Where it all started

Well its like this, you’re a kid, one day you get a board for your birthday, an old used board, mine was balsa. Foam boards were still new and expensive and we were poor and you don’t know if you will get into it or not.

Richie West Swooping cutback
Richie West Swooping cutback

We lived near the beach so I’d walk down with my board and pick up a friend or 2 on the way and we’d go on the weekends. Pretty soon some guys would quit going and others would have girlfriends or part time jobs or school or work but I would find myself going regardless. I’d go before school after school during school with or without friends, eventually your badger your mum into a new board.

Then even less school time, so you start getting better and and you get a bit of recognition and then you get cheaper boards and as you get better then you get a new board whenever you want to swap.

None of your old friends still surf and all you want to do is surf. Your mum wants you to get a job or go to university or have a girlfriend or be normal but its no use your hooked. You know you’ll never be normal and your life is ruled by something you have no control over.

Shaping Career?

I graduated from high school, I was 17 mum was onto me, get a job or go to uni. I got a job cleaning up at the local surfboard factory where I got my boards. I started doing a few ding repairs, then levelling mal blanks for the shaper, this is 1965 no shaping or profiling machines, it got busy over summer so I started filler coating for the Glasser, then cutting the fiberglass and setting up to glass then glassing. This allowed me to make some money to keep surfing, over the years I worked for allot of different makers, mostly glassing but also sanding and shaping finish coating, pin lining, buffing and whatever else as long as I could do some work make a living, make myself some boards and travel around.

So because I could do allot of things it meant I could usually find work. If you rock up to a new place with a surfboard shop, I could get a bit of work and as most surfboard shops have a resident shaper, at least I could get some work and if I was there for a while I usually wound up shaping a few boards as well.

In 1969-70 I started working for Morey-Pope surfboards in Santa Barbara California, glassing. I met the sander Mike Cundith, great guy and great surfer, he had a big house near Rincon, so I moved in with Mike and his wife and Jamo another really good surfer. We surfed our brains out and went to work together everyday. This changed my life, I met and hung out with George Greenough, Bob Cooper, Bob Mctavish, Nat Young and Russell Hughes Rooster. Mike started Wilderness surfboards, so I worked for him and also I’d go up to Santa Cruz and work for John Mel at Freeline Design surfboards.

Richie hiding behind surfboards in California
Richie hiding behind surfboards in California

Crystal Voyager

Mike moved to Australia in ’72 or 71, then Ably Falzon came over and shot Crystal Voyager with George and Nat and I got to Tag along.

Moving to Australia

I Moved to Australia in 1973, lived in Noosa for a year, best year for cyclones ever 73-74 from Xmas till May, T-tree, Nationals, Granite all pumped, and when it dropped Sunshine Beach had great banks then another cyclone would hit and we’d be back at Nationals or T-Tree. This Was before the freeway and the roads would flood so nobody could get there. It was Great, the road even fell in the Ocean at Johnsons, so you had to park at main beach and walk in to the National Park.

1982- 5'7' thruster
1982- 5’7′ thruster

The next winter it was flat for weeks on end so answering an add in Tracks magazine for a Glasser at Rip Curl Surfboards, I moved to Torquay Vic. I Had a good year there met, Wayne Lynch, got to surf with him a few times, this was just as Rip Curl was starting to get big, I had a lot of good waves especially Winkipop. Then one-day Bob Cooper rang me up and asked if I wanted to work in Coffs Harbour. It was getting cold at bells and I needed a change.

Coffs Harbour

Richie Surfing at his home break in Coffs Harbour
Richie Surfing at his home break in Coffs Harbour

In Coffs I had the option to do whatever I liked, glassing, shaping designing So I wound up doing the lot. Coffs doesn’t always have great waves but it almost always has something to ride and I like surfing everyday not just when its good. That was 1975, after working with Bob at Coopers Surf I built my own surfboard factory and started working for myself. I’ve been here ever since with a few trips away to South Africa, Mauritius, Bali, New Zealand and allot of trips to North Stradbroke Island and WA and where ever else there is good waves.

What Richie Rides Today

  • 5’10” x 19 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ Quad for small days
  • 6′ x 18 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ Quad or Thruster for good days
  • 6′ 4″ 18 1/2″ x 2 1/4″ rounded pin for bigger days
Richie West's Surfboards he is currently riding
Richie West’s Surfboards he is currently riding