To Inspire, Develop and Mentor Future Generations of Competitive Surfers Through the Celebration of Our Rich Surfing Heritage.

RIP Max Wetteland

Today, 5 July, 2015, South Africa’s most influential, innovative and astute surfer left us.

Max Wetteland, this country’s first representative surfer, respected surfboard design visionary and great waterman departed this life.

In 1968, I was fortunate enough to watch him surf Jbay in the company of groms Shaun and Michael Tomson, John Cerff and Aussie Tony Wright while Bob Evans and Alby Falzon filmed their movie ‘The Way We Like It”. I asked Bob, standing on the beach on a beautifully cold, clear, wind swept six foot day in August of that year, who he thought was the best surfer in the water. “Max,” he said without hesitation. “Why? I asked. ”Because he always surfs in the most critical part of the wave.”

That pretty much summed up the man and his approach to surfing and life.

Max adhered to that functional school of surfing. ‘Hot dogging’, as a more flamboyant form of wave riding was called in the early sixties, was for others. His view didn’t change much over the years. Although he strongly admired Kelly, he plainly wasn’t into show ponies or trick surfing as some would call it. Even the modern interpretation of long boarding didn’t sit well with Max.

WettelandAdJuly1965
Max started Durban’s first surf shop at 50 West Street.

A highly celebrated lifesaver he was one of the Pirates Club’s great members. Along with the late Shorty Bronkhorz’s, he introduced lifesaving to the Island of Jersey.

He started making boards more than 60 years ago and was responsible for introducing a slew of innovative designs and concepts, one of the biggest of which was producing some of the first urethane boards to appear on South African beaches. His knowledge of surfboards and their manufacture is unsurpassed. Period.

Max Started Pro surfing in South Africa 

Along with others he was responsible for the Durban 500. This was later to become the Gunston 500 and then the Mr Price Pro. He saw opportunity early. He had insight and imagination.

But Max didn’t suffer fools. Just like his great mentor and friend, Midget Farrelly, his passion sometimes translated to strained relationships. Everything was so clear to him. Loyalty, a prerequisite.

 

 

 

IMG_0003MAX NOSERIDE   max and espo

Max was a teacher. Ginz, Peter Daniels, Errol Hickman all learned their craft in Max’s shaping bay. It was the best schooling they ever got.

For a time Max lived in British Columbia in Canada. He took to snowboarding like a duck to water and before long had designed a snowboard that he patented but it somehow never reached the market. When reflective, he related stories of his encounters with the Native Americans who lived on Vancouver Island. He had a strong affinity with them. They mistook him for one of them. Max’s roots were Norwegian – I often pictured him as a Viking at the helm of a magnificent vessel, off to discover new territories.

In his later years, his pursuit of excellence in everything he did, never wavered. In fact it grew stronger.

He would run his eye over a board, a surfer or a wave then voice an opinion that was more often than not, bang on the mark.

Max was a giant. A man amongst men, a pioneer, a leader, a father, a husband and no-one deserves more the title of – Father of South African surfing.

All our deepest condolences to Lynn, Tanya and Lee.

Farewell friend, you will be sorely missed by many.

Max-Wetteland1

 

Pat Flanagan

46 Responses to RIP Max Wetteland

  1. RIP Max you have given us so much value in this life, as a board shaper i would not be where i am today without the innovative and good service i have received from you over the last 25 years i have been shaping.
    RIP MAX may the heavens shine brightly for you in your next journey of discovery.
    from Justin and the Waveworx team.

  2. pat your words & article say it all you express your self & thank you Max you were a very special man you stood like a true peaceful wise warrior R.I.P soar with the Eagles

  3. Such sad news but like everyone has said – a really beautiful tribute to a true legend of SA surfing.

  4. A Sad day for every waterman not only in South Africa but all around the world! What a legend and an amazing read! Brilliant tribute, I can’t think of a better way for his descendants to remember him! :) RIP Oom!

  5. Sad day for surfing.. One of the legends. I guess he probably met just about every surfer on the planet, he was such a legend. He used to be in my ex mother in laws class at school, and she used to tell me he unused to shape miniature boards in class ..

  6. I am happy and blessed to have known him a little and shown him much respect…he put a lot of passion into what he did…Max was a great man…nice knowing him…

  7. Thank you Patrick. The right eulogy for Max, no doubt. My most enduring memory of Max is one of him and a friend (various friends) enjoying a cup of tea after the morning wave at 101. I still have my Wetteland Boards green on white background t-shirt. Max was as much a part of Durban and us as the South Easter, the curry, the waves et al. He lived his life according to his ways and his style. In doing this he created a lifestyle for us all to aspire to. RIP Max. The big trees in my part of the forest are starting to fall. See you at the big beach in the sky in due course.

  8. RIP Max my childhood friend. We grew up together as kids. He lived in the flat above us in Stamford Hill, Durban with his mother, step father and older sister. He was 2-3 years older than I was but nevertheless we went to the beach quite often together back then in the 1940’s. Thanks to him he also taught me how to swim both in the surf and at the swimming baths at Marine Parade. He later joined the Pirates Life Saving Club where he spent a great deal of his time there. Unfortunately our friendship went separate ways when I emigrated as a teenager from South Africa to the UK in 1960 so lost touch completely with him along with many other good friends made at that time. Before the days of the Internet, communication was very difficult in keeping up to date with things. However, belatedly I was able to follow up on some of his career triumphs, which made me feel very proud to have known him when I did. He will be sadly missed by his family and the many friends and acquaintances around the world that he made over his years as a top notch surfer. I too will miss him but no doubt his legacy will live on.

    RIP MAX

    :-)

  9. Well put Pat……Maxie was and always will be the “father” of surfing in South Africa. I knew him from my early days as a lifesaver at Pirates SLC and it was there that I watched him build the first foam board I had ever seen,it was a strange looking craft but it was a vast leap from what we were riding at the time.He was a forthright man and could come across as quite abrasive but he was in fact a passionate man who spoke with great love about a sport that meant so much to him and all of us who grew up in his shadow. I have known some great surfers in my time but none who influenced my life and the lives of so many of my peers as much as Maxie did.He leaves behind a legacy that so many surfers in South Africa should be proud of and thankful for……go in peace brother,you may be gone but you will never be forgotten.

  10. So sad to see a true LEGEND and character of S A Surfing pass on, but those foundations are what we build upon. My personal condolences and those of all of us at Lifestyle Surfshop to all the family. Thanks for the years of great service both in and out of the water.

  11. Well said Patrick. What a wonderful tribute the man. There was never a time when we would be walking home after surfing would Max pass us without stopping to give us a lift. I am proud to have known him as a kid growing up in those days. RIP

  12. Great words for a true Durban and SA legend. Thanks Patrick!
    My memories of the legend Max Wetland go back to my Grom days in the 70’s when the Thompson cousins were starting to make a name for themselves and pro surfing was in it’s infancy.
    Max was the Man! I’m sure there are many that could tell you a story about this legend. RIP Max.

  13. very sorry to hear of the passing of Max going to miss ourcar park chats go
    Well Max and God Bless we all going to miss you !!!
    ,

  14. Well said Pat! Maxie was far and away the “Father of South African Surfing” as a grom my first board was a Wetteland pop-out belly board, My first Custom board was a Wetteland and in the late seventies after moving to Canada and hooking up with Maxie he was my Surf partner for so many Canadian, Washington and Oregon Surf Safaries in the years he lived in Canada. Man I could tell you some classic Maxie stories. Max invented the snowboard, we had to hike up the mountains to ride them, people thought we were crazy!! Max could build anything and make it work. The Canadian Surfing crew loved Maxie and were sad to see him go home to Africa, They will be saddened even more to hear of his passing. Lots of love to Lynn and the family. I will never forget this great man.

  15. Thanks Pat.
    Max was a hero to us kids, he gave so much passion and time to us and our surfing, especially if we were struggling. I would love getting lost in endless technical discussions about surfing, guitar or politics. He was a driving force in our sport, we always had to answer to him about our surfing. Sorry to lose Mark, sorry to lose Max, both legends and dear friends.
    Dion

  16. Max, world & wave wise, could talk & laugh about any subject under the sun. A hero, a legend & a story teller of note. You’ll live & ride on forever. Namaste.

  17. Max, Lynn and family were our friends in Canada, we have fond memories with them and also tried the first of the snowboarding with him, some of the molds for the snowboard were made in our house basement. RIP Max see you on the other side.Love to Lynn and the children. Bobby & Colin Luus.

  18. Such sad news . a true gentleman who embraced all who rode waves no matter which discipline . REST IN PEACE MAX

  19. Hard to swallow that my friend Max is gone !Someone i have known and respected since the early 50,s when he belonged to ‘Pirates’ & I belonged to ‘Durban Surf’. Always the best surfer.

  20. Thank you for a lifetime of commitment and contribution to the lifestyle and sport of surfing that we all love and enjoy so much! Family friend, pioneer and legend!
    Rest in peace Max Wetteland…

  21. Thank you! for good surfing advice, of which I follow to this day, rest in peace Max Wetteland a legend

  22. RIP Max Wetteland
    My first custom surfboard was made by you in the late 60’s and you made the last sailboard that I bought in the late 80’s which I took to Sydney Australia, an innovative epoxy slalom sailboard which got a lot of attention in Oz. you are a true legend.

  23. A true legend of South African surfing and from what I remember a REAL surfer. Rest in Peace Max. Nice words Pat.

  24. Very apt Patrick J worked for Max surfed for his team he was my mentor and Ive been battling to put my feelings into words thank you for covering it my he rest in peace

  25. The Wettelands were neighbours in the Vancouver BC CANADA area. Max always had a smile on his face and always had a story to tell; his favourites included surfing in South Africa. My condolences to Lynn, Tanya and Leigh – my thoughts are with all of you. RIP Max Wetteland.

  26. There was always something special about going to pick up my blanks from Surfbkanks. Max always had time for me. He taught me how to sharpen my Davidson blades, lighting in my shaping bay and he lit up when I introduced my Norwegian wife to him telling us of his Norske family roots. Max,thank you. Rest well brother.

  27. Max and lynne had a house on the beach where Villa Delphini is at Boneyards, Insanitudes, in those days, shape boards there, often under Farrelly label and often feed us and keep everyone in line especially the Seppos with their landrovers making the beach look like a Vietnam battle ground, as max put it. Hopefully in the happy surfing grounds now. Thanks pat.

  28. It’s difficult to effectively eulogise someone of Max’s stature but Patrick has succeeded. He was a big part of my teenage years and I have warm memories of our trip together to the Peruvian World Championships and as a member of his surf team. There will never be another like him.
    Condolences from Lorna and I to Lynn and family.

  29. Hey Uncle Max-RIP…..hope where ever you are,you are riding that longest wave-you will be missed by all who knew you

  30. Max was a very close friend and Springbok team mate. My wife, daughter and I had the privilege of staying with Lyn and Max on our visit to South Africa in 2005. His surfing involvement speaks for it’s self. THE BEST.
    Miss you Max R.I.P.
    Wayne

  31. I can still remember attending Maxie’s wedding in Durban all those years ago around 1961/62 – a small church in I think Windemere Road near Greyville Race Course !! How time flies !! I toured the UK in 1962 with Maxie and the South African Surf Lifesaving team which also included Wayne Bean , Cleo Marangos a great buddy and board rival of Maxie !!When I imported the first all fibre glass “trick board” from Aussie (just after balsa boards were all the craze) around 1961/1962 Maxie was given the first “guest” ride at North Beach as I valued his expertise and friendship so much ! So many memories from a long time ago ! RIP mate !!

  32. Thank you Pat for this wonderful tribute to my Dad. Some of the things you have mentioned would only be known to someone who had spent time really listening to the stories he told.It makes this tribute very special to us. Thanks also to everyone who have written comments, we as a family have so enjoyed reading them all and it has given us such comfort knowing he will be so fondly remembered. We are all very proud of his life and will miss him dearly. xxx Love you Dad!

  33. Innovative design boards ahead of its time.Owned a Midget Farrelly , Plastic Machine and some other shapes a long time ago.RIP Max.Thanks Patrick.

  34. Maxie was an amazing man – an icon. Back in the day, we’d have provincial surfing contests in the surfing cities of South Africa. Max rode us “juniors” home once from PE. While we goofed around in the back of his van, he concentrated on the road for 10 hours deep in thought. He was kind and generous and in a stratosphere of his own: brilliant board builder, smooth surfer, insightful and finely attuned to how his boards flowed in liquid patterns of nature. I shall miss seeing him and his smile and hearing his kind words when I next return to South Africa. Rest in Peace, Maxie, your name is engraved on our beaches and waves and on our hearts. We are eternally grateful.

  35. Apart from Max’s surfing prowess I think that many people could take a page out of his book on his attitude to life. He always had time for everyone and made everyone feel comfortable in his presence. he was easy to like. JJ

    • I am so sad to read about Max’s passing. I was privileged to know Max for a short time in the late 70’s and early eighties when he lived in Vancouver. He would travel out to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island to surf and while there he met my Dad who hired him to do some masonry work on a construction project. What a gem of a man. I was a cocky teenager in a surfing backwater, but he was patient and kind to me, while still making sure I knew my place with perfectly placed jabs of pointed, dry humour. I knew him for such a short time, but the memories are still vivid and joyful. I am very grateful to have had the chance to get to know him. My prayers and condolences go out to his family. Thank you for coming to Canada and sharing him with us!

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