William “Stretch” Reidel, Santa Cruz
Stretch, so named because of his towering height and slender frame, has a singularly defining feature: he’s always obsessively chomping on a cigar. But he’s also revered in the surfing world for transforming the four-fin surfboard (aka “quad”) from clunky experiment to well-oiled speed machine. He also pioneered the use of EPS epoxy foam and resin to replace traditional polyurethane and polystyrene.
What he does: The four-fin surfboards Stretch Reidel is known for today began as a peculiar anomaly in the 1980s, when single fins gave way to twin-fins and the eventual industry-standard three-fin Thruster. But Reidel stuck with quads, pursuing his experimentation with the new design to the point of perfection. After breaking his neck in 1988 in a windsurfing accident, Stretch doubled down on innovation, giving himself over to a methodical drive instilled by his father to be the absolute best in his field and see how far his ideas could go.
How he does it: Reidel once said that his dad taught him “you can’t make anything clean in filth” so, he cleans his shaping room twice a day himself. He prides himself on touching every board with his name on it at least three times to make sure it’s up to his standards. In 2011, that focus landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records, as big-wave icon Garrett McNamara caught a record-setting 78-foot wave in Portugal on one of Stretch’s quads. (FYI -- That’s as tall as a 7-story building.) The other major hallmark of his career is his advocacy for environmentally-friendly EPS epoxy foam and resin, which he posits more as a cost-effective, high-tech approach to running his business than hippie propensity.