Lanny Shuler, owner of Shuler Surfboards, rides the waves of creativity in business and in life
Thursday, June 6, 2013 8:00 am
Article and photos by DWIGHT CASWELL for COAST WEEKEND: ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT: COASTAL LIFE. URL for article: http://bit.ly/1278dWi.
My curiosity finally got the best of me, and I stopped by. What I found surprised me. Yes, there are surfboards being made here – custom-made, state-of-the-art boards – but there’s a lot more going on. There’s an artist, a materials consultant to Corning and Dow, a creativity consultant to Nike, a Transcendental Meditation (TM) instructor.
From the outside, the building doesn’t seem large enough to house all those people, and it couldn’t if not for the fact that all those people are one: Lanny Shuler, who has been doing all those things on the North Coast since relocating here in 1983.
Shuler grew up in West Long Beach and Huntington Beach, Calif., where he learned to surf at the age of 7 and built his first surfboard 10 years later. “We were water kids,” he says of his childhood friends, “so surfing was a natural thing to pursue, and I was never attracted to organized sports. It was easier to just go surfing, to have fun even if I wasn’t with friends.” Surfing was, at the time, an outsider sport. “This was before the Beach Boys,” he says, “and before ‘Gidget,’” the first surfing movie, made in 1959. “That was the beginning of cultural awareness of surfing,” he continues, “but I was never interested in surfing culture.”
As a young man in 1972, Shuler moved to Astoria to help his father, Don, build a commercial fishing boat, eventually moving back to southern California to make and lose a fortune in real estate. He studied art and architecture in school and began to practice TM, a mantra-based meditation technique that is practiced twice daily for 15 to 20 minutes. Through TM, Shuler found an inner peace and wakefulness, and he left formal education to study under TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, eventually becoming a certified TM teacher.
In 1983, having discovered that “a simpler life was more to my liking,” he returned to Oregon, just in time to catch the wave of windsurfing tourism in the Columbia Gorge. In addition to his surfboard business in Seaside, Shuler opened Shuler Sailboards in the Gorge and discovered that building both sailboards and surfboards gave him a more diverse outlet for innovation and creativity, as he constantly modified and reinvented his cutting edge board designs.
Shuler’s innovations with resins, fiberglass and foam led to consultancy work with Dow Chemical and Owens Corning. Word of Shuler’s creativity also got around to Nike’s product development team, called the “Innovation Kitchen,” prompting their visit to the purple building for inspiration on long-term maintenance of creativity. Shuler credits TM for his daily charge of inspiration and enthusiasm in new ideas, and his capacity to incorporate them into his career. Since that first meeting he has been invited to the Nike Campus to bolster employee creativity through lectures and TM lessons.
Shuler stresses that “It is a challenge for everyone to have many dimensions and diversities to integrate into one’s life, many demands into one combined fulfilling experience.”
The latest aspect of Shuler’s diversity is his return to art. “My art interests have often fallen aside to other priorities,” says Shuler. “Regardless, whenever I applied artwork on my surfboards, people would take notice.”
As an art student Shuler was uninspired painting on flat surfaces, but his enthusiasm returned when he began painting the sculptural form of his surfboards. “I found inseparability between my color interests and the three dimensionality of the surfboards I was painting on. Without my intending it, my art had become more challenging and engaging.”
Shuler’s “relationship with the aesthetic of the three dimensional form” also resulted in his art becoming more abstract. “It’s much less calculated and more intuitive, and there is a more intimate relationship with the creative silence of my daily meditation, with inner restful alertness and more abstract consciousness.”
Shuler is now working on a gallery show of paintings on what he calls “nonfunctional painted sculptures that can’t be surfed on.” He explains, “My surfboards have always been painted sculptures, but because they were functional, their value was mostly perceived in the terms of sporting equipment rather than higher valued art. That’s changing now.”
Which is not to say that he is abandoning functional surfboards. In fact, he is introducing an entirely new type of board designed to allow novices and experienced surfers alike to more easily develop their surfing skills and have more fun surfing in a variety of conditions.
The new boards and Shuler’s art will soon make an appearance on a redesigned website, www.shulersurfboards.com, and stay tuned for the next dimension of Lanny Shuler’s multifaceted life.
Tags: art boards, artist, Beach Boys, coastal life, Corning and Dow, creativity, creativity consultant, creativity in business, dow chemical and ownes corning, dwight caswell, Gidget, Lanny Shuler, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Nike, purple building, Seaside, southern california, sports, surfboard factory, surfing, surfing music, TM, Transcendental Meditation