Month Of The Shaper: William “Stretch” Riedel

posted by / News / November 12, 2008

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with our annual Surfboards Issue (On newsstands Nov. 18), we will be posting one interview per day with a craftsman who contributed to the issue. Some are the biggest names in the bay; others are underground and want to keep it that way. But all of them share an equal passion for the crafts that move us forward. In these tough economic times, they all have a lot to say on where their craft is going. First up: 2005 Shaper of the Year, William “Stretch” Riedel.

Name: William “Stretch” Riedel
Zone: Santa Cruz
Years Shaping: 30
Boards Per Week: 25-35
Specialty: Don’t have one, I do it all

Is your business better or worse since the Clark Foam shutdown?

Clark’s closure had zero effect on me.

Do you feel polyurethane foam/polyester resin will always be the dominant surfboard construction?

I think that that question is better stated, do I believe that polyester is superior? And I don’t believe that there is a superior material. Everything has its place. I think that epoxy is a superior resin for a number of reasons. But blank-wise, the blank is an ingredient in the recipe, whereas I don’t use that ingredient that much, it’s a good ingredient in some recipes it’s better.

Do you think there’s an increasing or decreasing appreciation for a custom surfboard?

Right now I think it’s decreasing. It’s decreasing and I think that that is because of, number one the media. And number two the clothing companies don’t necessarily want to have big shaper names; they’re dangerous to them. So they will tend to back things like Super Surfboards. A lot of the big companies, you know Billabong, Quiksilver, have surfboard labels in Australia, in Europe. That’s to their advantage. It’s market driven, the decline right now. I don’t believe that it’s possible to sustain it, as long as there is somebody out there who’s willing to do the job and do the job to it’s full extent; learn hydrodynamics, learn composite technology, learn the tools, craftsmanship. I think that they will always be able to make a superior board, and guys that can really surf will always want the best thing that they can get their hands on. The non-shaper driven label, if you were a shaper and your name isn’t on the board, what do you care what it looks like? What do you care what it rides like? It’s just a job. If your name’s on it, it changes things. If it’s your label, it changes things.

Are quads declining or increasing in popularity?

Steady.

What’s keeping you afloat? Custom clientele? Shop accounts? Surftech?

That changes for the time of the year. We’re going into winter-time, so this is our custom time of the year. The shops are tentative to stock boards this time of the year, but the guys that really surf now is when they order boards.

If it hasn’t already, will your surfboard production ever have to go overseas?

There is a place for overseas production. Will we? I don’t know. We tried it, didn’t like it very much, didn’t feel real good about it. But I think that there’s a place for it. The labels that are going overseas, you can get a cheap board. For the beginning to intermediate surfer who may need high performance, but doesn’t realize it, it gets him going, it gets him surfing, it gets him into a short board, it gets him into the industry, or into the market.

What kind of music do you like to listen to when you shape?

On the computer you can go this website, Pandora, and you type in a band name or {{{80}}}’s music, or punk rock. I type in NOFX and a bunch of NOFX comes up and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Green Day, and that kind of kiddie punk. NOFX is my favorite though.

How much time do you spend on a single board now?

Depends. What’s that board? I don’t have a specialty, so shortboards, like a stock shortboard I’ll spend a half hour, 45 minutes, on each one, and I’m not the only one who’s shaping it. We shape differently than anyone else in the industry. I go through every single board three times and I’ll spend ten or fifteen minutes at each step and then somebody else will do some of the work for me. Some guns I’ll spend 2 or 3 hours on sometimes. A couple of hours on a tow board, depends on what it is, some of the jobs are a lot.

Do you spend more time on the computer screen or in the shaping bay?

All my time is in the shaping bay. I don’t spend any work time on the computer, you know I’ll go on Surfline and check it, or look at the design forum. But I don’t design on a computer screen. I don’t think it’s bad; it’s just not me. The Mona Lisa can’t be built on a computer. I’m not trying to build a floatation device.

How important is teamrider feedback to you?

Everything, I don’t surf, I haven’t been able to surf for 20 years. I have to get feedback, it’s the only way. When I broke my neck I could surf pretty well, but by the time that you really know how to shape, your 20 years into it, I’m still learning at 30 years into it. I don’t know any 50-year-olds that can go out and bust an air. You’re gonna be 50, 45 by the time your really good, but you can’t go out and test what your making. You gotta have rider feedback.

What kind of board do you enjoy shaping most right now?

It changes day to day. The most challenging boards are the ones that I like to shape the best. That would be some of the Pipe guns, Maverick’s guns, Tow boards are really hard.

Are you actively pursuing “greener” avenues in your surfboard production?

We always have. We were one of the first, if not the first, to go to EPS Epoxy. Our foam is all recycled, all of our waste is recycled. To the point where we don’t use any virgin cardboard, all of our cardboard is recycled. We go over to SurfTech and grab all their cardboard boxes, we have all our foam shipped here in cardboard boxes and we reuse that cardboard to ship a board back out again. We’re always looking for ways to recycle.

MONTH OF THE SHAPER:
DAY 1: William “Stretch” Riedel
DAY 2: Mark Price / Firewire Surfboards
DAY 3: Jeff Clark
DAY 4: Chris Gallagher
DAY 5: Matt Biolos
DAY 6: Geoff Rashe
DAY 7: Mark Wooster
DAY 8: Jeff Bushman
DAY 9: Rusty Preisendorfer
DAY 10: Rich Price
DAY 11: Shane Stoneman
DAY 12: Ricky Carroll
DAY 13: Xanadu
DAY 14: Chris Christenson
DAY 15: John Carper
DAY 16: Michael Walter
DAY 17: David Barr
DAY 18: Ben Aipa
DAY 19: Jeff “Doc” Lausch
DAY 20: Jesse Fernandez
DAY 21: Cole Simler

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