Image: Garrath testing one of the 5’ 6 Gold Member boards. Image: @objuannn, via @highlifesurfboards
For Garrath Glass, shaping surfboards is more than work or even art—it’s a calling. Garrath spent many years in Sri Lanka crafting fantastic boards and gaining some serious street cred for his surfboard brand ‘High Life’. Soon after the pandemic struck and his little family moved back home to New Zealand, Garrath got stuck here in paradise for many months. During these bitter-sweet lockdown months, when the surf breaks around the island were virtually empty, save the few resident surfers from the immediate neighbourhood, Garrath surfed and shaped boards for the most part of his day, keeping busy as a way to heal from pack separation. When he came eastwards after the lockdown eased, he stayed with us at the Spice Trail, again surfing nearly empty breaks and shaping absolutely perfect boards. When he bid goodbye to Arugam Bay, he left three amazing boards for the Spice Trail quiver as a parting gift. We were stoked. Speaking to Garrath on the phone and while he was shaping here at the Spice Trail, he let us in on his philosophy about where wave-riding meets life, inspiration, what it’s like to surf and shape through a pandemic, and the future of his brand ‘High Life’.
Revealing the story behind ‘High Life’ Garrath says that it’s all about this dance we do with the world. “The defining feature of all members of the animal kingdom is our ability to move. In humans, the ultimate expression of movement is ‘the dance’. The pinnacle of ‘the dance’ is surfing. Therefore, as surfers we’re living the high life,” he says. For Garrath, building surfboards—or ‘functional art that provides a vehicle for humans to express themselves’, as he puts it—is as pleasurable as it is meaningful.
Images: Left/Right– Delivering the hand-made Olo boards to @thespicetrail.
Talking about the beauties he made for the Spice Trail, Garrath says they are stylised versions of the Olo surfboard—the originals ridden by ancient Hawaiians. “Surfing was very central to ancient Hawaiian culture. Olo boards were reserved for royalty and nobility, while everyone else had to ride the shorter Alaia,” he says. Remembering his entrapment in paradise during the lockdown, Garrath tells us that his craft actually thrived during those surreal months; “The pandemic meant limited supply of materials, but Sri Lanka is brimming with excellent quality hardwoods. The lockdown provided ample time to tinker.” The surfer’s instinct to stay close to the core and ride the wave, so to speak, during difficult times, is what brought him to the Spice Trail, and ultimately, the making of those dreamy boards completing our quiver now. “I’m very intrigued by all aspects of surfboard design. Tapping the source was inevitable at some point. Thanks for the opportunity.”
Image: Garrath and twins, via @highlifesurfboards
Garrath is finally going home. Although the work of this unusually gifted man will be missed here in Sri Lanka where the surf scene is finally starting to take good shape, we’re happy that he’s reuniting with his beautiful family again—it shouldn’t be any other way. “I’m moving the brand to New Zealand where the materials are top drawer, the waves are world-class, and the crowds are thin. Frothing for the next chapter,” he says.
Best of luck Garrath, keep bringing that high life to the world—we need it.