Thalia Surf Interview Series Presents: Slightly Off with Slightly Choppy
If you're a friend of Scott Richards, aka the mastermind behind Slightly Choppy, not only do you know he's a truly great human, but you know he's pretty busy 7 days a week. Thankfully he was able to meet us at his studio in Newport last month to duck dive deeper into his process. Below is what transpired:
THALIA SURF: What sparked the original idea to make the surf flags?
SCOTT RICHARDS: I’ve always drawn and painted, since about Kindergarten. I was the one who dug everything out of the trash can. Always. I have a hard time throwing things away, because I always think there’s better use for something later. I started painting on wood and then moved onto different materials. I’ve always loved making things, so I started cutting up old, discarded table cloths and different textiles and started stitching them together. I also was a big picker over at Minney’s (a nautical used surplus store), and they had these old, nautical flags. I loved the patina and how they’re always beat down and stained. And so I decided that I’d start making some after a few friends expressed interest in the prototypes. It kind of snowballed from there, and now I’ve been doing this for 2 years.
Who or what do you look at for inspiration?
SR: I love third world typography. Like hand done typography. It’s more the impression of the word than just the design of it. From travelling around the world, I love how when you go to Mexico and the local liquor store tries to repaint the Coca-Cola logo. You know it’s Coca-Cola, but it’s quirky. It’s really off, but you still understand the essence of it. As for people, I guess this was 10 plus years ago so I don’t know if you’d even see the influence now, but Kevin Lyons, back when he was in the Beautiful Losers book with that group - Thomas Campbell, Evan Hecox, Shepard Fairey. Those guys were early influences. However, I’ve been a student of art history and graphic design so I’d say it’s no so much the people, but more of the periods in time that influence me. I love classic throwbacks like from the turn of the century and before the industrial revolution, where every sign had to be hand painted.
What is your favorite part of the manufacturing process?
SR: I’d definitely have to say the design of the flag. Sometimes I will literally put a thought down in the middle of the night, and I’ll start doodling the following day. Also seeing [the flag] once it comes together – I love the finishing, the packaging, just seeing the final product.
What does a beach need in order to have a Slightly Choppy design?
SR: Oh, man. That’s a great question. I like the story and history, it’s almost the folklore of the spot, you know? It would be nice to limit it just to real, local spots, but it has happened where a few spots just had to be recognized. Malibu, Rincon, San-O, for example. Initially I just wanted to do the unknown spots, but once you turn it into a business there becomes a demand for more. But I do think it’s the story, the local passion for a certain spot.
What does an average day look like for you?
SR: Work 9-5 for Stance as the Creative Director. And then I go home to be with my family, have some dinner, help with chores and homework, then come to the studio for 3-4 hours. Usually until I can’t keep my eyes open. That’s been the routine since I started this, and then weekends where I’ll bring projects home. Definitely burning the candle at both ends, for sure, and I can’t sustain that forever. It’s also affected my surfing life the last 2 years. I haven’t been able to get in the water as much, and my love for surfing was the whole inspiration behind Slightly Choppy. So it’s a weird catch-22.
Do you have a favorite flag?
SR: I’d have to say the Malibu flag is my favorite. I love the original 50/50 cut and sew. There are a bunch of intimate steps involved with the process too. I love the classic look from the 50s and 60s. The checker ones are really fun to make too. There’s also the 6th street one, it’s the street I’m on in Newport. It was also the first flag I made.
What does the term 'slightly choppy' mean to you?
SR: Originally it started from the texture of water. But if you also understand my aesthetic, everything is 'off' a bit. I’ve always learned to embrace the imperfections versus trying to be so exact, so I love things that are hand done, warn out, a little off. My entire aesthetic is based on that. My art approach is slightly choppy. It’s not just a surf reference, but it’s everything I do.
You can browse the exclusive Slightly Choppy designs for Thalia Surf by clicking here.
words by Jackie Bowles // photos by Thomas Green