What do you want people to know about you at the end of the day? What do you hope to leave people with? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Follow your passions. I didn’t grow up surfing. My dream job was to be a Nike designer. By the age of 22 within one year of moving to LA, I started shaping. What started off as a hobby became an obsession and quickly took over my life (surfing) for the better, and I’ve never looked back

Be aware of climate change, and the plastic pollution crisis, it’s real, it’s connected and it sucks. At the very minimum, every day you go to the beach pick up 3 pieces of trash (or more) (and throw them in the bin. It only takes a few minutes and if we all did it, it might not solve the pollution issues we have, but it would atleast make a dent. Eco Boards are rad! Invest in them and you’re investing in your happiness (they’re more durable and have better flex characteristics). Buy a TrashComb. And get involved or even organize your own monthly Beach Cleanups.

Don’t be afraid to be bold and stand out. Take initiative.


Keep up with what else Ryan’s has going on in the works by following his Instagram @eco.byry