A Swell Time

Anh-Minh Le | August 3, 2016 | Story Weekend Escapes National

Robert “Wingnut” Weaver never envisioned that he could make a living teaching surfing, until a wealthy would-be student proposed the idea: “He said, ‘Look, I’ve got someone to help me with my golf game, with skiing—and now I need a surf coach,” recalls Wingnut. In the 17 years since, he has developed a word-of-mouth clientele that includes well-known Silicon Valley tech execs and major players in the entertainment industry, many of whom make the trip to Wingnut’s adopted hometown of Santa Cruz, or hire him to accompany them on vacations to top surf destinations worldwide. (“I’m a surf consigliere,” the former pro surfer quips.)

Wingnut doesn’t have a website, doesn’t do any marketing for his tutelage and only accepts new students by referral—until now, that is. Through a newly launched program at the Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, guests can partake in a one-hour surf lesson with Wingnut. The package ($2,800 to $3,200 per person) also includes two nights’ accommodation at the recently renovated property, valet parking, dinner for two and breakfast for two both mornings. For an additional $1,500, you can have a custom surfboard made by legendary shaper Doug Haut.

While some may recognize Wingnut from Pizza My Heart’s TV commercials (he portrays “Jimmy” in the ads), his real claim to fame can be traced to his longboarding prowess. He has also served as the director of the O’Neill Surf Academy in Europe; authored a book, Wingnut’s Complete Surfing; and appeared in Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer II. He continues to surf pretty much daily, waking up at 5am every day. For the Paradox package, guests don’t have to get up quite so early: The plan is to bring them to the East Side, perhaps Pleasure Point, around 8am, after many surfers have headed off to their day jobs and the beach is less crowded. Although Wingnut has traveled and surfed the globe—the Maldives, Costa Rica, Oahu and Fiji are among his favorite locales—for him, nothing beats the Central California Coast. “I can live anywhere in the world,” he says matter-of-factly, “and I live here. That says a lot about Santa Cruz.”

See more at Hotel Paradox, 611 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 831.425.7100

Santa Cruz Essential
According to Wingnut, the “amazing” downtown area—about a 10-minute walk from Hotel Paradox—is a must-visit. Don’t miss Kendra Baker and Zach Davis’ establishments: Assembly (1108 Pacific Ave., 831.824.6100) and The Penny Ice Creamery (913 Cedar St., 831.204.2523). And there’s not one, but two great independent bookstores on the main thoroughfare: Bookshop Santa Cruz (1520 Pacific Ave., 831.423.0900) and Logos Books & Records (1117 Pacific Ave., 831.427.5100). For fashion, housewares and gift items, visit Stripe (107 Walnut Ave., 831.421.9252) and Stripe MEN (117 Walnut Ave., 831.431.6182). Delectable souvenirs can be picked up at Marini’s Candies (1308 Pacific Ave., 831.423.3299) and Nut Kreations (104 Lincoln St., 831.431.6435).

Originally published in the July issue of
Silicon Valley

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