Questions for Willie
Name: Willie Rheeder
Home Break: South beach
Craft Specialty: Well laid out concaves, flat rocker, no more than two fins (single or twin.) rails are your friend
Favorite Shaper: Alex Knost
Favorte Shape: Semi pin drivy single fin
How did you first find your love for the ocean?
I grew up with a family that have lived by and off the ocean for as long as I can remember, my grand dad used to work on the whaling station just off the bluff as well as fished commercially, his knowledge of the ocean was passed down to me from a very young age. Bodysurfing when I got bored or fished to make some pocket money was just part of everyday life. Surfing soon followed as it was just another way of enjoying the ocean. It’s what I know and life would have no meaning if it got taken from me.
What do you feel you draw from the ocean, and why do you keep going back?
It’s a raw feeling of being in nature in an uncontrolled environment where anything can happen from dolphins to a shark encounter or being surrounded by a big school of bait fish. Being on a board and riding a wave just ads to the blissful feeling.
Best or weirdest thing to happen to you in the ocean?
Fishing off the paddle ski at st Lucia hooked up to a dorado and have a dolphin take my fish and drag me down past the light house which is a few km down from the launch sight. I have never encountered dolphins to be such a pest in all the places I have fished. Usually sharks are the problem but somehow these dolphins have learned a lazy habit.
Who do you look up to in your ocean community and why?
I would lie if I said anyone else but Alex knots. Even though he’s not a local I spend a lot of time checking his board designs and his style is unlike any other surfer to walk the oceans. He has his own ways and just does what he loves not influenced by today’s norm, slaying single fins before they got “cool” again and that reflects a big part of my board selection. In school I refused to surf any other board than my Mike Lamont single and Errol Hickman original twinny and a homemade pine alaia. I always got dirty looks and guys kept asking If I was to poor to buy a board, I never went for those mass produced twigs, It just had no soul and they just don’t go for me.
What are your ocean aims for the next five years?
Living off the land and surfing a break on my door step. It’s hard to say as life in general throws a lot of curve balls. If you take 5 years back and asked me this question my answer would be very different from what I achieved and become today. If I had 100% control I would love to improve my surfing and take my board making to the point where I can make a living off making custom boards in my back yard.
What is your greatest achievement (both in and out the water)?
I have had Frankie ask me to shape him a board after I shaped one for a local guy who is good mates with Coby and won a contest on a board I shaped. Frankie said my rails are super close to what Peter Daniels shaped witch is a massive compliment as I knew Pete and how specific his boards had to be. It’s not exactly an achievement I have only recently started shaping for the public. I am aiming high and have a lot of years ahead of me being 24.
What would you like to see change in the surf industry?
It has taken a huge change as we speak. People have become more open minded towards all kinds of surfing. Seeing a twinny or a traditional longboard in a mag or on the beach does not make you feel like you teleported back to the 70s, it’s become the norm.
If you weren’t a surfer/shaper where do you think you would be today?
I would more than likely be on a game farm hunting or a game ranger (sorry for the vegans I love juicy steaks)
Working in the surf Blank industry how do you feel the materials we use impact our enviroment and how do you hope we can change in the future to ensure we produce greener eco friendly blanks?
Surfers and shapers have a very small negative footprint on the environment. House hold supplies, food/drink containers, tires and the list goes on always wash up on our shores and in rivers, how much surfboard waste is found? Almost none and we are very conscious about doing beach clean ups. Eco friendly blanks have been in production for a while now and could pave a green future when it catches on.
How did you get started and what is it that you love about shaping? What advice would you give to young aspiring shapers?
None of the shop boards caught my attention and 90% seem to be the same thing in 10 different shops with just a different logo and the alternative shapes were narrow with a short board rail and a fin placement that would only make sense if you came from JHB and did not know what surfing was, the boards I liked I would present to shapers and they laughed at me and said it would never work, this is when I met Max Wetteland one afternoon after school, he was very humble and gave me tips on channels and concaves and after buying a blank I went home having no clue what tools to use. I used my carpentry experience and pretended it to be a piece of wood so I would not freak out after spending almost all my savings on this blank. I made a little quad fin Simmons which was unintentionally a tad asymmetrical and to my surprise to went extremely well to a point where all my mates rashed to buy it off me. To all the youngsters get your dad to open the garage and make it look like a snow storm hit the building and just mow a piece of foam and surf it. Don’t worry if it looks weird, your next one I can guarantee will be a whole lot better.
The surfboards I see you putting out there are very retro and incredibly beautiul in terms of shapes style and finishing. What kind of boards are you drawn to shaping and why?
I have always felt like the wheel does not have to be reinvented. My experience on olds school boards is they paddle easy and have flow but you are not always in control and they make you do unintended body jives to keep it going through a turn or make a section once you get the feel for a twinny or single, it looks classy and smooth. Surfers who ride retros with style are a treasure to sit and watch. I want to make boards that flow not performance boards they have a very smooth feel with unbelievable speed and can turn on a dime.
Why should we ride a Voyager board as opposed to any other board? What makes the purchase of a Voyager worth it over any another shaper or PU board?
I like to meet my customers for coffee and we talk about boards and meet for a surf if you in my area to get a feel for how you surf to shape a board that suits your style so when you pop up its almost like second nature. I’m always open to change a shape of my models, nothing is set in concrete and any and all personalising is welcome.
Any story you would like to share with us? Any parting wisdom we can take from you having spent so many years drawing love from the sea?
Do what you do and ignore those who judge, as long as you having a jol others opinion don’t matter.