Will Skudin is a surfer from Long Island, New York. I first met him 12 years ago as a 16-year-old grommet who walked into the WRV shaping facility and explained that he would like to order a ten-foot gun to surf Mavericks. – Jesse Fernandez
To the uninformed, Mavericks is the premiere mainland USA big wave surf spot. Located in Halfmoon Bay, California, it served as the backdrop to the 2012 Hollywood movie “Chasing Mavricks”. With rideable waves in the 18 to 25 foot range, this is a double black diamond surf spot designated for serious athletes only.
As a seasoned surfboard craftsman, I’d come to know a few big wave chargers in my time and this little whip of a human shared none of their characteristics. There was no “been there, surfed that” attitude, no weathered leather skin under salt crusted stubble. Actually no stubble at all, just an articulate young man with a huge amount of surf stoke and a gleam in his eyes that I would come to understand as steely determination.
To say I was skeptical at the time would be a shallow understatement. It wasn’t until he went to the car and pulled out a ten-foot single fin gun that he had purchased used, “off the rack”, during his first venture to the hallowed big wave surf grounds that I started to come around. As he explained the shortcomings of the board’s design and the changes he would like to make to enhance the new one, I realized that my first impression of some delusional kid from New York who transplanted to Buxton might have been a little premature.
That was the beginning of a surfer–shaper relationship that has now moved into its second decade and is showing no signs of losing ground.
In the years since that first meeting, Will has moved back to New York, won Eastern Surf Magazine’s 2013 surfer of the year and been a four time contender for the Billabong XXL paddle award. He has started his own production company, NYSea, and he has produced and starred in several surf films.
The Skudin surf camps host an annual surf festival on Long Island and just this last February, Will qualified for the Association of Surfing Professionals Big Wave Tour. Finishing at number 16 in the world ranking for the 2013 season, he’s poised to make a decent campaign for the 2014 title. The odd quirk to this tale is that he is still riding boards made right here on the Outer Banks.
Spend enough time on this sandbar and you’ll come to understand that it can certainly be described as a surf destination. As long as your not looking for massive surf. The closest thing to a serious big wave reef you’ll find, is about a ten hour drive to the north in New England, or a three hour plane ride south to Puerto Rico.
Most big wave riders will stick to the boards being made and refined in the areas of the waves they dedicate themselves to riding. That would explain the high number of guns coming out of places like Hawaii, California or South Africa. But for an area known strictly for beach breaks that barley hold any swell over 8’ to 10’, it’s a stretch to find more than one or two customers for guns in the 10’ range.
The deciding factor of our relationship has been Will’s ability to communicate his equipment needs for the various spots he surfs around the world and my determination to interpret them to functional big wave designs. It can be a little intimidating hand shaping a board to be ridden in 25-foot surf because a bad wipeout could end a career or a life. I’ve listened to so many harrowing stories about barely escaping the reef or two wave hold-downs that I’ll will often spend an entire day or two on one board to get it as perfect as humanly possible.
The one thing that eases my stress during these shaping endeavors is the level of dedication Will puts into attaining his goals. Having trained like an Olympian since a young age and possessing the ability to hold his breath for four minutes, I know he can handle the worst beatings the ocean can throw at him.
My job is to put him on boards that can safely get him from the peak to the channel without having a wave the size of an apartment building hit him on the head. The 2014 Big Wave Tour is scheduled for six events around the globe this year, with locations including Chile, Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Spain and Hawaii.
I can only imagine the look on some of his fellow competitors faces when he explains that his quiver comes from the land of southern drawls and vinegar-flavored barbecue. I’ll be wishing him luck during this year’s events and waiting for feedback from his latest designs.
Will Skudin on Meeting Jesse
I remember walking into the factory and meeting Jesse. I remember looking around and thinking this place is epic.
Jesse was full of white foam and just what I pictured a world-class shaper would look like. He shook my hand hard with that shaper grip and asked me what I was looking to order. I could tell Jesse was a little shocked about what I was asking him to build that day.
It was the beginning of an epic relationship. There is no way I would be where I am today without Jesse’s vision for my equipment and surfing. Jesse does his homework and is so humble about his work, so willing to hear feedback from surfers and other shapers. Not only has he made me boards that I trust with my life, but he has helped my mental game along the way. He was one of the few people back then that truly believed in my vision and goals. He’s such a loyal and truthful guy. I am blessed to have him in my life.
The best part about it is we just are getting started.