Wetteland, Max


Energetic surfer-boardmaker-contest promoter from Durban, South Africa; a semifinalist in the 1964 World Surfing Championships, and cofounder of the Gunston 500 surfing contest. Wetteland was born (1938) and raised in Durban, began surfing at age 12, started building wooden surfboards at 15, and was the South African national paddleboard champion in 1958, 1959, and 1960.

Because South Africa as of 1964 had yet to stage any kind of official surfing competition, Wetteland was picked as his country's sole representative to that year's World Championships by an informal vote from his peers in Durban and Cape Town. He thus made his competition debut in what was then the sport's biggest-ever international event, and his semifinal placing came as a surprise to the rest of the field. Wetteland was function-first surfer, not much given to hot-dogging. After filming a star-studded afternoon at Jeffreys Bay in 1968, Australian filmmaker Bob Evans declared Wetteland to be the best surfer in the water: "He always surfs in the most critical part of the wave."

Wetteland also competed in the 1965 World Championships, held in Lima, Peru, and was featured in the surf film classic Endless Summer. Along with two Durban partners, he opened Surf Centre in 1965, South Africa's first surf shop, which sold Wetteland Surfboards. In 1969, Wetteland, along with Ian McDonald and Ernie Tomson (father of 1978 world champion Shaun Tomson), founded the Durban 500 pro surfing contest. Two years later the event was renamed the Gunston 500, and it later became a fixture on the world pro tour.

Wetteland moved with his family in 1975 to Vancouver, Canada, and developed a kind of snowboard prototype, which he patented as a "snow skate." He returned to Durban in 1982, abandoning the snowboard project, and began manufacturing polyurethane blanks for surfboards and sailboards. Wetteland won national seniors division longboard titles in 1991 and 1994.

Wetteland was inducted to the South African Surfing Hall of Fame in 1998. He died of emphysema in 2015.