A Q&A with Robert "WINGNUT" Weaver by Jamie Brisick
50-year old Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, ace longboarder, star of The Endless Summer II, lives in Santa Cruz with his wife and 17-year-old son. He is a professional surfer, though not in the traditional sense (I’ll let him explain). He travels widely and frequently on that same quest that inspired the first Endless Summer. Where has he scored the best waves? “The Maldives. Totally insane!” I caught up with him via cell phone. He was at the Surf Expo in Florida; I was hovered over a desk in Malibu. Wingnut speaks in a tone that is part laid-back Santa Cruz, part globetrotting American surfer. He laughs easily and often.
What are your days like?
Well, I generally say I’m the luckiest guy in the world ‘cause I get to now travel and surf far-flung corners of the earth, but it’s not for a photo, it’s not at the behest of a sponsor, it’s taking people to those places and sharing them with them, I get to be the ultimate surf host, taking people to places like Costa Rica or the Mentawais or the Maldives and giving them the best surf trips of their lives. There are days when I’m in the water for ten hours and I catch only ten waves ‘cause I’m making sure everybody else gets waves, and there are days when I’m the first guy out and I surf for an hour before anyone else comes out. It’s really nice. It involves a ridiculous amount of traveling, but when I’m home I’m home, I don’t go into an office.
So when you’re home in Santa Cruz you’re surfing everyday?
Yes. And I’m lucky enough to live a block away from my favorite spot, Pleasure Point, so I walk the dog there every morning to check the surf and shoot the shit with a few guys. I put less than ten miles on my car a week when I’m home. I ride my bike to the store. I pick my kid up from school. It’s pretty idyllic at this point.
Amazing how surfing’s demographics have changed and created all these new opportunities.
What I liken it to is the ski industry, as a retired pro ski racer you became the ski guide for a mountain, taking people around. The sport is mature enough now that there is a place for the retired pro surfer to be a host and a guide, and there’s people who can afford to do it now.
What keeps the stoke alive for you?
It’s a great question: What motivates you to put on that suit and jump in that 55 degree water and paddle out with 42 guys? And for me it’s where there aren’t 42 guys, I choose the less quality conditions/spots just so I can be a little bit more by myself. I look at every surf session as, What do I think I’m going to do when I go out? Super crowded today, I’m just going out to say hi to everybody, catch a few waves. Or, I’m getting it at high tide, I’m going to catch as many waves as I can before the crowd gets to it, and then I’m just going to disappear like a puff of smoke when they do. I think I’ve got it easier because of the equipment that I ride. If it’s knee- to waist-high I can go for 120 yards and see how many times I can touch the tip. It’s that much easier to put a smile on my face. And I’ve got everything from 11 footers to a hot curl. This is how I keep it interesting.
We’re also a lot more health conscious than previous generations. I find that if I’m surfing a lot I don’t feel like I’m slowing down. In fact I feel bursting with vitality, wanting to really push my surfing.
I think you’re absolutely right. If you’re surfing all the time, if you’re getting a surf everyday or at least four out of the seven days of the week, you feel really good. It keeps your body in such a good place; you’re in a good state of mind. We’re a lot smarter about what we eat. I’ve got MS. I was diagnosed 18 years ago, so I have to avoid stress and injury and letting my immune system get beat up. Since then I’ve always taken a little bit better care of my diet and I make sure I do certain things for myself. And the #1 is Vitamin D. There’s an interesting correlation because MS doesn’t occur between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, the farther away from the equator you get the more MS there is, and to me that just screams vitamin D. And you can’t take enough of it orally; you literally have to just get it from the sun, you know, to top off the tank. You need 15-20 minutes of sun exposure every day to get your daily dose. I feel better now in the water, I surf better than I ever did. And the #1 thing about being older is we’ve learned more what the ocean’s going to do. Experience in the water teaches you so much. Being able to take the knowledge that we now have and applying it to the water is the best thing about being this age as a surfer.
What keeps you traveling (aside from the work part)?
I still enjoy the adventure of seeing a new place and of sharing a new place with other people. It’s always new.
What keeps you grounded on the road?
Reading. I love to read. I can’t get on an airplane with at least two books. I don’t do the music thing. I just love to get lost in a book. It kind of takes all the stress away from long flights.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I waited tables for sixteen years. I’ve been in the service industry my entire life. Even when I was getting sponsored my thing was, What can I do for you? How can I be an asset? So whoever I’m with on a trip, I want them to have the best wave of their life, I want each day to leave them on that high. The best thing about what I do is getting to share a really great experience that puts people in nature, that turns adults into children.