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Born in Los Angeles in 1932, Reynolds "Renny" Yater started surfing when he was 14. He started building surfboards in 1953 at the age of 21, but not under the Yater name. From 1955 to 1957, he glassed balsa boards for Hobie Surfboards in Dana Point and then refined his shaping skills while working for Dale Velzy in San Clemente from 1957 to 1959. In 1959, Renny headed up the California coast to Santa Barbara. There, he opened Santa Barbara Surf Shop and trademarked the Yater Surfboards name.
When the surf market exploded in the '60s, many of the board makers rode the wave, taking full advantage of the booming sport. Despite his superb board-building skills, Renny chose not to. Rather, he deliberately kept his business small and local. Still, Yater Surfboards were preferred by such well-known industry professionals as Surfer Magazine's John Severson, filmmaker Bruce Brown and "Grubby" Clark, the founder of Clark Foam.
The Yater Spoon, for which Yater Surfboards may be best known, was introduced in 1964 and built through 1968. Thin, light and maneuverable, it was one of the most innovative designs of the time. The Spoon was especially well suited to long, point break waves like Rincon, the near-perfect right point break located about 10 miles south of Santa Barbara.
While Renny Yater prefers to maintain a low profile, he was featured in several surf movies during the early '60s, including Big Wednesday (1961) and Walk On the Wet Side (1963). And look closely if you happen to see Apocalypse Now, the 1979 Vietnam War movie starring Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall. Duvall plays the part of Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, who is filmed wearing a Santa Barbara Surf Shop t-shirt while on duty. He also has a Yater Spoon among his belongings.
While his son Lauran has been shaping for the Yater name since the early '80s, Renny still actively shapes today. A true living legend, Reynolds Yater has been positively influencing the sport of surfing in a cool, quiet manner for over fifty years. Although reserved, Renny will still talk surfing to customers at The Beach House in Santa Barbara. Owned by Roger Nance, the store has been Yater's retail showroom since 1991. www.surfnwear.com is The Beach House website, and you can find out more about Yater Surfboards at www.yater.com.