There’s something about the sight of a classic surfboard strapped to the roof of a classic car that just feels right.
“They tell a story,” says Kevin Butler, the artist behind the website Rad Cars With Rad Surfboards, which collects his portraits of, well, rad cars with rad surfboards on them.
Butler knows from rad.
Raised a couple blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz, Calif., he has surfing in his blood. “The ocean was a huge part of my life,” Butler said. “I was a lifeguard for a while, did some surf contests, shaped some boards in the garage when there wasn't an old car in it.”
He also knows his old cars. “My dad restores old cars,” Butler explained in an email interview with The Active Times. “So growing up there was a constant rotation of rad cars in the driveway. It didn't take long for me to spot the differences from make to make and year to year. Old cars were just part of my childhood.”
Now a creative director at a Los Angeles ad agency, Butler is starting to be recognized for his artistic sideline. He was recently invited to do an installation at the Agenda action sports and streetwear trade show in Long Beach, Calif., and gave attendees an eye-popping sight: a classic VW Bug with over 30 surfboards strapped to its roof. Backpack maker Herschel Supply recently introduced a line of “rad cars” bags and Almond surfboards even made a one-off board sporting a print of Butler’s artwork.
We spoke to Butler to find out a little bit more about his project and what he considers to be the most rad board-car combo yet to be seen.
Tell us a little bit about your background as an artist.
I've always made things, ever since I was a kid. My grandfather is an artist, and according to him I have a distant grandfather who finished Michelangelo's paintings. So i suppose it's in my blood.
I went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco to study fine art, and before I knew it I found myself in the graphic design department, followed by the advertising department. I knew I wanted to do something creative, [so] I guess what school helped me figure out was how to actually make a living off of it.
When did you start doing this project and why?
It actually started with me painting my own car. I had a mustard yellow 1983 Volvo station wagon—took me like two years to find it in that color. It had 80k miles on it [and] it was in perfect condition. I snapped a photo of it with my longboard on the roof one morning in Malibu and it was just such a rad image I decided to paint it. A friend saw it and asked me to do his car. Someone asked me to paint their friend’s car as a gift and it just built from there.
How did it become what it did today? How many have you done?
I have to say most of the attention comes from Instagram. Instagram actually did a write up on me on their blog about a year ago (which has 8 million-plus followers), so that was big. I did a few shows. Recently I did a collaboration with Herschel Supply where we have a line of bags. I am currently just shy of 300.
What is it about classic or “rad” cars and surfboards that go so well together?
These two inanimate objects come together to create an experience—a feeling. They tell a story. A car by itself is just a car; a board by itself is just a board. Put them together and you have a story.
What’s your dream combo? The raddest car with the raddest surfboard?
Don't let my Volvo hear me say this, but I have two dream combos. One is a ‘66 VW bus camper with a 9'8” David Nuuhiwa noserider. The other is a Land Rover Defender 110 diesel with a 6'9” Almond "Joy" (with the fin glassed in).
It looks like you’ve gotten a little recognition lately with your Herschel line and your installation at Agenda. Anything else on the horizon for 'Rad Cars?'
Nothing specific—I'm just gonna keep drawing them. I get a lot of commissions. It's fun to stoke people out.
All images © Kevin Butler / Rad Cars With Rad Surfboards