Greg Webber – The Fastest Brain in Surfing
It was a searching, penetrating – slightly red-eyed from salt and wind – stare that I found disconcerting. That, the Aussie drawl, and the missing front tooth gave me the impression I was under scrutiny from some intense Pacific pirate. I was stoked to finally meet Greg Webber, but out of everyone in the group, he was the only one I couldn’t relate to. He was as energetic as he was intriguing.
I was the photographer for a Global Surf Industries shapers tour of Taiwan about a decade ago with Greg, Bob McTavish, and Steve Walden. They were there to kiss babies, sell boards and be ambassadors of stoke. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Bob I’d already known for a few years and could sit down and have a good yarn with any time. Steve was easygoing. And then there was Greg.
I’ve owned a lot of surfboards over the years and one of my all-time favorite shortboards was one of Greg’s, a 6’2” Webber Spoon model. It could catch anything and felt good in any type of wave. So when I heard Greg was to be included in this trip I was stoked. And then there were first impressions. I was overwhelmed.
To say Greg is passionate about shaping is an understatement. But he still has enough energy and imagination to discuss water flow, wave pools, endless waves, movable artificial reefs, shark nets, and devices for removing chop from waves. If he wrote down his ideas as fast as they flowed from his brain through his mouth, the paper would singe.
Greg’s understanding of the ocean and surfboards is immense. I just wish I had the mental capacity to understand it all. While he was gabbing on about flex patterns, reflecting waves, and sustainable sea walls the best I could come back with was, “Umm, yeah, anyway there’s a 7-11 with cold beer just over there, would you like one?” Greg’s trying to save the surfing world and I just needed a beverage to bathe my aching brain cells.
With our host taking everyone around the few surf shops, numerous surf demos, many night markets, and a million or so restaurants (food appreciation is a quasi-religion in Taiwan) everyone was pretty tired even just a few days into the week-long tour. Except for Greg. Unable to converse with the locals (not many spoke English) and Steve and Bob escaping to the back of the tour bus for naps whenever they felt like it, Greg honed in on me. I was an obvious target. We spoke the same language, both surfed, plus I was vertical and awake.
This was back when real wave pools were largely figments of the imagination. The only commercially, surfable wave with any real credibility at the time was the Malaysian Sunway Lagoon. Pro’s were flying in, doing tow-ats with jet skis while the surf media around the world were covering every angle. And while my mind was certainly blown – and I’d have sat through a season of Friends to surf it – for Greg, he simply regarded it as a small step in wave pool evolution. And how right he was.
As for the incredibly friendly and always hospitable Taiwanese, they just didn’t know how to handle Greg. I’ve been in Taiwan for many years and knew a lot of the surf shop owners and surfers the crew met. Several times I had friends approach me asking politely, “ So who is that guy.” Greg wasn’t offending anyone, they just didn’t know how to handle someone with so much energy and unbridled enthusiasm.
One minute Greg was interested in their surf shop logo, then masks on shelves from religious festivals to the food someone was munching on, how old the fins were nailed to the wall and then he somehow segued seamlessly (in his mind) to explanations of wave contours and refracting swells with a flurry of untranslatable hand gestures.
When it comes to wave pools in the modern age we’re spoilt by technological choice. Sure many are set to be private but the majority are going to be available to the masses. From sluices to air compression and sliding plows to computer-manipulated contours, there’s something for everyone. Everyone that is except for Greg who’s so passionate about perfecting his theories he bounces from one to the other, constantly making improvements. Check out his variety of sites for starters; from wave pools https://webberwavepools.com to movable reefs – https://webber-reefs.com and then some. Wrap your head around these beauties. And be sure to check his video explanations too. These seemingly outlandish ideas actually make sense.
But out of the many varied characters I’ve met as a photojournalist and editor in this surfing world of ours, I can honestly say Greg has a type of unbridled and unfathomable genius that’s wonderful to experience.
But it’s just so exhausting. When Greg departed Taiwan after the tour, I just went to 7-11 for a couple of quiet, cold beers. To stop my mind from spinning.