Making Waves

Modern tech meets timeless craft with Ralph Lauren’s first-ever surfboard

Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label collection is defined by the finest materials and iconic design—qualities that, on occasion, extend beyond the realm of clothing and accessories.

Case in point: the astonishingly beautiful surfboard that Mr. Lauren included in his Spring 2017 collection as an expression of, and complement to, the relaxed sensibility of the season’s jackets, board shorts, and sandals. This surfboard, the first designed by Mr. Lauren, is crafted from carbon fiber—a favorite of his for more than a decade—and adorned with a thin layer of burl wood covering the entire deck. These materials come from Mr. Lauren’s love of automotive design. He helped pioneer the use of carbon fiber, which is as strong as steel but only one-fifth its weight, in his industrial designs. After acquiring a 1996 McLaren F1 LM (one of five from a rare edition of the very first production road car with a monocoque chassis made of carbon fiber) for his personal collection, he used carbon fiber for the frame of the RL-CF1 lounge chair, introduced in 2003. The surfboard’s burl wood has a similar provenance: It’s a key detail of the interior of the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe in Mr. Lauren’s collection, appearing on its dashboard and steering wheel. Its presence there has inspired countless products, including the RL Automotive Skeleton watch, whose bezel is cut from burl wood. The surfboard shares another finishing touch with the watch: the same “RL” logo that’s carefully applied to the 12 o’clock position on the dial also appears at the surfboard’s nose.

“When I see a car, it’s the look that reels me in,” Mr. Lauren said in a 2004 interview. “I love the mix of design and technology. They are a functional art—each car has its own personality, its own sound, its own feel. And I think there’s an entire lifestyle that goes with the package.”

To extend those sentiments to this made-to-order masterpiece, a shaper in Portugal—which boasts one of the planet’s most robust surfing communities—molds the materials into a shortboard shape with a rounded tail, low rocker (a reference to the relatively gentle curvature along the bottom of the surfboard, visible from nose to tail when held on its side), and single fin. In combination, these design choices give the surfboard a fast yet sturdy ride, almost like the surfing equivalent of driving the Bugatti that inspired its burl wood finish in the first place.
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JUSTIN FENNER is the editor of RL Mag.
  • All photographs courtesy of Ralph Lauren Corporation.