Interview: Wayne Rich
Wayne Rich is a shaper of over 35 years. He learned from the best – spending time under the tutelage of Bing Surfboards’ Dan Bendickson as well as several prominent labels before settling in the original Santa Barbara Surf Shop in a room next to the one and only Renny Yater in 1990. When I called up up to ask him about his second win at last October’s Tribute to the Masters Shape-Off, Presented by U.S. Blanks at the Sacred Craft Expo in Del Mar, and the upcoming Boardroom International Surfboard Show, he was more than happy to answer a few questions.
So Mr. Rich, I understand you are the reigning Champ of the Tribute to the Masters Shape Off.
I’ve won it twice. I’ve been really fortunate because there is a lot of exclusivity and a lot of luck involved. The last one was really interesting because it was Carl Ekstrom, and we had no sense of design form to work with. That was really cool because we all came in with completely different design forms. It’s really a shame we all can’t win, ‘cause we’re all winners.
The most important thing is payment. Paying respect to the life of someone who’s excelled at something; it’s such a great honor to do that. That part of it is really amazing. You know, it’s a rough way to make a living. There is a lot of hard work and drama with people that goes into it. It’s kind of neat to see that part of it exposed to the public, because they don’t really get to see that.
How long do you get during the contest to build the board?
An hour and a half, and that’s pretty gnarly. They did two hours for the Renny Yater “Spoon” shape off and that kind of board normally takes four to six hours, so it’s pretty intense when you get in there. You’re focused. It’s cool to work really hard and it’s interesting because we have to cut corners on certain things. But accuracy is important because you’re copying a design.
The main format, like this one, which is going to be a 1981 Mark Richards twin fin which he shaped, glassed and airbrushed himself and then won the Gunston 500 on in South Africa. So it’s a pretty awesome board to do it (the contest) around. I haven’t seen the board. We don’t see it until we get down there. We get a chance to look at it, feel it out and measure it, then you go in there and do your best. After that Matt Biolos, Mark Richards, and I think Rick Rock judge the boards. Flip ‘em over and check out, look at the rails, the tail, the bottom contours and such to see who is the best.
As far as Mark Richards goes he’s a 4x World Champ, and he was one of my idols growing up. So as far as being able to participate in this, it’s a privilege and an honor of incredible proportions because I’m a surfer/shaper. And there aren’t too many of those out there, and Mark Richards did it at a World Class level; very few pro surfers shape their own equipment at that level and ride it, although Gerry Lopez is an exception. I don’t know many surfers that shape their own equipment and ride it.
Do you think that being a surfer/shaper is a becoming a lost art?
There is a group a group of people like Tomo – do you know who Daniel Thompson is? So there are a few of them, like Ryan Burch. But as far as the Tour goes, the Pro level stuff, it’s my opinion that it’s so intense that they can’t afford to be on anything but the best equipment all the time. There is so much pressure from sponsors and to win and all.
I can kind of see why. Some of the guys like Kelly can go in the shaping room and come out with something good but generally they are going to have someone else do it. Just at a world class level of surfing there really aren’t many. That’s what is really amazing about Mark.
How long have you been shaping?
Going on 35 years, but I’ve been around it longer than that. I was in the factories since 12 – I grew up in the Bing Factory. The head shaper was my mentor, his wife was my swim instructor. I lived three blocks away from the factory and after school I would go there and clean up and stuff. It was a completely different society back then. I was lucky, because that never happened. If you didn’t have a reason to be there, you weren’t in the factory. Now it’s changed, and things are more lax. Back then it was a much smaller industry.
There are some people who say we are going out at this shape off and showing all our secrets, and that’s just not true. People see real simple technique but they aren’t going to learn your secrets in an hour and a half. There are hardcore people who like to keep a real closed door. But on the other side of it you’re not going to change the world if you don’t have a positive outlook on it, people will see some of this stuff so they can appreciate it I think.
I don’t care how you slice it, you can watch somebody do something and then go in there and do it yourself but you still can’t figure it out. It takes time. It’s not easy. I’ve always been a fan of the people that go in there and work it out and deal with the consequences. I don’t care if it’s martial arts, shaping surfboards, glassing surfboards or walking a tight-rope, if you have the guts to start doing it, as long as you don’t start pounding your chest like you’re bitchin’. Those guys get fucked with and then that’s it, whether it’s in the water or in the factory.
Thank you so much for your time Mr. Rich.
You can call me Wayne. Have a good day.
Be sure to check out The Boardroom next weekend on October 6 and 7 at Del Mar Fair Fairgrounds in San Diego.