Over the past half century, no one has directly influenced a greater number of East Coast surfers than Jesse Fernandez. Ever since riding his first wave behind Miami’s Monte Carlo Hotel as a grom in 1963, Fernandez’s life has revolved around building boards, riding waves at the highest level, and sharing his wealth of knowledge with others. His status as a standout surfer wherever he put down roots — from Florida to Puerto Rico to North Carolina’s Outer Banks — only hints at his accomplishments.
In the 1980s, Fernandez was a savvy pro competitor, surfing his way into the main event at multiple professional world tour competitions and reaching the finals of the Hixon’s Surfarama. After turning his competitive focus to longboards in the 1990s, he claimed the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) East title three years running and reached the finals of the inaugural U.S. Open Longboard in Huntington Beach, California.
Fernandez has been building boards since 1981, helping to craft more than 50,000 units. As a shaper for Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV), his client list has included some of the East Coast’s finest talent in all wave conditions: Wes Laine, Ben Bourgeois, Noah Snyder, Jason Borte, Balaram Stack, and East Coast big wave charger Will Skudin, among many others. His selfless nature led Fernandez on the path to coaching and mentoring, and he’s been offering guidance to WRV’s deep stable of riders over the last several decades.
A recent diagnosis of stage four kidney cancer has limited his time in the water and the shaping bay, and the outpouring of love and support he has received is a testament to his impact on the greater surfing community.
Photos by Dick “Mez” Meseroll and Jim Pidgeon