Robert Weiner began shaping not because he wanted to, but because he needed to. And whatever it is we pursue, we all have to start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in the garage or backyard, your first shape just doesn’t turn out right. But it’s hard to stop trying. Robert turned this passion into a respectable career that has seen him transition from working in that garage into becoming one of the most respected board builders in the industry. I sat down with Robert for The Inertia’s first #shaperofthemonth to learn his story and what it means to build a relationship between shaper and surfer.
“At the age of 12 I shaped my first surfboard,” Weiner says. “My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a new one when my only board was used and washed up. I stripped down this old long board (a classic Bing) that I had and I would actually kill for now. It probably would be worth a lot of money to a collector, but we cut it down and shaped little boards out of it.”
So he stuck with it, shaping a few more boards for himself and a few for his brother, eventually crafting a board in middle school as a project for wood shop class. As he got older and his surfing career progressed, Robert was fortunate enough to have friends who shaped at an exceptional level, such as George Reber and Casey McCrystal. With the great boards they were making him, he put his shaping aspirations on hold.
When Robert was 27 years old, Casey offered him a job in his factory in Oxnard. After working there for seven years, Robert started shaping his own boards. The rest is history and the previous moments turned into an inspiration.
“It was like a passion I already had,” said Robert.
Taking his experience and what he learned at McCrystal, Robert began his small shaping company in Ventura. Soon after, Roberts Surfboards was born. Riders and friends flocked to his small shop in Ventura, and the company soon grew into a team of local and successful athletes faithful to his designs and locality of his shaping company. When he’s not with his family, surfing or shaping, he’s working on new models with team riders and developing some of the most cutting-edge techniques you can find.
I found out that his passion isn’t only for making surfboards. He wants to help every surfer become the best they can possibly be.
“I wake up every morning and I ask myself how can I make that kid a better surfer?” said Robert, which helps him attract some of the best talent in the sport. Over the years, his team riders have won numerous amateur titles as well as pro contests. As they grow older, bigger and stronger, he uses his knowledge to adjust their boards to not only help them in the present but also create a foundation for lengthening their careers.
“When you have a shaper that works with you every day who has nothing but your best interest in mind, you get a lot of attention and a lot of growth,” said Robert. Big labels start calling when they see all the media coverage from contest wins and video drops. The surf industry starts to weigh on the minds of these young surfers, promising a new yet successful career.
“When a young kid leaves a small shaper and starts working with a bigger brand, he loses a lot of that one on one attention. Felipe Toledo has been a really good surfer for a long time and rode for a big company, then left the big company and went to a smaller brand. He’s getting way more attention and his boards are completely dialed for his technique and style. He’s getting crazy results, he’s going faster, big airs. It’s noticeable,” said Robert.
That improvement not only applies to the level of surfers like Felipe Toledo, but also to the contest kids and local weekend chargers. That’s a big reason why Robert tries to make himself available to talk with everyone about their next board in the factory or over the phone. Every year he looks forward to traveling out to the East Coast to meet with friends and customers, renewing the ideal “local shaper” who cares for his riders.
In the end, becoming an exceptional surfer requires exceptional work and dedication. Having a shaper who wants to see you do well should be your first priority, and Robert has created just that with Roberts Surfboards. Trust your shaper and build a friendship. In the end, your shaper might know your surfing better than you do.