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The Lineup: A Glimpse into Isla Vista’s Unique Culture and Coastline

Daniela Laborinho Schwartz, former UCSB Surfrider student club president, strategic planning team member, and long-time Surfrider volunteer, along with co-creator and freelance photographer Lukas Olesinksi, have been documenting, writing, photographing, and designing a 100 page coffee table book, The Lineup, that dives into the lives of the surfers who have called Isla Vista, CA home for decades. 
Daniela states that The Lineup features "...a very wide range of stories and people including 73-year-old Hank Pitcher, an artist and the designer of the Sex Wax logo, and 35-year-old MJ Butts, a gender-fluid surfer expressing their style through unique board choice. As well, the book captures significant environmental and coastal changes in the town throughout the decades."  We interviewed Daniela and Lukas to learn more about their vision, inspiration, and purpose for creating this book. 

Lukas Olesinki and Daniela Laborinho Schwartz

Q: How did this book come to life, how did you decide upon this specific assortment of stories to tell?

The idea began with our shared curiosity about the perspective of localism from those that live in IV full-time. I talked to the surfers one by one and soon came to realize the tight-knit yet robust network of long-term locals. We learned why they stayed and about their connection to the town compared to the short-term students that reside for only a few years. Ultimately, as the list of long-term locals grew, we chose to feature fifteen individuals with different origins and perspectives on Isla Vista. 

Q: In the book you talk about growing up in a specific area of the California coast and spending a lot of time on the beach — what would you say about the book to people who might not have ever traveled here, and how it might relate to or resonate with them?

While Isla Vista is undoubtedly a special place on the coast, the significance of each story can take place anywhere. What seems to draw locals to stay in Isla Vista is the alternative, low-impact lifestyle and proximity to nature. But, places like this can be found all around the world—near the mountains, a park, a river, etc. Those who haven’t been to or lived in Isla Vista can still appreciate individuals going against the grain to be near natural environments. In the case of Isla Vista, it’s also noteworthy to learn how long-term residents find consistency in such an ephemeral town. Hopefully, readers can observe their own homes with a keener respect for the natural environment and the changes it undergoes. 


Q: Are there any specific experiences that stand out to you in the creation of this book and in capturing these unique stories?

So many things stand out, it’ll be hard to narrow it down! The fact that this is Lukas and my first-ever book project made every step feel monumental and at times, more challenging than we expected. The first interview with Donna and the first photo shoot with Aaron definitely stood out for me because I realized the potential for this project to be pretty epic. There was no turning back afterward!

Also, we started this project in the middle of Covid and college. Interviews were socially distanced, masked, or remote, but wow was it satisfying to talk to new people! Photoshoots weren’t easy to schedule as our busy college lives and those of our sources didn’t always intersect. However, we learned persistence pays off. Hank Pitcher’s story and photos took over a year to complete. But seeing his studio, learning about his childhood, and taking his photos was well worth the perseverance—we left his studio both feeling giddy and excited.

Q: Let’s give the readers a sense of the book’s essence, what types of stories are featured and what kinds of messages are conveyed. Did you recognize any common themes or similarities in the stories and profiles?

The book explores Isla Vista through the eyes of those who’ve lived and surfed there beyond the typical deadline of graduation day. However, in doing so, environmental and cultural changes throughout the years are identified. In terms of surfing, common topics that came up include the increase in female surfers in the last decade and more recently, the increase in foam boards. While localism hasn’t ever been too aggressive in IV, there's a growing concern about the lack of surf etiquette and the injuries this can cause. This can cause some tension. It’s also quite interesting to uncover the environmental changes the coast has experienced throughout the years like with kelp, wind patterns, and how that impacted surf. Ultimately, change is a predominant theme throughout the book. It is interesting to see how the different locals perceive change. 

Q: What has the coastline of Isla Vista given you and why is it important to you to tell these stories?

Beyond memories, lessons, and lifelong friends, IV gave Lukas and I an incredible community. Generally, people respect one another and their environment. I don’t think this correlation is coincidental, it comes from loving and appreciating a place and its parts. Exploring the multigenerational perspectives, observing the critical changes to the coast and timestamping history offers a unique platform to learn from. Isla Vista’s history is far greater than what first meets the eye and getting a better sense of this is quite impactful from a conservation standpoint and culturally as well.  


Q: How do you connect recreation and conservation? Tell us a little bit about your experience with the Surfrider Foundation and how it has shaped your trajectory.

I think the two go hand in hand. Why wouldn’t you protect the places you love? However, the goal of protecting the coast for everyone—not just for human recreation but for the many other species and ecosystems that rely on it—is extremely important to me. Surfrider has always been a great platform for me to put words into action. I started a Surfrider club at my high school when I was 16 and continued my involvement throughout college, where I served as UCSB’s club president. Seeing grassroots efforts and involvement cause positive change in a community is extremely gratifying. I’m optimistic that our oceans and coast can and will continue to be protected. 

Q: How can people find the book and support this project?

People can order the book on Lukas’ photography website, here. Or, they can find the book at these shops in/near Santa Barbara come October: Mollusk Surf Shop, Jewels by the Sea, Chaucer’s Books, Island View Outfitters, and Timbre Books. Or at the Outpost in Marin County.  

People can also reach out to us on our socials to say what’s up or for any questions.: @ollukas and @daniela.schwartzz. 


Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

Sharing and learning from history is a powerful tool. Creating this book allowed us to do a lot of that. So I guess a final takeaway is to be respectful towards your community and take some time to learn about it. 

Also, I’d like to say a huge thank to you all at Surfrider for taking the time to talk to us and learn about the making of The Lineup! Hope you all enjoy it!