Greg Webber is a non-stop innovator and shaper for top surfers all over the planet. In 1970 Greg started shaping Styrofoam boards at age 10 and put timber fins in them and copied the shape from Hot Buttered and McCoy surfboards.
Three years later he started Webber surfboards with brother John making them in the family back yard. Shaped his first polyurethane Webber surfboard from a broken nose Midget Farrelly board that he found in a trash bin at Bondi beach. A short time after Greg worked for G and S in Caringbah near Cronulla in Sydney and made boards for Richard Cram who won Australian junior title on a G and S Webber shape.
Come 1983, Greg had started Insight surfboards with Rod Dahlberg at Angourie, where they made boards for Many pro surfers like: Richard Cram, Greg Day, Joe Engel. Insight moved to Sydney and sponsored guys like Barton Lynch, Mike Rommelse, Shane Herring, while making boards for other pro surfers like Shaun Tomson, Sunny Garcia and Kelly Slater.
By 1986, Greg started doing his first full concave designs, as well as his first curved fins. Before FCS existed.
Greg re- founded Webber surfboards in 1996 back at Yamba and then moved back to Sydney in 2004 to continue to build Webber surfboards. Webber Surfboards sponsored Taj Burrow and shaped boards for guys like Andy Irons, Damien Hobgood, Chris Ward, Josh Kerr.
Describe yourself in 3 words: A human paradox (I’m as equally planned and ordered, with an aim and vision, as I am randomly and theme-lessly spontaneous) I hope it’s OK to make up words.
What is your life motto? Understand identity, yet be driven by the experience.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? 10yrs of age. First success after 9 years (shaping for the Australian Junior Champ and then after 19 years shaping for the world men and women champs in the same year.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? 20 hours per week shaping, 20 hours surfing and 10 thinking about the dynamics behind it.
What are the challenges in your line of work? Getting bored with it [shaping] due to changes taking so long to be accepted.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Not staying at uni where I wanted to learn about creating artificial waves and reefs, which was my greatest dream; which I am now close to fulfilling 30 years later.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Start the job at the same rate you want to finish at. (Good for impulsive people anyway!)
In your mind, is formal training essential? It’s critical in the sense that it gives the depth of understanding of the fundamentals and the relationships behind the dynamics of any system or mechanism, but it can also lead to a profound retardation of any new thought in the very same realm. Ideally, the core elements of the system or the dynamics behind it are ‘felt’ and then put into a different part of the brain to that which stores them. This thereby allows them to be utilized by the looser parts of the design mind. In order for those structured thoughts and concepts to be freed up to the point that they can then be bent or distorted in such a way to create jumps in thought.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? It’s important as you develop, but if and when you surpass the mentor then you have to be reverent towards that person who guided your early progress, or else get caught in ego and lose your grip on the pure stuff that fuels the big break through.
I remember my mentor Rodney Dahlberg asking me one day only a few years ago, to not just tell him about the good aspects of the board of his I was looking at, but to tell him of the things that I could see that were not so perfect, but I’d never mention – It was a beautiful moment and the last thing I wanted to do was tell him his surfboard wasn’t perfect. For the first time, it became obvious to me that he knew I could see the things that were hidden to him. Once he asked for that [feedback], then I could openly and respectfully mention the tiny subtle things that I could see; on one hand accepting the huge compliment he had given me, but also and more importantly to reciprocate for the first time after his initial guidance 35 years prior. Mentors should find the student, not the other way around. The mentor will spot you by your work and attitude.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Try to interlink the three dimensions by seeing the board as a unit, with no actual nose or centre or tail. Step way back from your partly shaped board (where you get away from seeing through the design program) and look at the entire board as though it were a leaf. Then you will feel the overall character of its form.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? My father telling me at 13 years old, “Someone has to be the best!” As a result, I thought it was actually likely that I would be. The way he said it made me think: “Gee that’s good, that means as long as I have some talent and I like doing it, then I probably will be the best.” Those words have influenced my life just as much as my mother’s sculpting, and a ‘little golden book’ with an underwater scene, which made me think about the layer between water and air for the first time.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Yes for sure. But there is a way of thinking, which is very teachable and it has a huge bearing on the luck that you draw or fall into.