The only child of a German working class family, Dewey was exposed to water at an early age through his babysitter who was a lifeguard at a nearby pool. His father, Earl, was a truck driver and his mother, Gladys, worked at Denver’s Nabisco cracker factory. At the age of 5, his family moved to Manhattan Beach, California. The local surf club included relatively well-known surfers such as Dale Velzy, Bob Hogan, and Barney Biggs. Biggs was the first to notice Dewey and lent him a board when he was only 9.
When he was 8, his mother took him to an audition where he won a part as “Buster Brown, a comic book character created by the Buster Brown Shoe Company. By the age of 14 he was also a three-time National Duncan Yo-Yo Champion, appearing on the national television show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx.
In high school, Weber’s short, stocky frame (5’3″, 130 pounds) was perfect for wrestling and he received a varsity letter in his freshman year. By the time he graduated he was a three-time CIF westling champion at Mira Costa High, graduating in 1956. He went on to become an All-State performer at El Camino College and later qualified for the Olympic Wrestling team, but an injury just before the event kept him from competing.
Weber had been fortunate to catch the eye of one of the best-known surfers and board makers of the day, Dale Velzy. Velzy was one of the first to advertise his own products and simultaneously sponsor surfers by providing them surfboards. During this time, Weber travelled up and down the California coast seeking out surf spots, but his primary goal was to get to Hawaii. He worked as a lifeguard at the Biltmore Hotel, saving his money for his first trip to the islands. On his arrival he stayed in a two-room quonset hut there with a number of friends.
In Hawaii, Weber perfected his surf style. His intricate footwork up and down the board, very different from the prevailing style, earned him the nickname, “The Little Man on Wheels”. Weber’s first visit to Hawaii is chronicled in Bud Browne’s 1957 release, The Big Surf. From the film, a classic shot of Dewey surfing Makaha later became the symbol of the United States Surfing Association. He went on to appear in nearly every surf movie of the late 1950s and 1960s, including Slippery When Wet (1958), Cat on a Hot Foam Board (1959), and Walk on the Wet Side (1963).
In 1960, having returned from Hawaii, he founded Weber Surfboards. He opened his first shop in Venice Beach, California and soon began producing boards with memorable names, such as the “Weber Performer” and the “Weber Pig”. He hired top shaper, Harold Iggy, and assembled a surf team to promote the brand.
It was then that Weber had the ingenious idea to dress the team in the class red Weber trunks and jackets, which they wore to the events. With the success of his team, Weber became one of the top producers of the time, second only to Hobie. Between 1966 and 1967, the Weber Performer sold roughly 10,000 units and was distributed all over the country. Later he opened stores in Hermosa Beach, San Diego, and Honolulu.
With the fall in popularity of the long board, eventually the business shrank to a single shop. Weber continued to make and sell boards and was best known for his longboard designs though he produced some excellent short boards as well. Continuing his love with the ocean, he built a two-man swordfishing boat and spent much of his time at sea. He died on January 7, 1993 of heart failure and his death was widely reported on television and in the press. The business was then revitalized by widow Caroline Weber and sons Shea and Corey Weber, who continue to operate in San Clemente, California.
Marcus, Ben (2005). Surfing USA. Voyager Press. ISBN 0896586901.
Warshaw, Matt. Encyclopedia of Surfing. Harcourt Books. ISBN 0156032511.
Kampion, Drew. Stoked – A History of Surf Culture. Gibbs Smith Publisher. ISBN 1586852132.
Categories: 1938 births | 1993 deaths | American surfers | American businesspeopleHidden categories: Articles needing additional references from March 2009 | All articles needing additional references
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