Behind the Brand: In just a few short years, William "Stretch" Riedel has emerged from the realm of regional players and become one of the world's leaders in cutting-edge equipment—which is a pretty rare for someone who's been shaping for 30 years. Riedel took to the craft in 1979, thanks to his father, Mike "The Noodle" Riedel, an old Malibu surfer who used to shape balsa boards. From a young age, Stretch grew handy with tools—he even worked as a cabinetmaker for a while, where he grew familiar with various epoxies. By the time he started his own board label up in Santa Cruz in the early '80s, his outlook on equipment was atypical, since he was blending multiple disciplines. On top of his craftsmen skills, Stretch was an avid windsurfer, so he was constantly operating in several areas of design. Multiple board-riding hobbies made him more inclined to experiment with alternatives like epoxy, fin placements, and EPS foams. When Clark Foam folded in December of 2005, sending the rest of the market reeling, Stretch was right there ready to lead people out of PU dependence. His operation was 100 percent EPS and epoxy based, and what's more, he was making damn good boards, having already rekindled interest in four-fins, thanks to Nathan Fletcher, who brought him the bat tails he'd been working on with Cole Simler. Stretch and Nathan advanced the concept with lighter materials and refinements, garnering plenty of press attention, and Stretch subsequently merged the concept into big-wave boards. In 2005, Anthony Tashnick won at Mavericks riding a 9'0" Stretch four-fin bat tail. A year later, more than a half-dozen surfers paddled out for the Eddie opening ceremonies on the same board. Using vacuum-pressed cores and carbon fiber internal frames, he's also at the forefront of tow-in board design and technology.
About his Most Popular Models: "I laughed out loud when I read somewhere recently that quads were dead," says Stretch, who has a tough time keeping up with demand on his various models, from his Quadfish to his Fletcher Four-Fin. But his S-2, S-10, and his Rat Skate models (all thrusters) are extremely good sellers as well.
Taking the Pulse: "None of us as surfers are married to the tri-fin. None of us have signed contracts saying that we have to ride a tri. You can and should try everything. Surfboards aren't like girls. You can hook up with whatever one you want and no one's going slap you for it."Shop Talk
Are fin setups over-hyped or overlooked? "A fin is 20-25 percent of the wetted surface of a surfboard. Take a look at a picture of someone surfing. There's only about half of the board in the water, including the surface area of both sides of the fins. The template, the foil, everything about a fin is as equal in importance to the template of a surfboard, to the rocker of a surfboard, to the thickness and flow of the surfboard. Fins are very important."