The noted Australian shaper on misery, Jesus and Muhammad and pools (of course)…
Two months ago, I edited a print edition of the Australian magazine Surfing Life. It was called The Surfboard Issue and one of the features was a series of interviews, made in the Esquire What I’ve Learned style, of noted surfboard shapers.
Today, the man you know, the man you love, the divine delicacy Greg Webber, pioneer of concave and curve. Inventor of the banana board for Shane Herring in 1992 and Kelly Slater in 2016. Creator of Webber wavepools.
Come inhale those vapours.
I was shaping the nose of a board, deck up with the nose pointing towards my chest, and I had this incredible feeling that what I take off with this tool right now will influence how the board goes through the water. How could I not fall in love with shaping after that?
I’ve pushed the high performance side as far as I or it can go. My boards are already a touch too high performance for the top guys, so what’s the use in pushing even further out?
My strength as a shaper is that I see the surfboard as a unit and not a nose, a middle and a tail.
I don’t always do what pro surfers asks. Pro’s might know more than the average guy but they think they know, with certainty, how one part of the board works yet don’t recognise the three or four or five other areas that also influence it.
I’ll always do what a customer wants since they’ll listen to my points and engage in a meaningful back and forth.
My biggest fault as a designer, and as a man, is being shape and surface and function obsessed.
Shane Herring did the hardest, tightest fastest turns that anyone has ever done and now only Kelly has come close to doing the same. In fact, Kelly has explored the banana more than Shane ever had the chance to. I’m indebted to him for that.
Kelly and I have talked about pools for about 15 years and then boards a few years ago. He approached me after seeing Herring riding the most extreme banana in my brother Monty’s profile on Shane.
It’s what Kelly feels. It’s more than just a moment. He feels connected to the banana board from nose to tail. They’re more advanced than what he is. If the best surfer in the world does a turn on a board and it comes underneath his feet with grip and keeps going around in the same direction he was heading but his weight is now over the top of the board, because he’s expecting that turn to be finished but it’s not flattening off it’s still going, well, that’s a good thing. Because it means he’s got more to do!
How do you ride a banana? Forward. Don’t stand on the tail. Stand in the middle. You’re standing in the same place for your bottom turns as you are for most of your carve turns.
But guess what happens. People get on a banana and ride it like they riding a flatter rocker board. You’ve gotta forget about your manoeuvres and just get to know the board by feeling where it fits in the wave. It can ride higher. It can get to places you can’t normally.
Where have I been? The wave pool has been occupying my thoughts since 1999. The process of getting a prototype built is insanely difficult. It’s bizarre to have something you know will be by far the best, and that it will make huge amounts of money for brands and developers, yet the people with the big dollars seem to be doing everything in their power to not invest in my company. Maybe having Kelly as a rival has played a big part in that.
I’m patient and fucking determined.
Misery is letting subtle things get to you.
If I could shape boards for anyone in history, it would be Muhammad and Jesus. I’d make them two boards each, one which does nothing but cause issues like rail grabs and nose dives while another one that glides and carves so well you don’t even realise there was a board under your feet. Then I’d ask them to make sure the religions that they founded will be like the invisible magic board that lets you enjoy what you are doing without knowing why.