WAYO WHILAR "The Shaper from Peru"
By Thomas Takao
Peru’s surfing history goes back a couple thousand years to the Pre-Colombia Civilization. Their hieroglyphics at some of their major ruins have corduroy lines symbolizing the surf and those cities were located in front of Points and Bays. Besides the writing on the wall, the real life villages where reed boats are being used by fishermen today gives us a look back on how one form surfing continued through centuries in Peru.
But it wasn’t until 1930’s when Carlos Dogny visited Hawaii and was inspired by the sport of kings. Being on the beach of Waikiki and watching locals and tourist alike riding the waves at Canoes and Queens. Wanting to learn he would have sought out a Beach Boy who were making a living of renting their finless surfboards out for 10 cents a day and then get lessons from another at 10 cents. Paddling out with a Beach Boy next to him to supervise the when to start paddling for a wave and when to stand up. After a few attempts and finally riding a wave to shore, Carlos Dogny would soon develop a relationship with the sport of surfing.
His vacation was over but not the new found experience of surfing. He would take a few surfboards back to Peru with him and start his own surf club called Club Waikiki and share the intangible stoke that surfing had to offer. In the following decades surfing would continue to grow among the affluent and then among the younger generations of the general populace.
Most of the surfboards during the late 1930’s and 40’s were usually imported or made by a local builder. During the 1950’s Peruvian surfboard building would expand and craftsmen such as Ramon Raguz and Fortunato Quesada to name a few became early pioneers of making balsa and then foam surfboards. Slowly others would learn the trade by being taught or learning on their own.
One such surfboard builder who began in the 1960’s and still shapes today is Wayo Whilar. Wayo was born in 1948 in Lima, Peru. His early years were spent in San Bartolo, a small town south of Lima. With the waves breaking in front of his cousin’s house young Wayo and his brothers would visit often and enjoy those days of mat and body surfing.
One day his cousin Alberto Figari stopped by and he had two balsa surfboards with him.
Alberto was one of the first surfers in the San Bartolo area and wanted to share the experience of surfing with his 12 year old cousin. He says to Wayo “Let’s go surfing tomorrow!” With a curious wonder Wayo agreed on going. Alberto took the boards off the car and placed it on the ground . Wayo tried lifting one and recalled it was heavy and awkward to handle. After handling the surfboard he wasn’t quite sure about what he was getting into, but the curiosity of riding waves got the best of him.
The next day Alberto took Wayo to Kon Tiki in Punta Hermosa. They pull up to the parking lot and watch two surfers turning and maneuvering across the face of the wave. Alberto knowing what was involved would give a general explanation of what was happening to Wayo. After seeing the two guys standing and going faster than he could with a mat or body surfing, Wayo was totally hooked on the sport after that.
Like many places around the world, surfing was becoming more popular and Peruvian surfers were on this same wavelength. Foam surfboards were arriving in Peru, but were expensive. Wayo couldn’t afford to buy a new one so he kept using and learning on Alberto’s or others that he knew who had surfboards. The year was 1962 when Wayo was at Cerro Azul and was just about to return to Lima when he happened to notice a surfboard with a broken off nose hanging on by a layer of fiberglass after hitting the pier.
It was abandon an surfboard and without hesitation Wayo quickly picked it up and took it home with him. Having done resin and fiberglass work on his cousin’s board Wayo knew something about surfboard repairs. He peeled the damaged fiberglass off and made the repairs and had his first surfboard.
The 1960's were considered the Golden Years of Peruvian Surfing with its international surfing contests. In 1965 Peru was the host country for the 2nd World Surfing Championships which were held at Punta Rocas. George Downing of the Hawaiian Surf Team had brought over a longboard with a modified pulled in nose, a design that he had shaped. It was a little different than the boards being ridden in Peru. Besides George on the team, there were Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana, Fred Hemmings, Reno Abellira, and Paul Strauch.
Some of the boards the Hawaiians were riding were Inter-Island Surfboards whose shaper was Mike Diffenderfer. Some of the other boards were Greg Noll Surfboards shaped by Charlie Galanto. Wayo noticed the change of the outline of some of those board and how the Hawaiians were riding them. After the contest was over he began to peel the fiberglass of another old longboard. Wayo would reshape it into a board that looked like the Hawaiian’s designs.
In early 1968 Dennis Choate and Leo Hetzel arrived in Lima to make some boards for Aldo Fosca. Aldo also had a shipping company and would import materials for his surfboard factory. During this time period Charlie Galanto and Ben Aipa arrived for a contest and both would shape a few boards at Aldo’s shop. Wayo was the shaper and the glasser at Aldo’s before the arrival of Dennis and Leo and he would learn from them. Watching Charlie and Ben shape a few would give Wayo more insight into shaping.
From 1967 until the early 70’s Wayo was going to school at the local University majoring in Architecture. Instead of leaving it on top of his car, he would take his surfboard to class and place it behind the door. When his last class was done he would grab his board and go surf. Wayo paid his way through school by building surfboards and after graduating he continued to work for Aldo the next 3 years on a part time basis.
During this time Aldo lost interest in surfboard building and offered the shop to Wayo. Wayo accepted the offer and would begin his first surf factory. He began making surfboards with the W logo and would do the whole 9 yards of shaping, glassing, sanding and polishing as well as manage the shop. Alan Sitt would start working with Wayo during the 1970’s.
Alan started out by glassing a few of his own surfboards at his father’s plastic shop. One day he and Wayo met at the beach and got to know each other by watching he other surf. They became friends and Alan would stop by the shop and to work with Wayo. After a while Alan was into sailing and was off on another tack. Wayo's younger brother Milton took over and would glass at the shop before shaping and starting his own surfboards business in the 1990's.
Wayo and other shapers of the 1970's contributed to Peru's surfing future. Providing surfboards when times were difficult and keeping a steady flow of new designs. Along with the surfboard changes Wayo moved his shop to Barranco a suburb of Lima, where his shop is still there today. When the 1980's and the Tri-fin movement arrived, materials were more available and the economy was better. Some of the notable surfer that surfed for Wayo were:
Titi de Col in 1988 a National Champion, Magoo de La Rosa in 1990’s a three time National Champion, Roberto Meza who placed 9th in a ASP contest at Punta Rocas in 1994. There was also a young Sofia Mulanovich, whose surfing progressed through Wayo’s shapes. She would go on to become a woman’s world surfing champion.
In the 1990’s a new horizon appeared for Wayo. CAD-CAM which stands for computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing. Wayo was very much interested in taking his surfboards to the next level. Having made a jig to place a certain bottom and deck rocker on certain boards exactly the same each time was in essence what the compute and machine could do and more without being restricted to a few blank sizes. This opened up a whole new world in surfboard shaping.
Wayo used the services of a California computerized shaping machine shop and started receiving pre-finished shapes of his designs in the beginning. After a while talking to a few friends and keeping an eye out for newer ways, Wayo came across the Dat Designer a software and hardware tool that gave Wayo another option in designing and shaping. He would take a trip to Australia and meet John Gillis, the man to see concerning the Dat Designer. After learning his new tool Wayo’s ability to machine and hand shape a board gave him an edge that he would further develop into the 2000’s.
Wayo Whilar has seen the changes that Peruvian surfing and board building has gone through since the 1960’s. Still shaping today using the Aku system and hand shaping his understanding of surfboard hydrodynamics places him with the elite group of master shapers and is considered the No.# 1 shaper in Peru. The most gratifying feeling for Wayo regarding shaping is when a friend, a customer or team rider stops by his shop and tells him about the performance of his boards. With a smile on their face they would express how their life is back together because their new board has taken them to their next level of surfing.
Picco Clemente 2015 World Longboard Champion Wayo Whilar