I was surfing Malibu in the early ‘90s, directing Wingnut and Joel Tudor for the surf film “On Safari To Stay,” when I met the self-proclaimed Nerd Herd, a band of three surfers from Palos Verdes. Dan-o Wozniak, Bill Burke and Tom Wegener made quite an impression on us that day, not only with their brilliant surfing but with their attitudes, which were happy, friendly and creative amid a crowd of greedy wave hogs.
With nearly 100 longboarders bumping rails in the Kiddy Bowl, the three paddled out, rode waves, ripped, had a blast and made friends for life.
In time Dan-o moved to Santa Barbara, Bill moved to Cayucos and Tom stayed in Palos Verdes, where he passed the bar, only to find that a legal career was not for him. Instead he took weekend jaunts to Cardiff where he stayed with us more weekends than not. The surfing world was rediscovering the high performance noserider then, and Tom, as has become his habit, began moving in his own direction, riding flatter, heavier boards with wide-based fins fixed on the tail. While few others could manage a turn on Tom’s lead sleds, he overcame and adapted to the equipment, dominating waves of all sizes, including massive Puerto Escondido, where he was captured on film being barreled by a photographer, the session yielding a two-page spread in The Surfer’s Journal.
Next Tom and Dan-o teamed up for what would become Dan-o’s classic surf film, “Siestas and Olas.” The film featured Tom casually noseriding small waves and again getting shacked at Puerto before dropping into 20-foot surf in a long forgotten rivermouth wave. After that I didn’t hear from Tom as he took a trip to Australia, returning briefly to pack his bags and move to Noosa Heads, the place that has been his home for nearly a decade now.
Married to a sweet Aussie woman named Margie, the Wegeners have produced two children — Finley and Sunday. While living in such obscure regions is usually not the path to fame, it was there, in Noosa, that Tom finally came into his own, building Alaia boards from native polonia wood and discovering what the ancient Hawaiians knew centuries ago, that finless surfboards are faster. Converts to the Alaia revolution include world surfing champion Tom Carroll, Aussie mysto man Dave Rastovich and California standouts Rob Machado and Richard Kenvin.
I had been reading about Tom’s accomplishments when I heard that he was coming back to San Diego and would be showing his line at the Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo in Del Mar. Weaving my way through the crowd, I found Tom, still with blond hair hacked just above his bright eyes, at a small and crowded booth along with a few friends and his brother, Johnny. The reunion was sweet and we took up where we had left off, him introducing me to his clan and promising to meet up later that evening, where we reminisced and laughed long into the night as I was able to live vicariously through his various adventures. After breakfast Tom made his way up the coast to catch up with the other two members of the misnamed Nerd Herd, where they would, no doubt, recall lives well-lived and remember their humble beginnings.
To learn more about Tom and his Alaia boards, visit www.tomwegenersurfboards.com.
Filed Under: Sea Notes