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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Updated: August 10, 1:59 PM ET
The Robert Weiner interview

By Jon Coen
ESPN.com

Robert Wiener talks design with East Coast team rider, Tommy Petriken

Rocker is so out.

There's a very good chance that the design of the surfboard you're riding this summer was influenced by Robert Weiner. Actually, there's a chance that the board you are riding was actually shaped by Weiner. He's got Robert's Surfboards in 50 retail shops right now. That's coming close to Merrick stats. But even if you're not riding a Weiner, unless you're back on some retro fish, your go-to summer shorty is very likely a wider, fatter, stick than your regular high performance thruster, with a massive tail and a single concave. That's Weiner's calling card. That's why he was named "Shaper of the Year," by Surfing Magazine in 2011.

The return of foam to almost 1986 levels is largely due to this man -- taking what we learned in the 70s and fine-tuning it for modern high performance surfing in uncritical waves. He just did his first tour of the East Coast, shaking hands, meeting team riders, and showing off the Mush Machine, the next board we might all be talking about. It's also good to know that in this age, there are still things made by skilled hands.

What are summers like around Robert's Surfboards?
Summers are very busy at Roberts Surfboards. Summer is always a busy time of year for us. The surf has been kind of small, (laughing) so I've been able to stay focused on getting boards shaped.

Word is that you started shaping in your parents' garage at 12-years-old. What kind of shaping does a 12-year-old do?
The best he possibly can! The only tools we had were a handsaw, a Surform, and some sand paper. My brother and I would strip the glass off of old classic longboards and shape them into short boards. We also glassed them ourselves. My father was a painting contractor so he gave us tips on how to work with the resin.

Tell me about your trip to the East Coast. Anything out here surprise you?
I was surprised by how nice the people are, and how nice and warm the water was.

Did you get any summertime surf?
Oh yeah. My rep Mick Cotton and I surfed six out of the 10 days that I was over there.

Robert Weiner
Would you trust a shaper who can't do wraps like this. Weiner, putting the gear through the paces just five minutes from his factory.

Did you get to spend time with some of your East Coast riders?
Yeah, we were able to see Blair Wheeler at Surf City in South Carolina, then we went to Cape Hatteras and I was able to go surf with Brad Harrel and Dallas Tolson. From there we went north and I met Tom Petrikin and Clay Pollioni at Brave New World. The next day Tom Petrikin and photographer Mike Incitti took Mick and I surfing, but the waves were on the small side, so I was barely able to surf it. On the other hand Tom was killing it on his Epoxy Black Dump Truck in the one-footers.

Your shapes certainly resonate with East Coasters. Your boards are in more East Coast shops than West Coast. What's the reason for that?
I've been shaping high performance boards for a long time -- since I was twelve (laughs.) I've always been serious about creating the best boards for big and small waves. Shorter and wider boards have become the new standard. These type of boards like our White Diamond, Modern 80's, Diamond Fish, and Mush Machine work really well in the East Coast conditions. Ever Since I was voted Surfing Magazine's shaper of the year, the East Coast surfers are starting to discover my boards. So I think that's the reason for the growing demand of our boards on the East Coast. My West Coast business has also been going crazy.

What team guys give you the most useful feedback?
The ones that are honest about how the boards are working. Most all the feedback lately has been very positive. That's what every shaper loves to hear. It also makes me happy to know that all the years of hard work and refining of my boards are paying off.

Your name is always associated with the White Diamond, which some say beget the Dumpster Diver, which changed surfboards. Would you say that's how it went?
A few years back I created the White Diamond. My team riders Sean Hayes and Adam Virs were the first two to get them. Sean and Adam both fell in love with the White Diamond and their good friend, Dane Reynolds, started to notice. Dane asked Adam to try his board on a few waves, told Adam that he really liked it and that he would be stoked to try one in a slightly bigger size, since Dane is quite a bit bigger than Adam. So I shaped a White Diamond for Dane in EPS/Epoxy 5'7 x 19 1/2 x 2 5/16. He just so happened to get the board a day before leaving for a Surfing Magazine photo trip to the Barra Cruz area in Mexico. He ended up taking the White Diamond with him. He fell in love with the White Diamond and also took it with him to Indo a month later for the filming of Julian Wilson's movie, "Scratching The Surface." So about two months after making the White Diamond for Dane, I was watching the ASP World Tour event at Lowers on the live feed and they were showing highlights of Dane's first round heat. The announcer was describing Dane's board as a short wide board that looked magic. He also said that the board was 5'7 x 19 1/2 and kind of thick looking!
When I heard that comment, I thought to myself, "Dane is riding my White Diamond in the Lowers event." So I called Dane right away to tell him how stoked I was that he was riding my White Diamond in the contest. The phone went quite for a second and that's when he told me that he got some heat from his board sponsor for riding my board so much. Dane told me he had them make one just like The White Diamond, 5'7 x 19 1/2 x 2 5/16 in EPS/Epoxy. Dane ended up getting the best result of his career in a WCT event on that board and it's still the best results he's had ever. Shortly after the contest, his sponsor named that board the Dumpster Diver and it became their best selling model. Now it seems everyone is riding and shaping boards that have this type of look and shape.

There's always been evolution in designs, but a lot of the time it's only in the most elite ranks. Really the average shortboard didn't change too much from 1990 to 2005, aside for the retro movement. To me, the wider/shorter/wide point forward morph is the biggest leap for the average surfer. Is this the fastest change we've seen since the late 60s?
The longboard era died in the early 70's and boards started getting shorter. That's why my brother and I would strip them down and shape them into short boards. That trend continued through to the 80s. In the 90s, boards got narrower and needed more length to help them plane. Then shapers added rocker to help them turn better. Then they started to ad concave to give them more drive through turns. That "High Performance Short Board" has been popular for about fifteen years or so. The first White Diamond was made in early 2009 and it seems that this trend in shorter, wider boards is continuing to grow. The difference between these boards and the ones from the 80's is the concave and rocker. The modern concaves and rockers in our boards along with these 80's looking outlines are making these the best most amazing boards ever. So the answer to your question is, yes, this seems to be the biggest change in surfboards in a long time. It's exciting.

Weiner gets a little water time on the White Diamond between shop visits in New Jersey.

There was a time that if you rode a 5'8 with a fat tail judges would deduct points. How much of this recent evolution had to do with an evolving criteria?
It had a lot to do with it. I would tell my riders that they should have a shorter wider board in thier quiver for small waves in contests. They would say that the judges don't score you as high when your riding that type of board. So a lot of pros just went "HPSB" in all conditions. Hence, other surfer always thought that these type of boards were the best boards in all conditions. Well, now people know better! Judges have a much more open mind to this type of board.

Where do you see this trend going now?
I think that this is a very exciting time for surfboard design. Surfboards are becoming more specialized and that's why we have so many different models. They all serve a purpose. Put it this way -- a golfer doesn't have just one club in his bag! Surfboards are becoming more like Golf clubs. You will surf better if you have the right board for the type of conditions, and the waves change every day. The future of surfboards is bright and the materials are becoming more advanced every day. At the moment, I'm working on some boards with carbon suspension in the blank. They're amazing. We would need a few more pages if you wanted to talk about that. (laughs.)

It seems that so much of the direction of surfing comes out of Ventura. Talk about Ventura's place in the surf world.
For the most part, Ventura is off the radar and that's the way surfers around here like it. What that does, is create an atmosphere where people don't care what others think of their surfing or shaping. The off-the-radar status has also forced the surfers and shapers who want to be noticed to work that much harder to get noticed. So when they do get noticed, people say, "Wow. Where did that guy come from?" You guessed it. Ventura.