Gregory and Matthew Barton are the creative minds behind Hamptons Surf Company, turning image of the East End landscape into picturesque boards.
The brothers grew up splitting their time between New York City and East Hampton. Time on the East End nourished an appreciation for natural landscape, in contrast to the concrete streets of the Big Apple, Matthew Barton noted. “This love for nature has focused in on an intense love for the ocean, which has been such a huge part of our lives for as long as I can remember . . . and this has obviously influenced me as an artist and has provided endless inspiration for our surf company.”
At the early age of three, young Matthew Barton borrowed his mother’s camera to snap life around him, and by high school it went from being a hobby to a passion. Keen on perfecting his craft, for which he prefers to use an antique Rolleiflex camera, he is currently enrolled at the Savannah College of Art and Design, pursing his MFA in photography.
Gregory Barton pursued his creativity in a different form. He is currently undergoing his sixth year as an art history and art teacher in Virginia Beach, and on the side, he creates sculpture pieces, such as surfboards. “I have always loved abstraction and have recently been working with polyurethane foam to create organic forms. The material is actually the same as a surfboard blank, but surfboards simply scratch the surface of the medium’s artistic applications,” Gregory noted.
The combination of Matthew’s visual talent and Gregory’s hands-on approach bred Hamptons Surf Company in 2015. The company makes surfboards that go from the wall to the horizon as livable art. “We joke that my brother has an obsession with horizon line and it was a no-brainer to make it the focus of our first Photo Board series,” Gregory said of the images showcasing beach scenes from the brothers’ favorite local locations.
Board prices start at $2500 and each one takes approximately a month-and-a-half to create. First, a selection of photographs is chosen to coincide with several board shapes. After creating a mock-up using Photoshop, the image is sent to the glasser, Matt Levrett. Together, the three create the final product, where the high-quality images are professionally sealed into the board, making it “ready to be hung on a client’s wall or hit the water.” With a little wax-on-wax-off, board maintenance is no different than the traditional surfboard. It’s art that fuels adventure.
With images rotating monthly, there’s a unique feature on the website’s design studio allowing a customer to Design Your Own Board. There are three shapes to choose from: standard short, fish short, or square long. Photo options online “are simply the tip of the iceberg,” said Matthew. Upon describing the type of photo desired, Matthew will send over options from a collection of thousands of images. “Our goal is that our customers love the photo they choose — we never want to settle. With all of that said, each photo is only used once, so each board/piece of art is truly unique,” noted Gregory.
In addition to surfboards, Hamptons Surf Company started a clothing line in 2017 and their mother, Kathryn Barton, also became involved, making photo bags. Matthew provides the image and Kathryn hand sews it on durable, canvas bags providing protection from sand, water, sunblock, and all beach weather.
The company highlights many emerging East Coast artists. What began as friendly connections has grown into vast collaborations based out of the East End, but reaches far beyond the island. “No matter the location, the most important piece for us is that we continue to find likeminded artists who are excited to be a part of something new and different,” said Gregory.
Community connection is key to the brand, with a portion of every purchase donated to charity; a portion of clothing sales go to The Surfrider Foundation; bags, The Retreat; and photo board sales, Surfers Healing. Through event involvement, such as Valpo Surf Project and Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons from this past summer, Hamptons Surf Company is endlessly discovering new ways to give back.
Catch the Barton brothers in the water using their Photo Boards; Matthew on his “White Lightning” showcasing a hurricane wave breaking down the middle of the board and Gregory on a 10-foot-long board with the Mediterranean Sea. Wiping out never looked so good (not that they ever wipe out).
Gregory concluded, “For us, the unique mixture of art and surfing creates a culture that separates the East End of Long Island from the rest of the world. East Hampton, specifically, is the only place that has brought together some of the best artists and surfers of the past century. Between Jackson Pollock walking the beaches for inspiration to Kelly Slater working to preserve Montauk’s natural beauty, the East End is a true example of how worlds collide to create a place like no other.”