Big Wave Rider

  • Posted On: 29th May 2014


Will Skudin surfing surfing the North Shore of Hawaii on a Jesse Fernandez gun.

Will Skudin surfing Phantom on the North Shore of Hawaii on a Jesse Fernandez gun.


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 

Will Skudin at Todos Santos.

Will Skudin at Todos Santos.

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.


  1. World Class Waves, World Class Shaper | Hidden Outer Banks · May 31, 2014

    [...] To read the complete story, click HERE. [...]

  2. adam · June 12, 2014

    Will has been an inspiration for all of us east coasters!
    remember reading in ESM years back that he surfed Mavs… at 16 or something, an remember thinkn that i thought the last time i surfed lighthouse was heavy. i thought damn this kid my hero id love to try that oneday… def. easier said then done… but watchin guys like Will an his brother any younger east coasters can learn to dream big an realize if theres a will theres a way…U guys are awesome!!! handwork pays off! great article Jessie I’ve learned a lot from both y’all! keep it goin!!!! good peoples in the banks… love it!

  3. Anh · August 9, 2015

    hi. my name is joel. im 27 years old, i only have high school and liltte college education. im very poor and im on disability for chronic migraines and mental health issues which come along with that burden. in the past few years i have been getting into horses. i cant get enough of them or stop learning about them. something inside is telling me this is what i need to do, but i dont know how to get started. your podcasts make me feel fired up about doing something about it. i have been spending time at a local barn. i take 1 lesson a week and pay to ride the same horse another day per week. i groom my trainers horses for exercise and something to do, and she loves it. it calms me down and keeps me fit. one of the main problems with my disability is that it is so hard to stay healthy which is a main causing factor. i feel like this is my best chance at reaching a level of health and happiness and that i may be able to overcome my problems and actually have a real job or career. my strong points are that my heart is in it, i dont have too much fear on the ground, i love to get dirty and spend time with the horses, i love to sweat and get a workout. its just that i havent been working for years and i have no money beond what i need to pay bills and ride. no recent work experience means its hard to find a job at all. plus i live near detroit, michigan and it’s practically 3rd world here. if you don’t know what kind of advice to give to me, that’s ok, but maybe you have some ideas so i thought i’d be worth asking. i would love to hear from you guys. if i begin making progress towards the life i desire i will definately keep ya’ll updated and speak highly of ya’ll.

  4. Finn Cardiff · April 20, 2019

    Absolutely sick to see some East Coast representation at the Mavericks!

    You’re totally right. The right gear makes a HUGE difference.

    Much luck to Will!

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