Have you ever been shopping and asked the sales person a question and their response was a blank stare? Thankfully, we’ve hired professionals who have some serious street cred in the composite industry and will get you an answer. Wade Easterling is one of those guys who has years of knowledge and hands-on experience under his belt and is willing to help. He has been the star of our Mold Making with UV Resin and Release Agents as well as our two- part series, Vacuum Bag Surfboard Delamination Repair. Wade has great relationships with his customers and is such a humble guy that the only way we could get him to talk about himself was to sit him down and have him share a bit. Look for more of Wade’s handy work to pop up on future Fiberglass Hawaii videos and of course, you can always catch him in-person at the Ventura shop.
Fiberglass Hawaii (FGH): Where were you born and raised?
Wade Easterling (WE): I was born in Daytona Beach, Florida.
FGH: Is that where you first got your feet wet with surfing?
WE: Yeah, I’d say I started in 1964 and it was 1962 probably the first time I went surfing.
FGH: Who was the first one to introduce you to surfing?
WE: It was my sister’s boyfriend. It was a great experience you know, big old long boards, hanging with the older guys. They were all really good surfers and one of them even built boards.
FGH: What was your first experience like working in a surfboard factory?
WE: Oh well, when I was in high school I built a few surfboards on my own. The first factory I worked in was owned by Flea Shaw. I used to do all of their graphics for them mostly. I also airbrushed and pin lined too.
FGH: That’s pretty cool. How did you get into the art and airbrushing thing?
WE: Well, I went to art school so when I got out I was interested in airbrushing and I bought an airbrush and started painting surfboards and doing art with it. It was kind of natural for me, I had my own sign making business so I was making signs and painting surfboards. When I moved out to Hawaii in 1983 nobody wanted me to airbrush because they all kind of had it guarded out there. I went to work for a sign company in town and I also got to know a lot of people on the North Shore too. I got to know Jerry Wilson, who was a top wind surfer at the time, and he had me airbrush a board which ended up getting a lot of attention. I ended up working with Bruce Hansel who was doing a lot of the Local Motion boards at the time. I worked at the sign shop during the day and then I’d drive back to Sunset Beach and work on boards in the evening.
FGH: That’s a pretty great way to make a name for yourself on the islands. How did you end up moving over to Maui?
WE: Jerry would go over there for work and told me that I should come over with him and do some airbrush work. He described a Maui airbrush as “one ugly color next to another ugly color.”
FGH: Hahaha, that’s great!
WE: So I went over with him on one of his trips and met Dave Colagnon and Craig Masonville of Hi-tec in Maui. Dave and I became great friends and worked on a lot of projects together over the years. I worked there for about a month and Craig offered me a job so I made the move from Oahu to Maui.
FGH: That sounds like it was a great move for both parties. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Gerry Lopez.
WE: Working with Gerry was great. He’s an awesome shaper, definitely shaper of the millennium. On Maui I didn’t do many of his boards but he always had some work for me to do. He’d say, “hey, I want you to paint my jet ski” and I’d come up and paint his jet ski. He’d shape my boards and we’d shake hands and that was pretty much it.
FGH: That’s a great barter system you guys had going!
WE: When he moved over to Bend, Oregon he kept telling me to come and check it out. I’d actually gotten a job offer in San Francisco to work in the movie industry doing some prop work. I met a guy through Jeff Timpone and I went and visited him and he did animatronics. I brought my portfolio and they were like, “yeah, we want you” and I decided to do that. I moved over to that area and as soon as I did there wasn’t anything to do. They were like in-between gigs and I couldn’t just hang out so I went up to Oregon and visited Gerry. We went snowboarding a lot and we started talking about doing a shop. So we ended up doing a shop. By the time we got the shop going the animatronics guy called me up and said “hey we need you” but I was already working with Gerry.
FGH: Of course that’s how the timing works out. That’s still pretty cool that you were able to work so closely with Gerry.
WE: Yeah, it was great. We used to go out to the coast all summer long and surf. We did a bunch of surfing. We snowboarded too, it’s a pretty neat place up there.
FGH: Sounds like a little slice of paradise. We’re so happy that you ended up at Fiberglass Hawaii and that you’re able to share your knowledge with our customers. Thanks again Wade for taking the time to chat.
Wade just celebrated his 13th anniversary with Fiberglass Hawaii this month. He helmed the Santa Barbara location for five years before it relocated to its current location in Ventura, CA. Wade is available in the store as often as six days a week offering expert technical advice to both the rookie and expert surfboard builder. Wade’s formal art school training and shop experience helps his knowledge base run the gamut from windsurfing to boat repair and even model airplane construction. On a daily basis, he fields questions from “how do I fix my fiberglass shower pan?” to “I need to rebuild the fender on the back of my bike.” We think it might be tough to stump him so send us ideas for future videos and things you’d like to see us blog about and we’ll see what he comes up with!