GHOST SHAPER artisticlicense
Add surfboard maker Robert “Redman” Manville to the host of haunting Outer Banks legends April 19, 2011; Harbinger; N.C., 9:30 p.m. A tornado rips though the corrugated aluminum back wall of the Wave Riding Vehicles surfboard factory. After swallowing some 60 uncut “blanks,” the storm spits chunks of white Styrofoam across Highway 168, littering trees like some teenager’s toilet-paper prank and sparking suspicions of a possible, secondary culprit: Redman — aka Robert Manville — legendary craftsman and former employee. The problem? Red passed away on January 24, 2004 — more than seven years prior.
“In his shaping room, he was at home,” explains WRV Factory Manager Patrick Herrle. “Outside the shaping room, he was very uncomfortable. So he’d work 7 to 5, every day. If his routine got messed up, it would throw him off big time.”
He handshaped close to 50,000 surfboards and was adamant that was still the best method.
“Thrown off” could mean anything from too many beers to more sinister demons. But he always filled his orders. When he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Redman coped the only way he knew how: by shaping surfboard after surfboard, determined to pass down as much insight as possible before he died — and apparently after, as well.
“Once he learned he was sick,” remembers Herrle, “Red said to me, ‘I’m gonna haunt you guys until the day you die.’ And crazy stuff started right away.”
“For months, I kept catching something in the corner of my eye,” says shaper Jesse Fernandez, who moved into Manville’s old bay. “Then one day I was in the office saying something about Red — and the vacuum back in the room starts going ‘zzzhhhhhhh…’ That vacuum can only turn on by holding down the planer’s trigger.”
“Weird things started happening almost immediately after Redman died,” insists David Rohde, a fiberglass technician since 1983. “He’s a friendly ghost, but occasionally things start flying off the walls and counters. Either Red wasn’t ready to go — or he wasn’t happy with the last surfboard he shaped.” Sure, “the Graveyard of the Atlantic” is rife with spooky tales — and, yes, surfboard factories are filled with mind-fogging fumes — but when the whole company claims their workplace is haunted, it behooves us to hear them out. To hear Red out. After all what is a ghost other than a restless spirit trying to communicate with the living?
Nearly every WRV worker has a similar story. Lights inexplicably turn on and off. Poorly finished boards suddenly jump off sturdy racks sticky with resin. Creepy chills, odd noises and spooked dogs have become as commonplace as a cold beer after work. Most recently, visiting boardmaker Pat Mulhern claimed he felt Manville’s touch. And the tornado? In some twisted way, it could have been Redman lashing out at surfboard manufacturing’s modern love of digital designs and mass production.
A perfectionist shaper — and polished prankster Born in 1952, Robert “Redman” Manville was an L.A. County — no factory could pick a better poltergeist. surfer, hot rod aficionado and revered production shaper PHOTO: Courtesy WRV. for some of the world’s best craftsmen. Urged by fellow boardbuilder Jim Fuller to come to Virginia Beach, the California-expat enjoyed the Mid-Atlantic’s increasing workload throughout the “Red was never a fan of computerized shaping,” says Fernandez. “He hand-shaped close eighties. He assisted Gurney Collins at Hotline Surfboards for a spell, then drifted to 50,000 surfboards and was adamant that was still the best method. We got our first south, finding a home with WRV, who welcomed his wealth of knowledge and machine last November, and it’s given us more problems than I can count. We’re constantly incredible work ethic. replacing things. And a lot of those busted blanks were about to be milled.” “Red was a walking encyclopedia,” adds Rohde. “He interacted with legends like Gerry Get the WRV crew together, and the factory’s fluorescent lights feel like an eerie campfire, Lopez, Gary Linden, and Dale Velzy. He brought us hundreds of modern templates kids one-upping each other with another hair-raiser. So what’s Red trying to say? with every possible curve and could translate any idea into foam. We were even shipping boards to Hawaii for guys who swore by his big-wave guns.” “Sometimes I’ll ask him when I’m shaping,” Fernandez admits. “I’ll say, ‘What’cha think, Red? How’re the rails?’ Meanwhile, I’m looking around for a pencil to fall. But Red was Redman’s hydrodynamic understanding of hollow surf also made him a go-to craftsman such a perfectionist. He always wanted us to get things right. So I don’t think he’s being on our own barrier islands. In fact, he routinely moonlighted for Randy Hall and scary. More instructional. Like, ‘Hey, don’t “f” it up.’” — Matt Pruett Debbie Bell’s Rodanthe-based Hatteras Glass label to keep busy.
Stuck here on purpose