Surfing's master mover, Dewey Weber, dies at 53

January 08, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Among generations of Southern California surfers, Dewey Weber has long been considered a legend, "a neon sign of surfing" whose longboard designs and surfing antics were synonymous with the sport.

Mr. Weber, who lived his life searching for the perfect wave, was found dead Wednesday night in his suburban Hermosa Beach surfboard shop. He died of liver problems at age 53, police said.

"He was one of my first heroes," says Lance Carson, a friend of Mr. Weber's and a surfer featured in the 1966 Bruce Brown surfing film, "The Endless Summer."

"I used to watch him when I was 12 and he was 16 -- and he was tearing apart Malibu. He had a red board, red trunks and shiny blond hair," Mr. Carson says.

Mr. Weber, who appeared in such surfing films as "Slippery When Wet" and "Cat on a Hot Foam Board," was known for his wild, athletic maneuvers that pushed longboard surfing to new heights.

"He had all the trick moves, the balance, the hot dog moves -- the hang 10, the radical cutbacks, the sharp-carving bottom rTC turns and the head dips," says Mr. Carson. "He was a neon sign of surfing."

Recently, Mr. Weber had been ill with what his doctor reported was a failing liver, says Hermosa Beach police Cmdr. Mark Lavin.

In recent years, Mr. Weber ran a surf shop in Hermosa Beach, promoted longboard competitions locally and remained active in the surfing industry.

But Mr. Weber also suffered setbacks because of a drinking problem, a divorce and the death of his father, his friends say.

"He had these personal things that were like his millstone around his neck," Mr. Carson says. "It is a sad story, but he will be remembered for all the good things he did for surfing."

During the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Weber was among the first to live the surfing, beach lifestyle that gave the sport, Malibu and Southern California's beaches their worldwide mystique and appeal.

"He was part of the group of people who turned their backs on society in the hedonistic pursuit of the perfect wave -- and Malibu was their meeting point," says Dave Gilovich, editorial director for Surfing Magazine in San Clemente, Calif.

Mr. Weber's frenetic surfing style earned him a spot in the Surfing Hall of Fame -- and his diminutive size led to Mr. Weber's nickname "The Little Man on Wheels," Mr. Gilovich says.

Mr. Weber also left an indelible mark on the surfing world with groundbreaking longboard designs that he shaped from plastic foam instead of wood.

"He was one of the first ones using foam," says surfer Jefferson "Zuma Jay" Wagner, 40, of Malibu. "Before that, everything was wood."

Mr. Wagner recalls that when he was a teen-ager his "Weber Performer" was the envy of Malibu.

Bob Meistrell, a friend, recalls "shooting the pier" with Mr. Weber at suburban Manhattan Beach.

Even surfers in their teens and 20s speak of Mr. Weber with awe -- and mourn his passing.

"He was like a guru, you know. He was like the first surfer ever," says Matt Weiss, 23, of Malibu. "He had a mystique about him. Everyone looked up to him."

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