Another hefty nail was jammed into the coffin of classic Aussie surfboard factory culture last Thursday when Wayne "Wiz" Rickards passed away from cancer at his Ocean Shores home. He'd been suffering for nine months, but all through that heavy trial, he kept his spirits up. He was aiming to be back where he belonged: upstairs in our factory making his fantastically beautiful WizFins. Yes, he was the best.
I first met Wiz in 1972 when he was glassing at Barry Bennett's in Brookvale. Actually, I heard him singing before I was even introduced. Yep, Wiz was the king of singing, loud and strong, throughout his workday, usually prompted by something on the radio, but not necessarily, and you had to be good to make it onto his playlist. Barry Gibb, the Big O, occasional Sinatra, heaps of Van Morrison, some strong Beatles. He could belt out the songs all day, with or without an audience (preferably with). If you got inspired enough to join in, Wiz would inevitably cease work temporarily and stroll over to you to harmonise, with a half a grin and twinkling eyes. Each song was a roadmap to his love of surfboard making, and just being around it.
He was the guy who glassed all my Bluebirds made in the Bennett factory through the early 70's. He chose the colours and set the style of the Bird. Great stuff Wiz.
He and his sweetheart Deidre travelled the hippy route through Europe in the late sixties and saw enough of the world to never want to go travelling again. He loved the Aussie countryside, and in the mid 70's packed up from the city and bought a farm in south-central Queensland at Monogorilby, near Kingaroy.
Now that was hard work, the land being fairly poor. So to supplement their needs Wiz and Deidre took up Warren Cornish's offer to do some stints laying up Fibreglass fin panels which were then cut into skateboard decks. They both became great laminators working hard into the night hours to finance their farm.
When Warren and I joined forces again in the new century we offered them to move into our business and produce fins. So they bailed on the farm, sold up and moved to Ocean Shores, now with son Dale in tow. The rest is modern history. WizFins were the best!
Wiz's secret was his colour blending. Hold a WizFin up to the sun and they glow like no other. How come? Well, in his panel layups he ran the outside complementary colour, say golden brown in his classic "beer" combo, then a more yellow centre main colour, then finished off with the golden brown again. When he foiled the fin later, the side brown was foiled out, exposing a yellow halo. And that yellow had to be just the right tone. He nailed it constantly.
But the main thing about Wiz was his absolute love of being around the factory, with the guys he worked with. Keeping the place alive with his singing, his pride of product, and his frequent raves about how the world- and sometimes your life should be run. Those raves could stretch for an hour at least, and us poor long-suffering victims of his rant would just have to say it again: "Wiz, I just gotta get to work..." and stomp off with Wiz following you so he could complete his last sentence on the topic. How we will all miss that! So sad.......
The mighty Wiz and the classic Aussie surfboard factory culture. Unless you've lived it, you've got no idea....... Bye Wiz..... Gulp!
Photos by Ben Bugden, Lockie Marley and Ryan Heywood